Buffalo City is a metropolitan municipality (BCMM) situated on the east coast of Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, and includes the towns of East London, Bhisho and King William's Town, as well as the large townships of Mdantsane and Zwelitsha. It is named after the Buffalo River, whose mouth empties into the Indian Ocean in East London.
The 2011 census population of 755,200 is largely Black (85.1%), with White (7.7%) and Coloured (6.0%) minorities and a small Asian/Indian population (0.8%). Primary first languages spoken include isiXhosa (78.8%), English (11.0%) and Afrikaans (7.2%) – though English is the common government language spoken.
The area has a well-developed manufacturing base, with the auto industry playing a major role (including a large Mercedes-Benz South Africa assembly plant, which produces a variety of vehicles for export.)
The climate is mild, with year-round sunshine and an average rainfall of 850mm (33.5 inches).
Within the vicinity of the city of East London and its outskirts, Mzamomhle and Cambridge are two of numerous township communities – each with a population of approximately 40,000 who are predominantly black African. In keeping with socioeconomic trends in townships across the country (which are remnants of the previous days of apartheid), residents are generally extremely impoverished and especially vulnerable to problems such as poor education, high unemployment (over 70%), geographic isolation, violent crime, substance abuse, domestic abuse & broken families, orphaned & vulnerable children, chronic illnesses & malnutrition, poor housing & infrastructure, and environmental devastation & exposure to hazards – just to name a few. Accompanying these are common issues of spiritual blindness and general feelings of anger, hopelessness, depression & anxiety.
Despite such overwhelming challenges faced, within these same communities are examples of transformation - through vibrant, visionary leadership, who God is using to reach out, help meet desperate needs, and ultimately help empower people toward sustainable life improvement.
In Mzamomhle community, one such organization is Lathitha Development Centre – a local partner of One Collective. Lathitha Development Centre’s vision is for a community of financially self-sufficient families, with children who are well equipped for mainline schools. They facilitate and encourage individuals toward realization of their potential for financial self-reliance and general well-being through a combination of adult & children’s education, specific skills & business training, administrative support services, youth development, and psychosocial & spiritual counselling.
While in Cambridge, One Collective’s primary local partner is Grace Community Baptist Church. Besides being a pillar of spiritual nourishment and support for the local community and beyond through Sunday services and numerous ministries, this church also runs programs to assist those who are impoverished and/or at-risk, with examples including Early Childhood care & development, youth after-school support, entrepreneurial development, and a community centre.
One Collective’s primary local partner organization in East London is Land of the Living - a registered non-profit organization whose vision is stimulation of sustainable transformation within impoverished communities across the area by enabling local people to build upon what they already have. This is pursued through empowering unemployed youth as entrepreneurs in economic, social and environmental transformation - using a Clean, Green & Seen approach: Cleaning the environment, promoting & practicing green values, and helping marginalized populations to be seen, supported and empowered. Land of the Living works closely alongside mentioned partners in Mzamomhle & Cambridge township communities.
Unantoni Endlini (Pty) Ltd is Land of the Living’s registered green enterprise – which serves to train, equip, and practically support unemployed youth to generate a livelihood through environmental conservation & recycling; to mobilize citywide involvement in environmental cleanliness; and to generate revenue to help sustain community transformation projects including the Entrepreneurial Training Centre (see below).
This enterprise operates from a warehouse depot in an industrial area of East London – where all recyclables are brought for sorting & baling. We employ youth workers (all from disadvantaged backgrounds, previously unemployed) who support our recycling collection, sorting and processing operations, as well as our growing grass-cutting & gardening services. In addition, we employ approximately casual workers for each designated area “adopted” & sponsored by local businesses for environmental clean-up & regular maintenance – which creates great opportunity for offering work, livelihood generation and skills development for more unemployed youth, and which creates an inroad into the organization with potential for expansion into recycling & garden services for those who prove committed & reliable.
Our environmental clean-up & maintenance program operates through local corporate/small business sponsors (on a regular monthly basis), who “adopt” designated areas of the city for maintaining cleanliness. We provide all involved labour, supervision, recycling and non-recyclable waste disposal for these designated areas. Our vision is to continue mobilizing more businesses around the city to adopt additional areas, which in turn will enable us to better sustain all operations, employ & develop numerous youth, and facilitate private sector mobilization around environmental conservation.
Our residential/business recyclables collection service provides weekly collection for clients across the city, for a small monthly fee. All materials are brought to the depot for sorting & baling, and any non-recyclable waste is taken to the regional landfill for proper disposal.
Our grass-cutting, gardening & garden refuse removal services are a recent addition and currently we service residences and a few industrial businesses in the city. Our vision is to grow this through securing more corporate contracts – which in turn will enable employment & development for more youth.
Entrepreneurial Training Centre (ETC) - We believe that everyone has some measure of passion, knowledge & skills, and local resources that they can identify, cultivate and utilize to create wealth and build a sustainable livelihood. We have thus established an ETC that provides needed support to catalyse this process of small business development – with unemployed youth to start up, and with those who already run small or informal businesses to grow. We offer an introductory 3-month course online via Zoom teleconferencing (due to COVID restrictions) and plan on expanding into local township communities through partnering organizations.
We use a “Life in 4D” approach – providing personalized support to help aspiring entrepreneurs Discover their purpose, Define their vision, Develop their enterprise, and Dignify their communities. This is done through training & personalized mentorship - utilizing “lean canvas” methodology geared toward helping participants simply define and immediately test their business ideas in their target markets, so as to gain field-based evidence of success potential and/or pinpoint iterations needed early on before investing too much time & energy in something that will not work.
We currently have a team of 8 facilitators (all business owners) who provide teaching & mentorship for students, and will continue to grow in capacity & coverage as we identify more facilitators through each cohort class.
Summary - Integrated model: Through the above citywide programs of 1) environmental clean-up & maintenance, 2) waste collection & recycling, and 3) unemployed youth development including entrepreneurial training/small business support - we are developing an innovative model of social enterprise which mobilizes multi-sectoral stakeholders to sustainably drive community transformation economically, socially and environmentally.