Seven o’clock on a winter morning in South Africa. The call of the ibis cuts through the silence. The sun has just risen when seven employees of the South African Parceval Ltd. Pharmaceuticals begin with the harvest of the ice plants that grow on the fields of the company’s Waterkloof Farm. It is 14 degrees Celsius on this August morning, cool in comparison to the 45 degrees often reached here in summer. Today’s harvest target is 1.5 tons; since the plants have grown lavishly, it is reached after just three hours.
Parceval Ltd. Pharmaceuticals produces around ten tons of ice plants (Mesembryanthemum crystallinum) each year on its biodynamically cultivated, certified organic Waterkloof Farm. For 14 years Tomke Heeren, originally from the East Friesian region of Germany, has worked with eleven employees to produce seeds and compost, cultivate young plants and harvest grown ones. “We cultivate the ice plant in the winter months because it grows faster and is juicer”, explains Heeren, who has a degree in horticulture. In the natural habitat of the ice plant, one recognises its true nature. As a pioneer plant, it likes to colonise areas whose normal ecosystem has been disturbed.
Ulrich Feiter is the founder and head of Parceval Ltd. Pharmaceuticals. His association with WALA dates back as far as 1986. At that time, the trained gardener worked for almost two years as an intern in different departments at WALA. Among other things, he received an introduction to the rhythmic manufacturing process, which is used to produce the stable, water-based plant extracts known as mother tinctures. Feiter went to South Africa armed with this knowledge and a contract with WALA to produce mother tinctures from the heat-loving bryophyllum plant.
Ulrich Feiter does not see his role in South Africa as merely that of a contract manufacturer. “It was never about the profit”, he says when asked about his vision. He has always been far more interested in passing on ideas, building bridges and helping Africa. This is why in 2005 he initiated AAMPS, the Association for African Medicinal Plants Standards, an organisation which most recently published descriptions of more than 50 African medicinal plants with the aim of promoting their use. And why he is currently doing the preliminary work for setting up an employee foundation which will give his employees a financial stake in Parceval and a voice in the company's business decisions. Building a shared sense of responsibility is a major challenge, requiring patience and many discussions. But is the right step going forward.