Bee Hives of opportunity…

Hlabisa is not a well known town. In fact, as you are reading this, it may even be the first

Ps Mavundla - 29 and ready to bring the world to Hlabisa

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.

Colourful Homes of the Hlabisa region

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.

Uniforms of Pride: Local Soccer players use a piece of flat unoccupied ground as a makeshift stadium.

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.

An example of the spacious layout.

An example of a smaller bee-hive hut in Hlabisa

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.

Lion

White Rhino

                                                                      Elephant

Wildebeest

Bee-eater

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.

Always sad to leave Zululand.

Soda Bottles can change lives….

One of the goals of let us work is to try and harness green energy. We are always looking for ways to help improve people’s lives, whilst at the same time, doing no harm to the environment. A lot of people in rural areas do not have access to electricity, much less hot water.

Living by candlelight is a daily reality for people who have to walk to fetch water, have cold baths and cook on a fire. You know that feeling you get after you have been camping for a week and you just can’t wait to have a hot bath, a home-cooked meal, and sleep in your own bed without having to fumble about with a torch to go to the toilet? Well, it’s not quite that feeling, because most of the people in rural areas have never experienced going back to comfort, but I’m pretty sure it’s close. I have no doubt that there are many people, living day to day in rural areas, whose lives could be improved with a little innovation.

 At “Let Us Work”, we have a research centre, where we are testing green alternatives, which require no electricity, but could bring a little comfort to rural homes, through recycling.

We have a number of ideas on the go, but for now, I would like to specifically draw your attention to the various projects that we are testing out, utilizing 2l plastic soda bottles:

 A rural community is busy assembling a solar water heating system made out of piping and plastic soda bottles. They are killing 3 birds with some plastic that is no good to anybody, or so you’d think. First of all, the obvious – they are recycling plastic waste that would otherwise go to the dumps. They are improving people’s lives by giving them hot water (unfortunately only on sunny days, which is pretty much all the time in KZN), and they are using it as a small business start-up, so that they can make a little money.

In our “Let us Work” research centre (which is what we call the section of the garage/garden where we test things out), we have been looking into creating lighting using sunlight (from the sun, not South Africa’s favourite dishwashing liquid) and soda bottles to illuminate homes (as a lot of homes do not have windows). This will also only work when there is sunlight.

The third project involves using, once again, 2L soda bottles and string, to create vertical gardens. These are portable and conserve water, as instead of trickling down into the ground, excess water drains directly into the plants below. They take up minimal horizontal space and are therefore not limited by garden area. This is generally not an issue in rural areas, but it makes them perfect for urban “townships”.

So to summarize, we are going to need loads of old 2L soda bottles (and other sizes too). If you are around the Durban area, please collect for us. Pretty soon, soda bottles will be seen as valuable, and we’ll have made a small difference to the environment. This is how SODA BOTTLES CAN CHANGE LIVES….