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What is the Bulungula Incubator?

 

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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.

 

Nqileni village

Nqileni village

( Click here to see us on Google Maps/Earth )

More videos featuring the Bulungula Incubator:

 

 

 

88 Comments Post a comment
  1. Christo Fabricius #

    Wow! amazing stuff guys. It’s great that you’re formally recording the process as it unfolds. I’ve book-marked your site and will follow with great interest!

    Like

    July 27, 2007
  2. Lynette Pullen #

    Fantastic work!

    Thank you for a wonderful contribution to society and the environment!

    I will continue to watch this space!
    Regards
    Lynette

    Like

    August 26, 2007
  3. Andre Terblanche #

    Christo, knowing that you’re involved in rural tourism-based / conservation development, and also have an insider view in the accommodation market, I strongly recommend that you visit Bulungula. Besides that it really is a beautiful site with a seriously chilled-out vibe, its an exceptional model of development actually working its way through all the regulations and constraints prevailing on the Wild Coast, but more importantly: it works in terms of community dynamics. Locals co-own the lodge; mingle and relax freely on site, doing their own thing, being ‘available’ to curious visitors wanting to interact with locals, yet never being ‘in your face’. There are no barriers – that’s exceptional. And thus no locked doors or electric fences as in so many other Wild Coast developments.
    There’s a bit of oversell here-and-there: the place has NOT changed ‘ very little’ over the centuries – Coke, SA Breweries, social welfare remittances, the collapse of a self-sufficient subsistence economy, invasive alien vegetation, the domineering and destructive impact of missionary Christianity, and soccer have all come to impact massively, and de facto change culture. The school is really in dire straits, but very many similar schools HAVE been replaced by modern structures in recent years (with teachers remaining poorly trained and resourced – yet rural teachers are often far more committed and dedicated than their urban colleagues.
    Other than such minor arguments, Dave and Rejane, together with strong local leadership and an excellent work force, have been very, very successful. Also see “Sixteen documents required” in the latest (14-20 Sept) Mail&Guardian (it doesn’t seem to be online).

    Like

    September 17, 2007
  4. unathi #

    Hey Dave what a terrific job you do man! miss you al thanx man for such a beautiful dream you have!

    Like

    September 17, 2007
  5. Rakhi #

    Bulungula is just fascinating! I really want to visit there and study it as a model of development…but alas I don’t know how to go about it…. any great ideas? If only we could multiply the number of bulungula logdes all over the world, this would be a better place to live in… all we need to do is learn what you are doing and spread the knowledge and the means. I would love to do a case study on bulungula…

    Like

    October 18, 2007
  6. Dave, I heard about your dream from Brendon Bush. Keep on giving and growing. I am forwarding your letter for a handyperson to a few good people who work with various non profits (like the peace corps) continued good blessings.
    PJ Bellini
    simi valley, californina, USA

    Like

    October 30, 2007
  7. Karla #

    Bulungula is the first project I have ever visited that is truly what I would classify environmentally sustainable. It is evident that the inception of tourism has created an amazing opportunity for the people in the maXhosa community. Their involvment and contributions to the functioning of Bulungula has been an empowering opportunity and will continue to do so in the future! Bulungula is a truly authentic experience for all travellers.
    Thank you!

    Like

    October 30, 2007
  8. Meg #

    Hi Dave and Rejane and Crew…
    I don’t know if anyone remembers me over there, but I stayed with you about two years ago at this time of year. I was studying with SIT (the school for international training) and spent a few weeks researching an independent study on sustainable tourism at Bulungula.
    Anyway, it is incredible to see how far you all have come. I love the kids farming competition! What a great idea.
    I hope that you continue to find success with the crisis school project–it seems you are headed in a very positive direction.
    I’ve passed University and since found myself hard at work back in the states searching for a way to make myself useful in this world and you folks provide some pretty impressive inspiration.
    best,
    Meg Moroni

    Like

    November 7, 2007
    • Ntombi Tisani #

      Hello Meg

      Hope you are well:) I was quite intrigued by your post – I am also looking at Bulungula as a research subject (innovation in community based tourism and its contribution to sustainable development). Would love to chat – please drop me a note at ntombi@mail.com. I’d be interested in your experience and perspective. Take care, Ntombi

      Like

      May 1, 2012
  9. Audrey H McLeod #

    Hello to all of you from Canada;
    My daughter Nancy and I were guests at the lodge last July and our experience with the villagers has left us with such hope for success in their endeavors.
    We got to know many of the children as we walked the hills, they were so full of life and curiosity.
    Let the school be built for their education is so important for the children and for the future of the village.
    I wish you all well.
    Audrey.

    Like

    November 21, 2007
  10. Great idea and best wishes for success.

    Two quick comments.

    1. It would be good to add an RSS feed.

    2. White on black. Hard on the eyes, especially when there a lot of posts to read.

    Best wishes

    Peter

    Like

    November 23, 2007
  11. Gram #

    I’m in and onboard with da BI trip Dave. Guna be donating funds, willing, love n luck to the project. Miss youz

    Like

    November 23, 2007
  12. Tim Laing #

    Hey

    My first donation is on it`s way. Great idea!! Have you guys considered a way where people can donate small amounts, month by month, e.g. direct debit – not sure if this is possible internationally? I would be keen to do this when I next get a job!

    Tim

    Like

    November 24, 2007
  13. xolile and bongile[freinds] #

    hey you people you are more than any body else on development and itervention to our people, we are saying that we are still at your back to support you to what ever you need and we promise to send your proposal to the relevent organisation lik idt and the charity people like dr mike in uk thaks men GOD loves what you are doing- we are coming down soon before christmas to see what kind of help we can assist with.
    that school /center is gonna be built with greate succes bye siyayithanda leyondawo nabantu bayo our heart is there.

    Like

    November 25, 2007
  14. Jeanette #

    I am humbled and very impressed. I have never been to your end of the woods (dont own a 4 x 4) but it is most definately on my ‘to do’ list. What is the governments response to the lack of facilities and the poor teaching record? Will the 2nd step be upgrading the teachers qualifications? Stand proud!

    Like

    November 26, 2007
  15. Mkanyisi #

    Hi Dave and everyone!
    Dave what you are doing is absolutetly a fantastic job for the community,i’m in and wishes you all the best, you are such a great thing to Nqileni village, best of luck indeed, GOD BLESS YOU MAAN!!!

    Like

    November 26, 2007
  16. Electra #

    It is a great pleasure to see how much bulungula has developed since my last visit. I would love to contribute towards the project as the children of the village touched my soul in so many ways. I keep a photo of the village children on my studio wall. I only hope to return one day soon to see you all again.
    Huge hugz
    Electra xo

    Like

    November 26, 2007
  17. Cuz Dave and Rejane,
    Good luck with all this and will do what I can to spread the word. Next time in SA you can be sure will be the moment when the American fam hits Bulungula! With love from cousin Petronella D’Urwyn Rockefeller

    Like

    November 27, 2007
  18. Nancy Shackell #

    Hello,
    I visited with my mother in July 07 and have since modified many of my ideas as a result of talking to members of your community, especially Lindele and Elliot. Although you apologized for asking for school funds, please know that most of your donators are thrilled and honoured to contribute funds to such a worthy project.
    Respectfully, Nancy Shackell

    Like

    December 3, 2007
  19. Bulungula Incubator #

    Thank you all for the comments and support!

    We have put a seed funding funds barometer on the home page (scroll down a little), so keep an eye to see how our fundraising is progressing.

    Tim, we are working on getting a system for direct debits going. We will make it known when when have been successful.

    Jeanette, you don’t need a 4X4 to get to us, our 4X4 shuttle picks up people in Mtata daily. So, don’t feel you can’t come and visit!

    Anna

    Bulungula Incubator Programme Director

    Like

    December 4, 2007
  20. Alan #

    hi ya

    my girlfriend and i visited Bulungula in Dec 07 and had an amazing time! even while it rained there was something to do and i was never bored.
    having heard of what the team is trying to do there i am seriously impressed and will be keeping tabs on developments.
    i’ve already told all my friends and hope to see you again in a couple years!

    Al

    Like

    January 17, 2008
  21. Baran #

    hi there;

    I was there at the Christmas, good place to see and experience and me and my girlfriend who is from FTTSA were totally impresed by Dave’s work over there . This place sure improved our vision beside having a great vacation.

    Baran Duman

    Like

    January 29, 2008
  22. favorited this one, man

    Like

    March 21, 2008
  23. Kathryn Nurse #

    Hi Bulungula
    Looking forward to next weekend. Your Blog is looking great. I went on it to check which site you use. So I think I’m gonna give wordpress a try…if that’s how it works. Keep on…
    Kath

    Like

    May 19, 2008
  24. eugene and Avril #

    We did some first world camping at Bululngula in June and found the whole project an amazing experience. We are sorry we could not stay longer but we will return. We were part of the group who came with a caravan and all got stuck in the mud.
    Best wishes Dave and co and I trust you will go from strength to strength. We look forward to returning.

    Like

    June 27, 2008
  25. John #

    I am particularly intrerested in whether the organic farming project is now permanently established ? I will certainly try to make time to visit and will contact re donation/ sponsorship.
    As someone else said it is humbling x

    Like

    July 16, 2008
  26. A2 #

    so excited im going there next week

    Like

    September 11, 2008
  27. Bulungula Incubator #

    It is getting there…

    Like

    September 12, 2008
  28. Great stuff — hope to meet up with you guys when I’m back in SA next year.
    best
    Derick Fay

    Like

    September 20, 2008
  29. Don’t know how I got onto your mailing list, but I’m glad to know about you all the same. Just the sort of thing I like to see happening. And if you ever decide to use donkeys (and you should), just let me know.

    Like

    January 28, 2009
  30. Nokwanda Langazana #

    Hi Dave and family

    I am so impressed about what you are doing,your passion,your strength I was real a plan of God to arrive at Bulungula. The story of school No-ofisi touches me every day;and I am so greatfull about the progress you have I wish we can so many passionate people in South Africa even in government if we can-we can see development in our rural communities.Dave I think your name ZAMUKULUNGISA have to change to LUNGISUKUHLALA because you are no longer trying but you are doing keep it up May God bless you;your family and the whole team that help to make it happen.

    Like

    January 28, 2009
  31. vera fernandes #

    Hi Dave and Anna

    Lovely to see how far the new school has come on. Bulungula looks as beautiful as when i was there – last April with Jacqy. If you need a volunteer teacher/teacher trainer in the future, let me know. I’ve just spent some time with a tribe deep in the Amazonian jungle in Ecuador, no school there, they use tree houses as classrooms.🙂

    Wishing you all the best,
    Vera. xx

    Like

    January 29, 2009
  32. gerne #

    hi all…i love what you are doing…. how do i get involved? My name is Gerne Deacon and i’m a Director of Cube Foundation. We’re a architects group that started teh foundation and builds community projects. We identify a need in the community and then pithc and find funding at Private Companies. With the funding we build facilities according to the needs. We would love to provide our services!…..

    Like

    January 29, 2009
  33. Celeste Lackay #

    Great going guys!
    This is exactly what SA needs, citizens young and old, rich and poor to hold hands and make schools work for our children!
    Keep it up!
    A colleague are in the process of starting the same king of project in East London and will appreciate it if we could draw from your experiences?
    Please contact me via e-mail on celestelackay@gmail.com

    Thank you!!

    Like

    January 29, 2009
  34. Eunice Pengelly Rogers #

    Wonderful project !
    I would like to contribute –
    Please send bank details

    Like

    January 30, 2009
  35. Lolly (Veronica-V2) Orme #

    bless everyone involved with this amazing project in this really beautiful part of the world.
    it’s like you have dropped a pebble into the pond of :”yes we can” and it’s spreading like ripples of love……
    all my love to you all…..

    Like

    March 2, 2009
  36. Lolly (Veronica-V2) Orme #

    Love and light to you all – ……

    Like

    March 2, 2009
  37. Just so impressed not only with what you are doing on the ground, but also the trouble you are taking to spread the word about what you are doing. Your blog is our featured site of the month. Keep up the brilliant work.

    Like

    March 5, 2009
  38. Richard Holden #

    Dear Dave and Rejane

    Finally hope to see you at the end of June. Planning a trip on the motorbike with my son. Can’t you open a bank account, and put the details on the web so that people can deposit money for the various projects.

    Like

    May 10, 2009
    • Bulungula Incubator #

      Hi Richard
      It will be great to have you here. As far as our bank details go, click on the DONATE tab above and you’ll get all the info you need.
      cheers
      Dave

      Like

      May 11, 2009
  39. Lolly (Veronica-V2) Orme #

    Hi again – i almost made it up there last month but …. it happens that plans change. anyhow, am still in the market for a trip and am keeping the dream alive.
    Great that you are keeping your dream/reality alive.
    Would also be interested n making a monthly financial contribution so please keep us updated on the donations front.
    Love light and blessings
    Lolly (V2)

    Like

    May 13, 2009
  40. Colman #

    Dave Rejane Albert and gang ,

    We visited your wonderful project in April 09 , an Irish couple with 3 kids and I still think about it , its what stays with me most from a wonderful trip to South Africa .Not alone is it such a fantastic sustainable project in its own right , but the inspiration it can give to other rural communities is what most impresses .A very special place !
    I would like to make a regular small donation , but wonder with south african banks taking a big chunk in admin fees ,is it better to donate once a year instead?

    Enjoy your well earned “Year out” in India

    If I can ever be of any support or advice especially re disability issues please give me a shout

    Colman

    Like

    May 20, 2009
  41. Jakob #

    Hello Dear Bulungula friends! We were there last year, friends of Dietn.

    Just to say, the parents of Dieter organised a “Tea-Time Weekend” last weekend and it was a huge succes and a lovely event.

    It’s nice to organise things like that for the purpose of helping Bulungula. Keep up the good work and hopefully, SEE YOU LATER

    Greetings,

    Jakob

    Like

    June 25, 2009
  42. sandy stromberg #

    I will be traveling to Bulungula in a couple of weeks with some friends from East London. Can’t wait to visit your village and appreicate your culture, I’m from San Diego and would love to bring back great memories to share with my students. Are there any needs for your school to come in December? I do guidence counseling with prevention/ intervention dealing with drugs and tobacco. IF there is a need for me I would love to help out and volunteer my time there. Looking forward to my trip to South Africa.

    Like

    July 26, 2009
  43. I don’t know If I said it already but …Hey good stuff…keep up the good work!🙂 I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks,)

    A definite great read..Jim Bean

    Like

    October 1, 2009
  44. Jodi #

    HI there,

    I would like to bring some members of my youth movement to Bulungula in January to help out in the community.
    Who can I speak to with regards to what is possible and what we can get involved in?

    Thanks
    Jodi
    0741047211

    Like

    October 14, 2009
  45. Pierre Joubert #

    I will be visiting the area in June and would like to meet the originators of this project. What are the most pressing needs in the community and especially the schools?

    Like

    May 21, 2010
  46. robsie1 #

    Dave, when I think back to our trip I never imagined the scope of what you and your team have achieved. Congratulations. BTW I sent a letter to our local current affairs program about your story. Hope something comes of it.

    Like

    June 9, 2010
  47. Keaton Forrest #

    I was linked this website by a friend who is interested in creating an eco village. I would like to ask how you will be dealing with overpopulation issues that arise from increasing the living standards of the area. If this idea was forged with true sustainability in mind then it should include some sort of population control – possibly in the form of education.
    Thanks in advance for your reply🙂

    Like

    June 22, 2010
  48. Hello
    Like many other who have left comments I just wanted to say what a fascinating project and may i wish you every success for the future. The project is clearly focussed on key elements of todays society which the World as a whole need to embrace.

    Like

    July 2, 2010
  49. Bulungula Incubator #

    Many thanks for your support!

    Like

    August 20, 2010
  50. BULUNGULA JULY 31 – AUGUST 5

    As the Lonely Planet says Bulungula Lodge overlooks one of the most spectacular and remote beaches on South Africa’s wild coast … but getting there is a mission, and as we were to discover it’s absolutely true. We arrived in Mthatha a relatively small city after an hour and half flight on a prop plane from Jo’burg, it was 10:00 am and didn’t feel like waiting for the 3pm shuttle to Bulungula Lodge so we decided the best approach would be to use local transport. According to Bulungula’s website this was a relatively easy thing to do so we decided to give it a try. First step was to get from the airport to town, easy enough until we discovered there’s only prearranged Taxi’s at the airport and of course we hadn’t made any arrangements. Fortunately for us we spoke with another family who had arranged for a van and they kindly offered us a ride to Mthatha. After dropping us at the local Taxi Rank we began our adventure in getting to Bulungula.

    Bulungula believes that most backpackers in South Africa are missing out by not travelling around the country on local transport. Not only are minibuses and non-tourist buses much cheaper and quicker but they are also often the best way to meet interesting people and to learn about local culture. They recommend a crowded bakkie taxi filled with people, chickens, groceries and laughs over luxury transport any day. Coming by local transport is definitely the only way to appreciate the unique location of the lodge. In fact, anyone who arrives at the lodge by local transport from Mthatha gets the first night free. Their advice is also to take the following precautions when using minibus/bakkie taxis:
    Only catch taxis from a taxi rank not on the side of the road (remember that taxi ranks are popular with pickpockets); Don’t get into a taxi with a drunk driver;Women travelers should be wary of taxis that have only male passengers – this is unlikely to be a taxi and is more likely a football team car or something

    Getting to Bulungula required us to take three Taxi’s, and travel up to four hours at a cost of about 60 Rand per person ($8 Cdn). This seemed like a great idea, certainly the price was right. The basic theory of Taxi’s in the developing world is cram as many passengers and their belongings as possible into a vehicle and hope the hell everyone gets there is one piece. After much haggling and discussion with at least six interested parties (only one of whom was a Taxi driver) we were underway, despite our belief there was no possible room for us and our back backs in the vehicle. The first two legs of our three-leg trip were fairly straight-forward and we thought we had it all figured out. Then we arrived in Elliotdale where we were to transfer to our final Taxi. That’s when we discovered what rural public transit was really all about. No more twelve-passenger microbuses with headroom and windows that opened. We were now faced with half-ton pick up trucks with camper cabs on the back. Some of which had ample headroom and others not. Some had benches to sit on and others not. And some had fully inflated tires while others were being filled with a bicycle pump.

    English was in limited supply, it was market day and everything was total chaos. It was then we had a Wizard of Oz moment and realized “we’re not in Kansas anymore”. With the help of a local guy who’d been called by Bulungula Lodge to keep an eye out for us in Elliotdale (it’s not like we were hard to spot) we were advised which Taxi we should take. Keep in mind there are no signs, no schedules and certainly no regulations. If you own a vehicle and can drive you’re basically in the Taxi business. Getting from Elliotdale to Bulungula is a two-hour drive on pothole infested dirt and rock roads with lots of dust, in 27c weather, all the while crammed under a canopy in the back of a half-ton pick up truck. We loaded our backpacks on the roof of the truck along with bags of rice, lumber, furniture and anything else that seemed to be lying around and jumped in the back. At first there were six of us with all our stuff and it was tight. Then there were eight and finally two more showed up. It was at that moment we decided to pull the pin on the sardine transport and figure out a new plan (Michael Chase we thought of you often, knowing you would not approve of any of this!!). After unloading all our gear we set out to hire a Taxi for four instead of ten. This proved to be easier than expected, not all that unreasonable in terms of price and much faster, though it didn’t change the bad road, heavy dust, hot weather and the most uncomfortable ride in a vehicle we’ve ever had.

    Arriving by public transport at Bulungula usually meant you and your gear being dropped 800 metres from the river ferry (rowboat), crossing the river and walking another 35 minutes through the village with your pack to the Lodge. However, all that changed a month before we arrived when the first road was plowed into what had otherwise been a very remote and hard to access part of the planet. Our walk was shortened to 15 minutes as our Taxi didn’t make it all the way to the lodge itself.

    Bulungula Lodge was established as a project to see if it would be possible to create a sustainable and eco-friendly backpackers lodge in one of the poorest and most remote parts of South Africa in an effort to alleviate poverty and bring social and economic benefit to the local villagers. You can read more on this if you’re interested at http://www.bulungulaincubator.wordpress.com or visit the lodge at http://www.bulungula.com

    We had become aware of Bulungula by our friend and neighbour Dorothy Jekyl who visited the lodge a few years back and had become actively engaged in helping fund expansion of the local primary school. The location is absolutely stunning, situated on a remote stretch of coastline with a fabulous beach, lagoon, rolling hills, dolphins, whales and abundant farm animals everywhere. The sky is so clear they say that any night you don’t see a shooting star within a half hour of stargazing you’ll receive a free nights accommodation.

    The lodge runs on solar power, recycles everything, uses gas stoves and has these amazing paraffin showers to fire up hot water for showers in a truly innovative way. There are ten traditional mud huts and other than the benefit of a single solar powered light bulb your hut is much the same as what the locals live in. The lodge itself serves as a public space for guests and villagers alike. Occupancy for the huts runs at 65% year round and many of the nights we were there the place was completely full. The project is making a huge difference in the local community, creating over 35 jobs and a number of small businesses that largely cater to guests of the lodge. You can pay for a walking tour of the village, go horseback riding on the beach, canoe up the river, have lunch at a local restaurant or spend a day with the local women and learn what they do. All of these and other small enterprises are providing income for local villagers and making guests more aware of the issues facing the village and the surroundings.

    Mornings started with a run along the beach followed by breakfast outdoors and days were spent reading, walking along the beach or through the village and playing cards. We always travel with playing cards and we’d brought a deck into the community room at the lodge the first afternoon we were there. We put them down to have dinner and before we knew it the locals had started up a card game that went on well into the evening. Over the next few days the cards became the hottest commodity in the village and we were introduced to a new game – Top 10. It was the only game anyone knew and the excitement generated by having access to a single deck of cards was something to behold.

    Bulungula remains to this day a very traditional village. The majority of the 800 villagers live in huts with no running water and no electricity. They grow a few crops, raise chickens, cows, goats and sheep. They fish from the ocean and draw water from a well, yet their world is slowly changing for the better thanks to two inspiring individuals – David Martin and Rejane Woodroffe. Together they have built a new model for the developing world by aiming to find synergies between the traditional rural African lifestyle and culture and external technologies and innovations. Both are young, well-educated, passionate individuals who are committed to making a difference in the lives of the people in the community they serve. Google them and you’ll be amazed at their credentials. In the past eight years they have built a thriving backpackers village and raised money to improve the primary school. A year ago they opened an early learning centre funded by private donations and operated by David’s mother, Annett, a retired high school math teacher from Cape Town. It’s now fully subscribed with three classrooms and active parental and community support. It’s as good a facility as you would find in Calgary, yet it’s entirely off the grid and sustainable. The library has an extensive variety of books and the entire community is able to borrow books at anytime.

    There is as much, or as little, to do as you want in Bulungula. It’s the kind of place where you choose to make what you want of your time, because no one is going to cater to your needs. We played soccer with the pre-school kids on the beach; tossed a Frisbee with a local kid who was looking to pass some time; toured the local village and tried our hand at stripping dried corn from husks and grinding it with stones to make maize and visited the early learning centre to see first hand how they were set up to teach the kids.

    Every Wednesday morning there is a sunrise pancake breakfast served high up on a sand dune on the beach. Chocolate, banana and cinnamon crepes are prepared over an open fire along with hot tea while we watched the sun rise from the horizon of the Indian Ocean. Along the shore about forty dolphins put on a show for us playing in the surf. It was a spectacular way to start the day. That afternoon Aidan and Justin went fishing with two local guys from the village, however the wind and the waves made conditions less than ideal, so they offered up to take them out after dark when the conditions improved. Justin didn’t want to go, but Aidan was game and off he went into the night with no lights and high hopes. While he didn’t catch anything it turned out to be quite the thrill as they young guys he was with landed a three and half foot fish that must have weighed 30lbs. The smaller fish they also caught were given to Aidan and we cooked them up for lunch the next day.

    When it comes to meals you have the choice to self cater (not an option for us) or eat at the lodge. And as we discovered you can also go to the local restaurant for lunch only on Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. We opted to go for lunch on Tuesday and the boys were going to meet up with us there after fishing with the locals. We made our way through the village (which consists of a number of disbursed huts through the rolling hillside) by following the red posts that were periodically placed along the route. However, with the new road some of the stakes had been removed and had not been replaced leaving us to go with our instincts to get there. After wandering for quite some time and not seeing anymore stakes we found some school girls, on their way home for lunch who showed us the way. It would be hard to find the restaurant itself as it was a simple round white hut like many others in the area. Once inside we placed our order for tea and two chicken curry and spinach crepes. The crepes were the most delicious meal we had the whole time in Bulungula. While sitting outside an elderly woman approached us and briefly stopped to chat. She wanted to know how many brothers we had, a seemingly odd question to us but not to her. As we learned on our tour, you could be asked just about anything, such as how many cows did I pay Liz’s dad in exchange for marrying his daughter. Ten would be the proper amount, in case you wanted to know.

    We had hoped to get more involved in the village during our stay as we had shipped two of the One Laptop Per Child computers along with a high intensity solar powered lamp in advance of our visit, with intent of setting them up while we were there. Unfortunately we received notice they’d arrived in Cape Town only at the end of our stay in Bulungula and wouldn’t be at the village for several more weeks. Nonetheless it will provide us an opportunity to stay in touch with the school and the community in the months ahead.

    A big part of the experience for us was engaging with the local villagers and for us that ended up largely being with the kids. The majority of the men do not live in the village as they’re away working in the mines to earn an income for the family. The women are left to care for the kids, the crops, the animals and the house so they have no idle time on their hands, which leaves the young people. Some are at high school but not many as it’s an hour and half away on foot each way; and many don’t see the value of going, have nowhere to stay or can’t afford to be there. One particular evening we were sitting around after dinner and Liz decided to teach a young guy how to do Sudoku. Personally I thought this was a huge stretch. First he had no clue how the puzzle works. He didn’t speak much English and let’s face it the concept requires both clear explanation and strong comprehension. That said, after much perseverance this young kid figured it out and was solving the puzzles. The pure joy on his face was incredible to witness, he was so proud of what he’d accomplished. Liz gave him a few puzzles from the book and was thinking he would be back the next night to do some more. However, he was in high school and stayed in another village during the week. He did come back before we left and said he had finished all the earlier puzzles. As a parting gift he was given the entire book and he couldn’t have been happier.

    We were visiting Bulungula in their winter and as such daylight is limited. One of the big realizations we had was the impact on your quality of life when you don’t have access to light. When the sun goes down around 5:30 pm and all you have is candles your ability to read, cook, work or play is extremely limited. The lack of light also changes the social interactions that people have and they seem less engaged or connected. We take for electricity for granted and the impact it has our lives is huge, we just don’t stop to think about much. In fact we don’t stop to think much about most the privileges we have simply because of where we were born. If nothing else Bulungula was a reminder that what we have in Canada and in the rest of the develop world is very special. It was also a reminder that we don’t need all of what we have to enjoy life. Sometimes the simple pleasures can be the best experiences.

    Like

    September 7, 2010
    • Bulungula Incubator #

      Hi Chris

      It was wonderful to meet you, Liz and kids. What an adventure your travels have been! It was great to hear about some of it and to be a small of it. Thank you again for your generous gifts, they will be put to good use – we will keep you updated.

      We hope you’ve been enjoying the rest of your travels and we look forward to seeing you guys again sometime.

      Rejane

      Like

      September 20, 2010
      • Chris Bedford #

        Rejane – thanks for the note. We are thrilled the computers and solar light arrived and can be put to good use. The designer of the light is from Calgary where we live and would love to see a picture of it use and to understand the impact it is making. Please do forward this to us when you get a chance. Could you mention to David that I have mailed him the book I promised – The Blue Sweater. I know you will both relate to it very much. Take care and thanks for being such inspirations! I do hope I get back to Bulungula one day.

        Cheers,

        Chris

        Like

        September 21, 2010
      • Bulungula Incubator #

        Hi Chris. Will do! Thanks for the book – that’s very thoughtful of you.
        Take Care
        Rejane

        Like

        September 22, 2010
      • Chris Bedford #

        Rejane and David,

        I am meeting with the founder of http://www.uend.org/dt/ on Friday Oct 8, we did the naming and strategic positioning for them. I’d like to see the Bulungula Incubator added to their list of projects. Is there a specific project you are actively seeking funding for at the moment? Let me know and I can have the conversation.

        Cheers,
        Chris

        Like

        October 5, 2010
      • Bulungula Incubator #

        Hi Chris

        That’s fantastic! Uend: Poverty really has a substantial global presence in an impressively wide range of projects! We really appreciate your continued interest in the Bulungula Incubator. There are projects that we are actively seeking funds for. I will send you all the details via email.

        Thank you and Take Care
        Rejane

        Like

        October 6, 2010
  51. Very cool stuff. I recently started a blog about anything really and shared my experience of the Taxi Culture in Jozi. Check it out and let me know what you think.

    http://tinyurl.com/2bfjg8c

    Like

    December 1, 2010
    • Bulungula Incubator #

      thanks Duan – will do

      take care
      rejane

      Like

      December 1, 2010
  52. We stumbled over here coming from a different page and thought I might as well check things out. I like what I see so now i’m following you. Look forward to looking into your web page again.

    Like

    February 21, 2011
  53. Pieter Jooste #

    Hi, came across this site and want to congratulate you. Excellent work and i wish there can be more such projects in rural areas. I recently travelled Transkei and saw all the potential and the poverty….
    I will keep in touch

    Like

    February 27, 2011
    • Bulungula Incubator #

      Hi Pieter

      Thanks for the comment! Hopefully we’ll meet you when you are able to visit the Transkei again…

      Rejane

      Like

      February 28, 2011
  54. What an incredible concept. It looks like a stunnuing part of the world, will definately bookmark as i would love to see Bulungula.

    A

    Like

    April 12, 2011
    • Bulungula Incubator #

      Hi Alex

      Thanks for your comment. You’re welcome to visit anytime, of course, you can also check out http://www.bulungula.com to see the kind of accommodation we offer at our community-owned lodge.

      Rejane

      Like

      April 12, 2011
  55. Your efforts are inspirational and my understanding from your introduction on your website is that what you are doing is real and it is certainly not about ‘looking good’. Your efforts are focused on the community.
    Thank you for caring enough to do what you do.
    Justin

    Like

    June 5, 2011
    • Bulungula Incubator #

      Hi Justin

      Thanks for your comments! We’ll keep you posted with progress on all our activities via our quarterly newsletters and of course on our website

      best, Rejane

      Like

      June 6, 2011
  56. Incredibly wonderful – so looking forward to being involved with Bulungula – Potent energy sharing!x

    Like

    June 23, 2011
  57. Celia Murray - New Manse, Chirnside. TD11 3XE. Scotland. #

    I am simply delighted to read all about your scheme/project and would like to tell you about Phillida Kingwill who has had a similar project on the go in Graaff Reinett area. You would have many ideas to exchange with one another. Congrats to the TCGIRL BEHIND ALL THIS!!

    Like

    July 16, 2011
    • Bulungula Incubator #

      Hi Celia

      Thank you for your comments! It is always great to connect with people in the field, I can be contacted directly on rejane@bulungulaincubator.org

      best, rejane

      Like

      July 18, 2011
  58. Sjaan van der Ploeg #

    i love this website and i am so happy that people are helping to conserve that beautiful landscape. i really hope to vistit Bulungula in the near future, keep on cleaning and helping those people who need it🙂

    Like

    July 21, 2011
  59. Vuyo #

    Wow i am completely blown away! You guys are doing gr8t stuff! What really amazes me is the fact that you guys are known worldwide and yet us local people dont really know about you….. Personally I myself am from Mthatha but did not know about this amazing project, until now as I am conducting my research on Corporate Social Responsibility in the Eastern Cape, focusing on the Old Mutual Foundation. I’m so touched. I would love to volunteer my time during December vacations…

    Like

    October 31, 2011
    • Bulungula Incubator #

      Hi Vuyo

      Thank you for your enthusiastic comments. You are welcome to visit to see what we do here. December isn’t a great time though as we operate normal business hours and the office closes for the holiday season in December. You can contact the Bulungula Lodge http://www.bulungula.com and http://www.bulungulahomestay.com (our community owned lodge and village homestays) when you visit.

      we look forward to meeting you! Rejane

      Like

      October 31, 2011
  60. James #

    In the languadge of the project that I’m involved in, we will call you a Partner for Possibilty Rejane! Symphonia for South Africa sets up colloborations between Principals and Business Leaders, as an alternative to traditional CSR approaches, and you have clearly done exceptionally well in achieving this with the local community.
    I’ve been watching Bulungula unfold since visiting there 5yrs ago, and I respect your committement to the project.
    All the best and thanks for the newsletters!

    Like

    February 16, 2012
  61. Evelyn CLarke #

    I am very impressed!

    Like

    June 8, 2012
  62. Fourne #

    Rather valuable message

    Like

    August 27, 2012
  63. Sweasp #

    All can be

    Like

    September 11, 2012
  64. shestync #

    What good words

    Like

    September 20, 2012
  65. whoah this weblog is magnificent i really like studying your posts.
    Keep up the great work! You recognize, lots of persons are hunting around for this info, you
    can help them greatly.

    Like

    September 22, 2012
  66. Inno #

    Hiya! Nhe I’m very proud to see that even our areas are recognized, this place is amassing I like it I like it! Phesheya kwe Xhora.

    Like

    October 3, 2012
  67. I like it whenever people get together and share opinions.
    Great site, continue the good work!

    Like

    October 13, 2012
  68. I want to to thank you for this excellent read!
    ! I certainly loved every bit of it. I have you bookmarked to check
    out new things you post…

    Like

    December 13, 2012
  69. Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular article!
    It’s the little changes that will make the most significant changes. Many thanks for sharing!

    Like

    April 10, 2013
  70. We are a bunch of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community.
    Your web site provided us with valuable info to work on.

    You’ve done an impressive task and our entire group will probably be thankful to you.

    Like

    April 30, 2013
  71. vuyisa malangeni #

    I just wanna know that among other projects that you guy are committed to do is the cleaning of the beach\coast along nqileni part of what of what you? If yes is it because the department of environmental\government allocate funds to you for that? Or you do so out of your own budget?

    Like

    August 15, 2013
    • Bulungula Incubator #

      Hi Vuyisa. Please contact Peter Nyawiri, in our offices to discuss your ideas. thanks Rejane

      Like

      September 16, 2013
  72. Buchule #

    Special greetings to the Bulungula staff members. All the best to what you do, much love.

    Like

    October 30, 2013
  73. I really want to visit there again.Dave you. are doing a fantastic work and congratulates Dave for your fantastic job.Bulungula has developed a lot now and I am surprised to see that.Dave I wish for your better success.I like the post.
    Taxi from heathrow to southampton

    Like

    December 27, 2013
  74. Finally after 2 months at Bulungula and a recent quick visit back, all I can really say is thank you so much for all the work that you have done and still continue to do. I am so inspired by your projects, the education and of course the lodge and its people. The land and water goes with out saying.
    I am particularly struck and appreciate that the village and villagers still live in the old way whilst integrating what you have done That sa wonderfu achievemnt one that I believe will contue to bring the equsite charm of a deep culture and tradition.
    I sincerely hope that South Africa will take note and support others to spread this model to all the rural areas. I have told many about you and still think its the best kept secret. I am just sitting on ways of how I may contribute so will be back very soon.
    For me a deep place in my heart for many reasons Thanks Dave and Rejane for your committment and all the community who work and support each other.

    Like

    January 31, 2014

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