Supporting Sustainable Rural Businesses – Mbhedula Craft Centre
For women in many rural communities, selling craft is their only source of income, but for many, it is an inconsistent and undependable income, inadequate to cover basic household expenses. Africa Foundation is working to turn these women into successful business entrepreneurs.
Mbhedula Craft Centre was established in 1997, starting with 20 members. The market aimed to stimulate the economy in Mduku by providing the tourists of Phinda Private Game Reserve, and those on the road to Sodwana Bay and Mozambique, with the opportunity to buy authentic locally produced African Crafts in Mduku. The venue, selected for its visibility by the areas Chief Gumede, would enable Mduku women to sell their products locally instead of going to Durban some 300 km away, where they had to sleep on the streets.
The location of Mbhedula Craft Market was selected by the area’s Chief Gumede, for its accessibility and visibility from the main road. The initial infrastructure was funded in 2004 by Africa foundation.
Business training, essential to ensuring the sustainability of the project, was also provided to the crafters. In order to improve passing trade in 2015, Africa Foundation through the support of donors invested in large on site and street signage to draw attention to the craft market and guide passing tourists to the location, an initiative which gave a significant boost to trade at the market.
In 2018 Mbhedula Craft Market was identified as one market to benefit from an Allan Gray Orbis Fund Endowment grant, aimed at creating jobs. Implemented by Africa Foundation in partnership with Global Gift Innovators, the programme is providing the crafters with intensive new product development and quality skills training as well as financial and business literacy training – truly empowering them to be entrepreneurs in control of all aspects of their business.
First steps were to engage with a baseline assessment to establish the strengths and weaknesses of the craft market and the crafters themselves. Support on renewing its registration has been provided and following that the team worked with the 20 members to develop a business plan. The crafters, all ladies, identified key products that sell well or that they believe would be successful in the craft centre, and intensive training, as well as the necessary equipment will be provided so that the crafters are enabled to specialise in these items and create products at a consistently high standard.
Africa Foundation is also raising funds to improve the infrastructure of the craft centre, to provide a production room, in which the crafters can work and securely store their equipment, and installation of a borehole to provide water supply on site.
Impact of Mbhedula Craft Centre
Just some of the ways the crafters at Mbhedula Market say that their lives have been impacted by the support of Africa Foundation in partnership with Global Gift Innovators:
• Business skills and Financial literacy.
• Financial independence.
• Improved design and production skills.
• Preservation and promotion of culture.
• Increased self-esteem and respect.
• Increased family cohesion and stability – no longer travelling to find work.
• Exposure to new markets and different cultures.