Waging war on poverty

Misfortune struck twice for Happiness Ngamulana, a mother of two living in rural Tabankulu in the Eastern Cape. Her unemployed husband died in January and the Department of Social Development stopped the monthly social grant of R570 he used to receive.

Ngamulana (56) was also unemployed because of the lack of factories and companies in her area.

She related her story while tilling a field with 58 other women and seven men in the Masondlane Tabankulu poverty-alleviation programme.

Masondlane is one of 20 projects funded by the Transnet Foundation Trust (TFT), in partnership with the Department of Social Development. Other partners include corporations, the departments of agriculture, labour and health, the Development Bank of South Africa, Farmers Cooperative and Rainbow Chickens.

Ricky Maharaj, senior manager for TFT Under-Utilised Assets, said the foundation has invested R6-million in poverty alleviation projects in the past five years.

“There are about 200 people benefiting directly from the project.
Each of the 20 projects consists of six hectares producing vegetables. Some of the projects have irrigation schemes and dams, while those without a water supply draw their water from nearby streams and rivers,” said Maharaj. “Their target markets are hospitals, schools, the community and local towns where chain stores buy the produce.”

Masondlane was established in April 2000 by members of the local community who wanted to fight poverty in the area.

Maharaj said some people started the projects after realising the need to alleviate poverty in their communities and used the little money they had to finance it. Some applied for loans, raised funds and accessed government subsidies to help kickstart the project.

“TFT decided to fund these projects after seeing the commitment and determination shown by the people involved. We also wanted to help the government in its fight against poverty,” said Maharaj.

One of the farmers, Thobile Luvela (39), said the project has helped him a great deal as he can now provide his family with food. “There are a number of shops in town that buy our products.”

“At the moment we are banking our money. We will only start to share it when we are convinced that we have made enough profit to sustain our business.”

Other Eastern Cape programmes include the Iflegi Yamabomvana Project in Elliotdale, which has trained more than 100 women in bread-making, vegetable gardening and needlework, and the Melisizwe Tambo Multi-Purpose Project in Bizana, which is aimed at empowering rural women.

To help the communities TFT donates refurbished containers that become community offices and halls. Maharaj said the foundation wants to expand into the Limpopo, North West and Northern Cape provinces.

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