Celebrating Women in Conservation: Sarah Niemand’s unique sour fig jam
As part of the CapeNature’s celebration of women in conservation for Women’s Month, we interviewed Sarah Niemand who is the Managing Director of the Blinkwater Cooperative.
Sarah’s compelling story is one marked by resilience and hard work.
CapeNature takes pride in its SMME Development Programme which empowers individuals and communities by helping small businesses to reach their full potential. With the help of the programme, Sarah has become a beacon of hope for her community. Here is her story.
Ever heard of jam made out of sour figs? Yes, sour figs! Well look no further, Sarah was able to harvest sour figs and create her business by making sour fig jam.
Why sour figs?
“Sour figs are the fruits of the dunes, when people ask me ‘what are you doing, where did the sour figs grow’ I tell them it grows on the dunes,” she says.
Sarah says that when people tell her they have sour figs in their backyards she tells them about difference between a sour fig and a Hottentot fig.
She adds, “The Hottentot figs can grow anywhere, but not sour figs. Sour figs only grow on the dunes of the ocean.”
The permit from CapeNature allows Sarah to harvest the indigenous fruit from December until February.
What’s the process of making the jam?
The process is easy she says, “we clean it first, boil it and after its been boiled we dry it and cook it.” Having started her business in 2013 as a way to alleviate the burden of unemployment in youth members in her community, Sarah saw an opportunity in the dunes that were infesting the area and produced a jam using a traditional recipe that she learnt from her mother.
“Our community depends on fishing activities to generate money and our areas are infested with dunes, and one of the fruits we found was the sour fig.”
As part of her marketing strategy, Sarah attended a festival where she would issue the jam as a gift and later she became a distributor for local shops in Gaansbaai.
“We’ve waited for five years with no help, we did everything for ourselves,” she says. “We waited for grants and no one would provide us with grants.” She adds that you must have faith in your business.
CapeNature’s SMME Development Programme, has a people-centered approach to achieving growth and business success. The programme also seeks to increase the number of black-owned enterprises in ecotourism and conservation management.
How has your business enabled you to give back?
Sarah is a beacon of hope in her community as she has also extended her hands to working with the youth and recovering addicts so that they can earn a living and provide for their families. She has been able to employ as many as ten people in her business.
“Although I don’t have the education or training to work with children who are addicted to drugs, with the little knowledge and motherly love I have, I can guide them and tell them it is not worthwhile,” she says.
She adds, “At times children can’t even get up out of the gutters. Things have in some cases gone too far, but I always speak to them by telling them about my life.”
Sarah thanks CapeNature for equipping her with the knowledge of nature and assisting her with the growth of her business.
This Women’s Month, we salute Sarah, an inspirational, self-made entrepreneur!