The Eastern Cape remains one of the least developed provinces in South Africa, with high unemployment and social challenges in many areas.
We are proud of our contribution to the development of thriving, empowered communities in our region through the following initiatives:
In a ground-breaking move, Kwandwe initiated its own social development arm in 2002, unique to the reserve and the surrounding rural communities. Called the Ubunye Foundation, it is the soul of Kwandwe. Energy and resources are focused on those living in poverty stricken rural areas where access to basic goods and services, in particular education and healthcare, is severely limited.
The rural communities of the Eastern Cape are some of the poorest in South Africa. According to the Foundation, recent statistics reveal that 32 percent of rural households in the province survive on a monthly income of ZAR 200 (about USD 30) or less.
The Ubunye Foundation is an independent, non-profit, charitable trust that currently invests in the development of nine rural communities, two of which are located in the Kwandwe reserve.
Instead of following the traditional but outdated approach of focusing on a community’s needs and problems, the Foundation focuses on facilitating an asset-based approach to development in which community participationholds the key to lasting change. It’s all about harnessing people’s potential rather than focusing on what they lack.
The asset-based approach recognises that sustainable development can only take place when communities are built from the bottom up and from the inside out. Since its inception, the Foundation has been amazed at how communities will embrace development opportunities to break the cycle of poverty. Respecting local African culture and the community’s traditional values, rather than placing value on outside systems and procedures, has earned the Foundation widespread acceptance and admiration in the region.
Some of the Foundation’s key focus areas within the communities include education, health, sport, and culture. But perhaps the achievement with the biggest ripple effect has been the establishment of self-help groups within communities. To date, the Ubunye Foundation has established 40 successful self-help groups comprising some of the most marginalised individuals in each village. These groups, consisting of between eight and 20 members each (mostly women), become an instant forum for sharing problems, thereby providing a powerful support system. Every member of a group is expected to save money, even if at the outset it’s as little as ZAR 1 or ZAR2 a week. Once enough money has been generated it is used as seed money to establish self-help projects that may transform into fully fledged businesses.
Examples of income-generating projects include weaving, beading, soap making, bee-keeping and spaza shops, vegetable and herb gardens. Some of these gardens supply fresh produce daily to the kitchens of the four luxury lodges on the reserve.
Perhaps the best example of a successful self-help project is the Siyakhula doll-making cooperative. Recognising that culture was at the heart of their community, local women were excited to revive traditional, labour-intensive handcrafts, such as beading, braiding and sewing. These skills gave birth to the most enchanting range of handmade doll , each one an original. The dolls sport different braided hairstyles, and come dressed in a range of outfits – a shwe-shwe dress for a girl, smart soccer strip for a boy or even a khaki game ranger outfit. Established in May 2008, the all-women group of doll makers is based at the Mcgambele Community Centre in the reserve. The dolls may also be purchased from the safari shop at Heatherton Towers. A percentage of the sale of each doll is donated to the Ubunye Foundation and, ultimately, into the creation of further income-generating initiatives.