When we first began our work in the area, there was nearly 100% unemployment. Anyone from the area who had found some kind of employment was a migrant worker who had left to find work in the cities. Furthermore there was no economic activity such as vegetable or other markets at which produce or other goods could be traded. Due to the lack of road infrastructure, access to outside markets was also severely constrained. With few cash-generating opportunities and access to local and external markets, there has always been a dearth of entrepreneurial activity in the region.
The BI began with projects to develop micro-enterprise and agricultural income-generating opportunities. The impact of our efforts was limited as the only cash income into the area came from government social grants. Once the Bulungula Lodge opened in 2004 and began to grow in popularity, cash into the area increased slowly. This has grown over time as employment at the Bulungula Incubator has expanded. Entrepreneurial activity in the area is slowly gathering momentum and we are looking to support this growth through new income generating opportunities in agriculture.
While access to quality formal education has always been challenging in the region, cattle farming and farming for staple foods and vegetables is a way of life. It is this traditional knowledge and lifestyle that we seek to leverage and build upon to improve livelihoods, nutrition and provide opportunities for income-generation and wealth creation. The region is rich in farm land and water sources that are owned through communal land rights by community members. These valuable assets, many of which are under-utilised, can be harnessed for the benefit of the community.
Rather than have to migrate out of the region in search of employment, the local region can be a rich source of development and opportunity.