Cedric Mboyisa

The sugar industry has become synonymous with the creation of entrepreneurs in Esikhawini, KwaZulu-Natal.

“My life has changed for the better since I received funding from the South African Sugar Association (SASA). My business is doing so well. I have even been able to build myself a three-bedroom room because of my thriving business,” says Thabile Dludla (63).  Dludla is in the catering business – she hires out a stretch tent and chairs. She does décor and provides food for functions or events. She is busy every weekend, she adds. Dludla is one of many women from the Esikhawini area who have benefited from the SASA enterprise development partnership with Wildlands.

Above left (top): Wildlands’ Princess Mkhatshwa and entrepreneur Lindiwe Mchunu demonstrating how the innovative stove works. 

Above right (below): Entrepreneur Thabile Dludla showcasing her décor skills. 

Khuthaza (meaning “encourage”) Business programme was launched by Wildlands as a pilot project in 2014. The project concept was inspired by a group of Wildlands’ tree-preneurs. SASA is the enterprise development supporter through grants it offers to identified beneficiaries who are driving a wide range of enterprises. Other sponsors who have supported the programme are Mondi Zimele and Unilever SA. SASA is spending a quarter of a million rand on the enterprise development programme.

“Khuthaza Business is a novel programme aimed at providing Wildlands Green-preneurs with an opportunity to take a further step up the economic ladder by exchanging their trees grown through the Wildlands Trees for Life programme for small business grants. This is recognition of the commitment and determination of our community members who have invested these small business grants into capital or stock items that have made their enterprise aspirations a reality. We are incredibly proud to have partnered with SASA on this innovative initiative and thank them for their visionary support over the last three years of the programme,” said Louise Duys, Widlands Partnerships, Marketing and Events Director.

Above: Wildlands’ Nokuthula Mdletshe, Louise Duys, Samantha Houghting and SASA’s Sipamandla Mpikeleli.

Another beneficiary is Lindiwe Mchunu (55) who is now running a small sewing business, having started as a tree-preneur. “I used to sell at a taxi rank. I am now an entrepreneur using my home as an office. I produce quality stuff. My business has liberated me financially. I employ two people to help with my business,” says Mchunu. She is also a Mimi Moto stove trader – a project funded by SASA which sees beneficiaries exchange their trees with Wildlands for the environmentally friendly cookstove which they sell to their communities for profit. “The stove is very safe and effective. If it falls over accidentally, it stops immediately so no chance of a fire incident. It does not emit toxic fumes. And it is affordable,” explains Mchunu.

It’s not only old people who are part of the initiative. There are young folks as well. Phindile Zungu (28) is one of them. She was trapped in a cycle of unemployment and always stressed but she now tells her story from pessimism to optimism with a big smile. Her business acumen has enabled Zungu to sell three of her five stoves within a short period of time. The entrepreneurial spirit runs in the family - her mom is also a SASA grant recipient who has since bought herself a car which she uses to drive learners to and from various schools in the area.

For Cynthia Myiko (42), a tree-preneur turned spaza shop owner-cum-stove trader, it has been a satisfying journey. “I am now able to provide for myself and my family. The financial help has been of great importance to me. As for the stove, you can still cook for your family when there is no electricity because it uses pellets and solar energy. It comes with a torch and phone charger,” she says.

The SASA-Wildlands partnership has not only helped create entrepreneurs, it has restored the dignity of these women and other families.