27 January 2003
Two exciting eco-friendly ventures are in the pipeline for a rural KwaZulu-Natal community after they were handed 600 hectares of land and granted R1.9-million in funding on Saturday.
The projects promise to inject much-needed cash into the development of the Nhlanhleni community near Underberg while preserving the sensitive wetland and mountainous area.
The land, which is home to endangered Crane species, previously belonged to Bishop Themba Mngoma of the Reichenau Mission and forms about a third of the mission land.
Nkosi Sakhayedwa Duma originally gave the land to the mission in 1886 in return for the education of his people and as a means to avoid having the land annexed by the then colonial government.
The community, represented by an 11-member Nhlanhleni Community Property Association, plans to practice permaculture farming techniques to feed themselves and their families as well as provide fresh produce for sale at local markets.
Permaculture is an ecologically friendly, self-sustaining method of agriculture that advocates minimal use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers.
According to local spokesman Bonginkosi Ntshiza, who attended the World Summit on Sustainable Development last year, the community is keen to set up an eco-tourist venture. “We have beautiful mountains and a beautiful river here. There are wetlands which are home to endangered Crane species, and so this is the challenge, to use the land in a sustainable manner.”
Ntshiza added that most local people had little understanding of green issues, and that employing eco-friendly methods to work the land for a tangible benefit was a key way of spreading a greener economy.
“We might have been given tenure now, but what happens next? I learnt a lot at the Summit, such as how to lead people, how to network ideas and resources and so on. At the end of the day people will see that tourism is not just for white people.”
Ntshiza pointed out that the mission motto, Ora et Labora, means ‘pray and work’. “This is just what we need to practise. We have prayed, and now we need to work. Hard,” he said.