Muldersdrift builds strong community initiatives to create a sustainable tourism model

There’s always been a strong link between community and tourism. The more holistic and inclusive the relationship, the greater the chance of maintaining a sustainable tourism model in which the community can also benefit from the cash injection provided by an influx of guests.

Sam Ngoma, Community spokesperson for the Muldersdrift Communication Action Group (MCAG) says, “Muldersdrift is one of the premier tourism destinations in Gauteng and businesses in the area have worked hard at fostering a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation, and creating better opportunities for micro-entrepreneurs who’ve been previously disadvantaged.”

A really great example of how this works in practice is Seeds of Africa, based at one of the area’s most exciting tourist attractions, Ngwenya Glass Village. Seeds of Africa plays a strong role in community empowerment through its skills development centre and many business start-ups have benefitted from its initiatives.

Sally Viljoen, Chief Operating Officer, says the Seeds of Africa’s Enterprise Development initiative consists of 19 independent business units, each creating their own unique products. “The Skills Centre at Ngwenya Glass Village houses a retail facility for these enterprises, as well as a training centre and computer facility.”

There are numerous examples of successful entrepreneurial businesses that have been created in this way. Hotwired is one such business, training locals to create artistic wire and beadwork products. They are often commissioned to make custom-made wire and beadwork items for corporate orders, as well as for other locals and tourists. Jabula Mammas is another successful example of a group of women from informal settlements around Muldersdrift who sew beautiful homeware products. These women have also received sewing and entrepreneurial business training at the Skills Centre – providing them with the opportunity to earn their own money and make a living.

Viljoen says Zamula Five Star Co-op is another group of successful women who produce quilts, table cloths, napkins, aprons, shopping bags, cushions and other high quality items. “Each year they tender for government contracts to sew school uniforms for disadvantaged children. All profits from their business go towards supporting their families, allowing them to become self-sustainable and grow their business,” she says.

In all of these ventures providing people with the opportunity to learn new skills is key and then giving them either the independence to stand alone or getting them involved in a retail outlet to sell the merchandise. “Ultimately we want to be able to help establish a skilled individual to the point where they can enter into new business opportunities that no longer require the mentorship and investment from Seeds of Africa,” says Viljoen.

Ceramic Art provides the perfect example of what can be achieved. The business, started by artist Clement Mkhize, creates uniquely designed ceramics, and has now done so well that he has entered into a partnership with a designer, Heidi Snaith of Or-gari, and moved from Seeds of Africa to a new showroom and studio in Ferndale, Johannesburg.

Ngoma says Seeds of Africa is just one of the many initiatives that have developed in the area. “Many of the hotels also have wonderful mentorship and support programmes in place.” Riverstone Lodge, for example, believes in supporting local entrepreneurs and small businesses which ultimately contributes to the growth of employment and tourism. Gilbert Hickman, General Manager of Riverstone says that recently they’ve started a programme to develop young musicians by giving them the platform to entertain their guests under the umbrella of Riverstone.

“We also purchase all our sliced bread, burger rolls and cookies from Mama Emily Duda who has been trained by Clover as part of the Mama Africa project. Emily operates from Garden World and she in turn also employs three people from the local community.”

Riverstone also buys vegetables from Le Gae La Nete, who provides a shelter and skills learning opportunity to men and woman who are being reintegrated into society and the local community. They also make use of the services of a carpenter who operates from across the road from Riverstone, “He has made rustic benches and dividers for us, and also does upholstery for us. We are very happy that he’s now been able to employ an assistant as well.”

Avianto is another large Muldersdrift hotel that is playing its part by joining hands with the Muldersdrift church to soon start a training programme for unemployed youth in the Muldersdrift community. Owner, Trevor D’Oliveira, says, “The purpose of the training will be to supply them with basic waiter and barman training to enable them to join the workforce at tourist destinations in Muldersdrift.”


Compiled on behalf of the Muldersdrift Communication Action Group by Cathy Findley Public Relations