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In Calvinia, South Africa, Brandt Coetzee, an Afrikaner, has invented Manna Brew, a caffeine-free coffee substitute made from mesquite seedpods. The pods are collected by about 700 people in the town, providing them with extra income in a place where formal employment opportunities are scarce. The pods are not only a source of income but also contribute to eradicating an alien tree species that is infesting the region and saving billions of liters of groundwater each year.

The seedpods are collected and brought to a warehouse where they are sorted and weighed before being paid for. The process is overseen by Coetzee, who has employed 12 locals to manage the operation, paying them twice the going rate in Calvinia. The income generated from selling the seedpods helps individuals like Hans Gouws and Gert Smit to support their families. For many in Calvinia, this income is crucial as they struggle to make ends meet in a region where jobs are scarce.

The mesquite tree, originally introduced for livestock fodder, has become an invasive species in the Northern Cape, threatening native vegetation and biodiversity. Coetzee, through his Manna Brew initiative, is not only tackling the issue of the invasive trees but also creating a sustainable source of income for local communities. The seedpods are processed at a factory near Cape Town, where they are cleaned, roasted, and milled to create the coffee substitute.

Coetzee’s journey with mesquite trees began in 1996 when he realized the potential of utilizing the trees for economic and environmental benefit. After years of research and development, he launched Manna Blood Sugar Support capsules before pivoting to the coffee substitute. Manna Brew has been well received in South Africa and is starting to gain traction in international markets. Coetzee is focused on job creation and water conservation, driving his vision for a sustainable future for the Northern Cape region.

The harvest of mesquite seedpods in Calvinia injects much-needed cash into the local economy, benefiting hundreds of individuals who rely on the income from collecting the pods. Coetzee hopes to expand the operation in the future, increasing the volume of seedpods purchased and further contributing to controlling the spread of mesquite trees. While the economic impact of the harvest is short-lived, Coetzee remains optimistic about the potential for growth and positive change in the region.

Despite the challenges faced by the Northern Cape, including high poverty rates and limited development opportunities, initiatives like Manna Brew offer a glimmer of hope for communities like Calvinia. Through innovative solutions to environmental issues and job creation, Coetzee is making a tangible difference in the lives of many individuals in the region. As he continues to work towards his vision for a better future for the Northern Cape, one cup of Manna Brew at a time, the potential for lasting positive change remains within reach.

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