What is the Bulungula Incubator?
Our work in the area began with the establishment of the Bulungula Lodge in 2004 (www.bulungula.com) on the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape in South Africa. The Lodge is community owned, Fair Trade accredited, and uses renewable energy, composting toilets and harvests sustainable rain and ground water sources. In 2007, an appeal to previous guests of the Lodge seed funded our NGO, the Bulungula Incubator, which we established in 2007 to address the challenges of rural poverty in our community while promoting and preserving the positive effects of the traditional African lifestyle and culture.
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 many of these businesses vanished after the dotcom crash but we hope to avoid such scenarios! 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 in which to implement good rural development ideas and seek to partner with government, other NGO’s, organisations, individuals and corporations in our vision to become a catalyst for vibrant and sustainable rural communities.
Where we are are located, the Xhora Mouth Administrative Area, is very remote and rural, it fell into a backwater area of the Transkei “homeland” during Apartheid. Development in the homelands, especially of the rural areas, was practically non-existent.
Our community is made up of four villages: Nqileni, Folokwe, Mgojweni and Tshezi located in a remote part of the Mbhashe Municipality in the Amathole District. These four villages have a population of about 6000 people;
According to the StatsSA Community Survey of 2011, the Mbhashe municipality has a population of 254,909; a decline of 0,35% since 2001, a period in which the South African population grew by 15%. The stagnation of population growth in the area reflects the increasing urbanisation of the country, and thus, a movement away from rural areas like ours. 93.7% of the area is classified as Traditional/Rural with half the population using wood for cooking and heating, 82.4% accessing water from sources other than municipal-piped water like drawing from rivers, streams, rain and ground water harvesting, 45.4% have no toilet at all (not even a pit latrine), 89% have no rubbish collection or create their own rubbish dumps. The StatsSA survey shows that in Mbhashe, Matric Certificates have been obtained by a mere 10% of adults over 20 years and only 5.1% have obtained higher education of any kind. Unemployment in the municipality is estimated at 42% although this is a significant improvement from the rate estimated in 2001 of 69,9%; possibly reflecting migration out of the area but also, probably due to the positive impact of the Community Work Programme, in which the BI participates, which provides stipends at minimum wage for 8 days a month for work in community projects like our preschools, homebased care and environmental and infrastructural development.
Ranked by number of formal dwellings in the area, Mbhashe comes in at 183 out of 189 municipalities countrywide with just 30% of homes considered to be formal dwellings, number 27 in the rank of the highest number of young people in the country with 38% of the population under 14 years old, double that of municipalities with the fewest number of young people, number 193 in the country out of 198 for piped water inside the dwelling at 3.5% and number 150 out of 153 for high school completion with only 10.2% of adults above 20 years old having obtained a Matric Certificate.
In a community survey conducted in 2011 by the Bulungula Incubator we found that: in the Xhora Mouth Administrative Area where we are located, just over half (53.8%) of households have had at least one child die and a third of those have lost more than one child, mostly due to diarrhoea, probably caused by the lack of clean water and sanitation.Our offices are located in Nqileni village, the most remote of the four villages of Xhora Mouth.With a population of approximately 800 people, the closest clinic is a 2 hour walk away, there is no potable drinking water, no access to electricity, no toilets and, until recently, school lessons took place under the trees. Only a handful of people from Nqileni have ever succeeded in achieving their final school year certificate. Almost all adults in the village are illiterate. For their livelihoods, the people of Nqileni are reliant on subsistence farming, government grants, wage remittances from migrant workers and, since 2004, income from the community-owned Bulungula Lodge and later from Bulungula Incubator. The health of the population is compromised not only by the inaccessibility of health care provision, but also by insufficient health knowledge, poor nutrition, poor water quality, HIV and cystercicosis. The area thus epitomises the most acute poverty challenges of the country. Despite this, it has an immense richness in other ways: there is a strong sense of community and history, the land is incredibly fertile and breathtakingly beautiful, there are still pockets of excellence in subsistence farming, and the people have a strong desire to work towards improving their situation. It is this combination of difficulties and strengths that make the Xhora Mouth Administrative Area an ideal place to develop innovative responses to rural challenges.
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