Bulungula Incubator reaching rural communities
Bulungula Incubator making a difference in the Eastern Cape rural communities!
Bulungula Incubator (BI) is a rural development NGO that works in the Mbhashe Municipality, one of the most isolated and impoverished regions of South Africa. While, on average, South Africa is considered a middle-income country, it is characterised by having extremely high levels of inequality. The poorest areas, such as the one served by BI, are effectively on a par with the most impoverished in Africa.
In a recent study based on a range of economic measures, Mbhashe emerged as the poorest region in South Africa.
To understand the reason for this, it is necessary to consider both geography and history.
Geographically, the region lies in the deep rural Transkei on the so-called Wild Coast, a remote area adjacent to the Indian Ocean in the Eastern Cape Province. While the rugged coastline, punctuated by numerous river mouths, wide, sandy beaches and high rocky cliffs that are pounded by giant waves, could be a thriving tourist area, the lack of road infrastructure and basic services has made access by visitors challenging. This has meant that the communities living in the area have not had the benefits that normally accrue from tourist income.
But the main reason for the lack of development in the area has been historical neglect on a grand scale. Under the Apartheid system, Transkei was declared a “homeland” under laws that prevailed from 1948 until 1994. This in turn resulted in systematic under-development that left the region impoverished for decades.
“Homelands” were by design not developed in the same way that urban and other white-dominated regions were. Road infrastructure was virtually non-existent, education largely absent or poor at best, healthcare unavailable and basic services like electricity, water and sanitation basically not provided at all by the government.
Sadly, since the advent of democracy in South Africa in 1994, little has changed. The region still suffers from gross under-development, with healthcare, road infrastructure, education, water, sanitation and electricity remaining below what would be considered to be basically acceptable in the South African context.
The following statistics pertaining to the Mbhashe region, which is home to about 6 000 people, tell part of the story:
- 94% of the area is classified as traditional/rural;
- 50% of the population still use wood for cooking and heating;
- 82% of people access water from sources other than piped sources, such as rivers, springs and groundwater harvesting;
- 45% of people have no toilet at all;
- Employment runs at 93%.
Rejane Woodroffe, Director and founder of BI, explains what she discovered when she first visited the area in 2005 and studied how people lived. “A survey we did showed that 53% of households in the area had lost at least one child due to diarrheal disease, in other words to contaminated water sources. One home had lost an incredible eight children. There and then we decided to intervene. Since BI was launched in 2007 we have made enormous strides. We found that, if you start from an effective zero base, you can uplift an entire community in a generation. We have focussed on the children, always the most vulnerable, as we discovered through those horrifying infant mortality statistics. Now we have a slogan that says, ‘From conception to career’, meaning that we care for children from before birth right up to when they are equipped for the workplace. Our success rate is amazing and BI is now considered a developmental model that uses partnerships to create synergies between traditional African lifestyle and culture on the one hand and external technologies and innovations on the other. It’s a great story.”
STARFISH GREATHEARTS FOUNDATION IS A FINANCIAL SUPPORTER OF THE BULUNGULA INCUBATOR.
WE WILL BE PRESENTING MORE STORIES ABOUT THE SUCCESSES ACHIEVED BY THE BULUNGULA INCUBATOR, AND OUR ROLE IN THAT SUCCESS, IN THE WEEKS AND MONTHS TO COME.