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.

In the market for change

Adapting business solutions to local circumstances.

In Umbazwane, there aren’t shopping malls, but this small complex is as close to one as you’ll find in rural KZN. There is no supermarket, just a SPAR (convenience store) and a few other small shops. Chinese owned shops are beginning to pop up, but other than that – the business done here is through informal markets like this one.

You can buy fruit and veg, brooms, matches, and other items. The problem is, a lot of the people are selling the same thing at the same price. A couple of stalls will be selling tomatoes, or brooms, with no competition. Their supplier is the same, their product is the same, their marketing and location is the same and the only advantage, is whether a potential customer approaches to their stall first. This scenario is the same throughout KZN, and in fact throughout much of Africa. Curio’s are mostly sourced from the same supplier, and prices are fixed.

This is why the training that Let Us Work is providing is important. We would like to teach rural people how to do business in a way that not only benefits them, but their community. Teach them a little about market research, buying from each other to support local business, and how to make the best of their capital.

In one of the regions we’ve been conducting workshops, one of the trainees came up with the idea of raising and selling chickens. The problem is, rural micro-business cannot hope to compete with the massive chicken farmers, who have every process and space streamlined to make the most profit, with the least amount of spending. A better way to do business, is to rather add value to the product. At the end of the training, the idea had evolved into: raising and marketing organically fed, free range “Emvelo” chickens that are larger and healthier, and then cook them, with spices etc as take away food. Although there is chicken available in the convenience store for a very competitive price, there is no chicken take-away in the area. This is the kind of thinking that we try to encourage! We also have many businesses that involve green ideas. We will be posting more on that soon!