Working with mostly rural-based crafters and food producers and growing them toward being sustainable co-operatives.
According to the minister of Trade and Industry, five out of every seven small businesses in South Africa will fold in the first year. The remoteness of rural settlements in South Africa often means that people living there cannot easily access opportunities such as education and skills training, not to mention basic resources such as water. Businesses established in these areas also struggle to access capital, training and markets.
In aiding small businesses in these communities to become self-sustaining, the skills and knowledge level of the people need to be considered. Support initiatives should work to build the necessary competencies to ensure that communities not only start their own small business ventures but are able to sustain them over time. This makes start-up equipment, training and mentoring support crucial. Another key need is being able to link products to buyers and the markets.
The Siyazisiza Trust was established in 1987 in an effort to address poverty and food insecurity, particulary in rural KwaZulu Natal, by promoting small business development. The trust works to promote the formation of co-operatives by small scale farmers in these areas. Produced food is sold on to hospitals, schools, farm stalls, local communities or retailers. Food is also consumed by the farmers and their families. Some market linkages with store chains have also been secured.
The bulk of the Trust’s beneficiaries are older women. The organisation sources its field staff from the local communities. As such, programme participants often approach staff members about joining the programme. The organisation works in KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga and more recently in Gauteng.
The Trust uses the ABCD (asset-based community development) model which focuses on mobilising existing but sometimes unrecognised assets to create local economic opportunities.
In most instances a committee is selected for each project and co-operative members receive training covering topics such as the establishment of committees and co-operatives, financial literacy, bulk buying and marketing. The training provided is tailored to the roles and responsibilities each member will take on.
Monitoring and mentoring of members continues for a minimum of three years. Financially and operationally independent projects are able to receive mentoring and assistance from the Trust should they request it.
Over the years the Trust has found that producer co-operatives are expected to fulfill the expectations of being administrators, financial managers and marketers. This approach, however, has not always lead to optimal results. Siyazisiza is therefore exploring a new model where the focus will be placed on forming secondary co-operatives. The co-operatives will be tasked with overseeing the administration, financial management and marketing functions for a group of primary (producer) co-operatives within a geographic area. The Trust is also exploring ways to address the transport challenge of ensuring produce and products get to market.
In 2012, the Trust merged with its daughter organisation, Khumbalani Craft (established in 1999), to form a single entity. The organisation now runs two divisions focused on food production and craft development. Similar to the food produce, crafts from the Khumbalani collection are sold to wholesalers including interior designers and corporate companies.
Siyazisiza was recently awarded a tender by the Gauteng Tourism Agency to create and train co-operatives members living close to some of the province’s heritage sites.
What we like about this organisation
- The organisation spends a significant amount of time on understanding a community and its needs prior to establishing a co-operative. Furthermore, training is provided and support is given for at least the first three years of operation. Small businesses are most vulnerable at this stage and having such support is often crucial to their survival.
- Siyazisiza has strategic partnerships in place with organisations that work in rural development and craft production. This ensures that duplication of efforts is minimised and that organisations can draw on each other’s expertise.
What difference can your money make?
- R10 000 will enable the organisation to purchase craft materials for beneficiaries
- R250 000 will cover input costs of a 2ha garden with some field staff costs, a vehicle with canopy and some funds for maintenance
- R750 000 will cover the start-up input costs for three gardens as well as related field staff costs
- No volunteer needed at present, largely because of the rural nature of the projects.