Job creation, economic empowerment, recycling and environmental sustainability are the key focus areas for four new student-driven community projects selected by global NPO Enactus and the Ford College Community Challenge (Ford C3).
“The purpose of Ford C3 is to challenge colleges and universities to partner with their local communities to design innovative, student-led projects that address critical community needs,” says Bheki Mdzikwa, program manager for Enactus South Africa.
The overarching theme of Ford C3 is “Building Sustainable Communities” by empowering students to make a difference in the world, bringing their unique perspective on what it takes to be a sustainable community. This is the basis on which the four new projects in South Africa were selected by Enactus and Ford Motor Company to each receive funding of USD 5 000.
“We selected these four projects due to the potentially far-reaching impact they could make on the respective communities,” Mdzikwa adds. “They go beyond just job creation and skills development to include crucial environmental considerations that are an intrinsic part of creating a sustainable future.”
At the Durban University of Technology in KwaZulu-Natal, the Enactus team hopes to break the shackles of poverty through creating empowerment opportunities for women in Tongaat. Having identified a niche opportunity within the hospitality industry, the students will be working with the Melokuhle Women’s Cooperative to recycle and upcycle old linen into a variety of consumer products.
This addresses the practice of disposing of old linen in landfills once they are replaced by hotels. The fabric is given a second lease on life by being turned into inexpensive school shirts for local children, laminated to produce waterproof fabrics utilised in the production of tote bags and mats, and some of the material will be hand painted and used in the production of unique chandeliers and lamps.
The project will impart an extensive set of skills on the members of the women’s cooperative, including improved sewing skills, expanded production of quality products, entrepreneurship and increased business and financial literacy. This will ultimately create the platform for greater income generation and improved quality of life.
For the Mangosuthu University of Technology, the team has focused on expanding an existing project in Umlazi, near Durban, that produces cheaper and environmentally friendly fly ash bricks. This fulfils the need for safe, affordable, durable and sustainable construction that maximises the use of renewable and recycled resources.
Empowerment and participation in urban and ecological construction methods and design are linked directly to job creation and skills transfer, thus truly building a sustainable community to improve quality of life and standards of living.
The University of Pretoria is starting its Fruitful Living project by partnering with an existing NGO, Vastfontein Community Transformation. According to the student team, Fruitful Living meets two unmet and urgent needs within the Tshwane region by firstly addressing the need for employment opportunities for women in the Vastfontein community.
Secondly, it addresses the need for an avenue through which the Tshwane Fresh Produce Market can divert its food waste, which is estimated at R100-million per annum – even though a large portion of this fresh produce is still safe for human consumption when the market needs to discard it. Fruitful Living will use this produce to manufacture dried or preserved food for sale, using solar hydrators developed by the university’s Engineering Faculty.
The project also partnered with students from the Department of Food Sciences to adequately test the efficiency of the second dehydrator and to research methods of food preparation and hygiene practices. A training manual has been successfully developed which comprises a replicable business plan and model, safety and hygiene practices for food production, the solar dehydrator design and maintenance instructions together with a financial literacy model. This will be available to beneficiaries that wish to replicate the business.
The Enactus team at the University of Witwatersrand has partnered with the Sugar Honey Project, a community-based business located in Roodepoort that produces a wide range of hair and skin products from honey, bees wax and other natural ingredients.
The project is set to empower unemployed rural women and youth by providing them with agricultural skills, environmentally friendly agricultural practices, offers business training and creating job opportunities for them. The project doesn’t only harness the honey, but will also brand, market, package, store, and deliver the product to customers as part of its income-generating mechanisms.