Hlabisa is not a well known town. In fact, as you are reading this, it may even be the first
time you’ve ever heard of it. The only thing Hlabisa is known for, is having one of the highest rates of HIV/Aids infection in the world. Growing up in Hlabisa, most youngsters live without hope. Most of them dream of getting out, leaving, and making it big, somewhere else. A vast majority live without clean water, electricity or sanitation, like far too many rural areas in Africa. In Hlabisa, there are some who wish to change this. There are a group of young men, who dream of staying there, and making it big, in Hlabisa: a place to be proud of. They will no longer settle for living below the bread-line and depending on government grants. They have a cunning plan.
The local economy of rural areas within KZN is very poorly developed. One of the reasons is “economic leakage”: rural people are forced to spend their money in economic centres instead of their own community due to lack of infrastructure, or lack of knowledge on how to conduct business. By finding business solutions within the immediate community, adapted to local circumstances, capital can be kept circulating within the community, through the establishment of small- and micro-businesses. Let Us Work is running a volunteer program, through Be-More (a Dutch organisation), with the objective of using knowledge and experience of foreign business people or students, to assist with training, advice and hands on assistance. Most of the areas that we work in are situated in rural communities in Northern KwaZulu-Natal. These areas are far from any major cities and therefore accommodation is not easily accessible.
In Hlabisa, the only available accommodation is in the Hluhluwe – Imfolozi Game Reserve. This is catered to foreign tourists and is therefore rather expensive for volunteers, trainers and any other businessmen wanting to visit the area. Aspirant young men from the local community are in the process of setting up a Bed and Breakfast as alternative accommodation for foreign volunteers, trainers, businessmen and tourists. This is phase one of their plan. Once the Bed and Breakfast is running well, they will be setting up more tourism initiatives to generate interest in the area. Just like they do not want to rely on government grants, they do not want to rely on tourism either. They want to put their town on the map. They have plans to start-up other small businesses in the area, so that their neighbours do not have to travel to other places, to get services and goods. This will all be part of a larger plan, to build their town into a place where people want to stay… Who knows, maybe one day, it will be a bustling city.
Initially, two traditional style “Bee-Hive” huts will be built on land acquired in Hlabisa. This land is situated within a rural village community, with a picturesque view and close proximity to the small town of Hlabisa. Initially the Bed and Breakfast will be used to accommodate Be-More volunteers working in the area. Its proximity to the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Park would also attract tourists looking for a more traditional experience and a cost effective alternative to staying in the park, in order to cover running costs in periods when foreign volunteers are not using the facility. There is currently no other commercial accommodation available in the area. Ammenities will include the set-up of basic sanitation, clean water and beds, with enough rustic appeal to be considered as a traditional experience.
The business will be owned and run by members of the community, who would interact with guests, and give them information and insight into the area, as well as Zulu life. Hlabisa is accessible through the old Nongoma road, which runs through the game reserve. Quite often when driving this road, you can see elephants, rhino and various other game, without even officially entering the game reserve. Therefore visitors will get to see the park, as well as have the opportunity of experiencing day to day life in a rural Zulu community. This project will also collaborate and generate other business start-ups in the area, such as catering of traditional food, cleaning and other requirements. This means the business would directly benefit the community by helping to build the local economy, as well as boost tourism and business investment into the area.
Here are some pictures of some wildlife seen on the old Nongoma road and within the Hluhluwe game reserve.
We look forward to writing a blog post about the finished project. Until then, we would like to say thank you to Be-More for their support and for helping with start-up capital through partnership with volunteers.