It’s a hot Saturday afternoon. You walk to the fridge and take out a cold one. A big sip and you guessed it, brain freeze sets in. You squeeze your eyes closed and push your tongue against the roof of your mouth (you read somewhere that it helps).
You don’t know if it was the malty taste left in your mouth or the brain freeze, but something kick-started your brain. For the first time, you lift your beverage, look to the skies and ask yourself some serious questions about beer.
Where does it come from?
While beer recipes do differ, the building blocks to most brews are the same: water, grains, hops and yeast. So, in essence, beer comes from the ground; through the growing and harvesting of these ingredients so that they can be brewed into beer.
Suddenly you start to see the bigger picture. If agriculture is so important, that means farming methods, water conservation, carbon emissions, using waste responsibly and many more things all play a part in the beer industry. Then the next question follows: “Is SAB (your favourite beer producer) doing their part to ensure the sustainability of beer and our country?”
The South African Breweries was formed over 120 years ago and it wasn’t long after that, that we started putting plans in place to improve our local barley and hops industries.This started in 1912, when a story appeared in the Sunday Times headlined ‘£100 for a Pocket of Hops’. The article explained that SAB was offering a prize of £100 to the first farmer to produce a pocket of hops ‘weighing 1 cwts’ (equivalent to just under 51kg). Participating farmers were instructed to deliver their pocket to one of SAB’s seven breweries. Needless to say, the programme was a success. Plots of land were laid out and the South African hops industry was created.
This was just the beginning. Since then, SAB has created a number of initiatives that support and secure our sustainable supply chain, help small scale farmers and improve livelihoods.
What are these initiatives?
The Precision Irrigation of Barley Project is a simple innovation that promotes better barley in both production and financial terms, which is empowering for local farmers. Agriculture is water intensive. Much of this water is used for irrigation and that’s where the Precision Irrigation of Barley Project comes in.
A two-fold solution:
- A computer programme: This simple programme is usable by farmers to scientifically schedule irrigation
- A crop factor for barley: This measurement identifies the proportion of evaporation that must be replaced with irrigation for a crop to produce a commercial yield
In its first year of operation in 2012 the Precision Irrigation of Barley Project saved 48% more water than its previous year. This means that 19 234 million hectolitres of water were saved in 2012.
In the dry, arid regions of the Northern Cape there are 290 barley producers and 120 small-scale farmers who are now benefiting from this scheme.
The objectives of Go Farming are to work with South African farmers to help them create self-sustaining businesses and secure the local production of our raw materials.
This helps the local farmers by including them into the SAB supply chain while extending and improving South African farming as a whole. It also reduces the amount of ingredients that we need to import in order to produce beer and promotes food security in South Africa.
The programme encourages and supports sustainable farming practices amongst South Africa’s barley farmers focusing on water reduction, improved carbon footprints, soil health and clearing of alien vegetation, as well as the protection and restoration of ecosystems.
Better barley better beer (BBBB) is another ground-breaking initiative which is working with farmers, researchers and the World Wildlife Fund to optimise sustainability practices across the barley farms.
Currently about 95% of SAB’s barley suppliers are South African commercial farmers, who reside mainly in the Northern and Western Cape provinces. BBBB was introduced to encourage more sustainable farming within the supply chain.
"The guidelines are designed to empower the barley farmer to make the right decisions today to ensure the sustainable production of local barley into the future."
- Thinus van Schoor, Head: Agriculture and Maltings, SABMiller Africa.
Women in Maize is a partnership between The South African Breweries, the Department of Small Business Development and the Agriculture Research Council. It is aimed at empowering women farmers in rural and township communities
As part of the programme, women farmers receive access to finance, technical expertise and support, business training and mentorship and most importantly, being included in SAB’s supply chain.
Stretching back as early as the 1990’s, the Taung Barley Farmers Project is a sustainable agriculture programme in the North West province city of Taung. The purpose of this project is to assist emerging barley farmers to run sustainable and economically viable entities.
The programme is aimed at encouraging local barley production, creating a broad based supply chain and a sustainable source of income for smallholder farmers. The initiative has grown to support more than 102 smallholding barley farmers.
SAB IS AS PASSIONATE ABOUT AGRICULTURE AS WE ARE ABOUT BEER.
. THE TWO GO HAND-IN-HAND.
SO NEXT TIME YOU LIFT YOUR BEER TO THE SKY AND ASK THOSE BIG BEER QUESTIONS, KNOW THAT SAB HAS THE ANSWERS!