Interview with Maite de Aranzabal (Viña Ardanza Solidario)

Sixteen years have passed since that first decision to allocate part of the winery’s profits to agricultural projects in underprivileged countries. How do you feel when you look back?

I am very pleased that the Board approved the initiative. We could not imagine how many vegetable gardens, micro-enterprises, wells or cooperatives we were going to support and how many lives would be improved as a result.


The accumulated amount already exceeds 1.5 million euros thanks to this 1% of the winery’s profits. A high amount but still insufficient.

The distribution of wealth, food, employment and even good weather is so unfair that much more funding is needed to give a minimum of opportunities to so many disadvantaged people. But... if only all individuals and companies in our countries would follow our initiative! The world would be more egalitarian, with fewer wars and fewer migrants having to leave their homes with their possessions in a bag.


Projects are continuously supervised but seeing them in the field must be exciting.

It depends on what you expect. We start from such deep poverty that progress is not impressive to Western eyes. They show you orchards that would not surprise anyone here but, if you compare them with the photos of the wastelands they were, they do cause excitement. And when you see that they feed many families and that women are happy to obtain fruits and autonomy, you would want to give it all. If every shareholder saw the gratitude and happiness of these people, they would ask to donate a higher percentage!


One of the main goals is that these projects become self-sustainable after the initial boost from Viña Ardanza Solidario. What degree of success has been achieved over the years?

The projects provide food for many families and allow them to send their children to school, which is very important. They also empower women by allowing for a small profit. But we start from societies where, sometimes, they do not know how to read, add, or save funds for contingencies or investments and, logically, to which no one grants credit. And that is what our projects do. They teach, little by little, how to calculate and manage. They donate micro-credits. They bring water to the villages, in addition to training in more profitable cultivation techniques that do not destroy their soils. When there are surpluses, they are instructed on how to put them on the market. But, of course, the roads are often impassable or they have no means of transportation. All this needs to be improved. The third phase, which we have achieved in quite a few projects, is to form associations or cooperatives, enabling people to agree, organize and manage projects together, which is more effective and profitable. And despite the difficulties, we have had enormous successes in productive orchards, agricultural schools and cooperatives. In some cases, we have even managed to process the products (rice, tea, moringa, peanuts, cashew nuts or mangoes) and sell them in distant locations in their own countries.


What is the impact of climate change in the recipient countries?

This is a huge problem. By 2050, cereal production may fall by 20-50% in the Sahel region. By 2030, 40% of maize crops will be destroyed because of its sensitivity to drought. The Sahara Desert is also advancing southward at a rate of one metre per day. In the last decade, 216 million people have been displaced from their homes fleeing scorching temperatures and extreme events. Of these, only 5% migrate to Europe and the rest stay in urban slums in their own countries or in inhumane refugee camps in neighbouring countries. And it’s going to get a lot worse in the coming years. But there is still time to avoid 80% of these displacements if we take rapid action to reduce global pollutant emissions.


Whenever you can, you encourage private companies to help with solidarity initiatives.

I wish. I still do not see much progress in the corporate social responsibility of many large companies in terms of aid to the Third World or in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. In small companies, awareness is growing. Unfortunately, for businesses, poor and distant countries full of human beings who are eager to prosper just do not exist.


The number of NGOs that send us their projects each year, mainly in Africa, is also growing.

They know that we believe in Africa's development, that we are serious in our work, that we follow them closely in their achievements and that, when there are problems, we solve them and even visit them from time to time. By the way, if any shareholder or employee would be interested in such a visit, we would be glad to help them organize it.


One last question. Viña Ardanza Solidario is also open to contributions from shareholders, employees, suppliers, customers… How would you encourage readers to help?

If I haven't already encouraged them, after this interview, there’s nothing I can do!



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