13 January 2012 by Julienne du Toit

Happiness by the Lakeside

That night at supper we sit among Dutch and German tourists in reverent silence over chef Poppie Ramashia’s creations

At Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge in Limpopo province, we settle into our spacious rondavel with its balcony overlooking Albasini Dam. In the late afternoon, a little family of four Natal Francolin forage silently beside shining water. Father francolin hops up onto a rock and acts as sentinel, his shiny black eyes watching me attentively for any suspicious moves.

Later he yells an alarm cry (twali! twali!) at some unseen thing and the family comes scuttling out of the brush towards him. Three white-backed cormorants paddle about in the dam, only their necks and heads showing, ducking underwater like dolphins.

That night at supper we sit among Dutch and German tourists in reverent silence over chef Poppie Ramashia’s creations – avocado and sweet potato soup, then fillet and with roasted garlic on mash, followed by a light lemon meringue tart.

Poppie is one of 12 staff members at Shiluvari. This was back in 2003, just after Shiluvari became one of South Africa’s very first Fair Trade in Tourism-accredited members.

There is an easy, comfortable vibe here – the kind that can only be felt when staff are empowered and truly happy.

All the women are in senior positions and all were all trained from scratch in hospitality. Before she came to work at Shiluvari, Poppie was a domestic worker with a family who moved away from here.

Fair Trade also entails that the establishment pay the minimum wage, in keeping with the wages being paid in the district. The staff at Shiluvari get paid at least 20% more than the going rate of competition and legislation.

In terms of procuring supplies, Fair Trade in Tourism stipulates that 95% should be obtained within a 30 km radius. That includes decor, fresh fruit and the like. Most of the fresh produce Poppie uses in the kitchen comes from the nearby Tshakuma market, and much of the decor from local sculptors, potters and weavers.

There is an easy, comfortable vibe here – the kind that can only be felt when staff are empowered and truly happy.

Category: Responsible Tourism

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