We started the Bulungula Lodge (www.bulungula.com) in one of the poorest, most remote villages in South Africa in order to see whether backpacker tourism could be used as an effective poverty-fighting tool. Our village, called Nqileni (the “q” is a click sound), has no road, school, running water, toilets, school, clinic, electricity… It’s beautiful place though with a wonderful, warm community living a traditional way of life which has changed little over the centuries.
The lodge has been a big success and has created jobs for over 35 people in the village through working at the lodge directly and through the community-owned and run business we helped start (horse-riding, canoeing, veggie farming, etc.). As the Bulungula Lodge began starting more and more community development projects, we realised that it was necessary to start a dedicated organisation which would focus solely on community development work and be separate from the lodge business.
The Bulungula Incubator idea draws some inspiration from the notorious dotcom era in the late ’90s when Incubator companies were formed to assist new internet entrepreneurs to create brilliant new internet businesses without having to waste their valuable energy on doing the boring work of securing finance, setting up offices, employing secretaries, getting legal, etc… The idea was for the Incubator to give them all the necessary tools to go out and create a magic business… Of course a lot of these businesses turned out to be a load of crap and vanished after the dotcom crash. The idea with the Bulungula Incubator (BI) was that having lived in this community for many years and having worked through all the usual complications involved with development projects in communities like ours, we now had the social infrastructure in place to allow other people to come implement their brilliant rural development ideas. Many development projects which are conceptually brilliant fail because the innovator underestimated the difficulty in trying new things in very remote, traditional comunities. The history of devlopment work in Africa is littered with failed projects that got hijacked by local elites, didn’t take into account local beliefs and customs or were just introduced to the communities in the wrong way. We at the BI have been through all of this and have established a constructive, positive working relationship with our community and thus we can introduce new ideas or projects without having to worry that it will fail due to some unexpected community dynamic.
( Click here to see us on Google Maps/Earth )
Ok, time for a bit of the more formal stuff:
The Bulungula Incubator is a non-profit organisation which aims to incubate brilliant rural development projects. Our vision is:
To be a catalyst for the creation of vibrant and sustainable rural communities.
In partnership with our community, government, NGO’s and other innovative thinkers, the Bulungula Incubator aims to achieve our vision through finding synergies between the traditional rural African lifestyle and culture, and external technologies and innovations. These synergies must always seek to enhance the positive aspects of traditional rural life and/or mitigate the problematic aspects in accordance with our values and recognising the fundamental human rights enshrined in our constitution. The Bulungula Incubator also aims to be an agent for change by influencing government and corporate policy in an effort to spread our vision more widely.
The BI currently has several projects in planning or operation in Nqileni and surrounding villages. Projects fall within four key portfolios, identified through consultation with community members as priority development issues. The four portfolios are:
- Education – To facilitate access to quality education and improved life opportunities
- Health & Nutrition – To improve the health status of the population of Nqileni and surrounding villages
- Basic Services – To ensure access to clean water and sanitation facilities
- Sustainable Livelihoods – To decrease levels of poverty in the village through strengthening and diversification of the local economy
To see all our latest blog posts for the Bulungula Incubator, just click on All Projects under the projects menu or alternatively at the very top of the page there is a listing of the last 10 blog updates from various projects.
NOTE: in keeping with the latest internet trends, we’ve designed this page as a blog. For those who don’t know blogs, the most recent posts (like a diary entry) appear at the top. So if you’re reading about these projects for the first time, click on the relevant Project at the top right and then start reading upwards from the 1st post at the bottom. The most recent post will appear on the very top.
You’re welcome to leave a comment on any of the blog posts. Just click on “comment” which appears below each of the blog posts and leave your message.