Bergnek is a small rural community in Limpopo, South Africa. It was established as part of the Land Rights Act of 1998 shortly after independence when labourers where moved off the farms, where they had previously lived and worked. This was done in an effort to try and get farm labourers a proper wage that was not offset by other benefits such as housing, schooling and food. With little support to help overcome the challenges faced, it's hard to determine if this has in fact benefited the majority of workers.
"Our dream is for Bergnek to be a self sufficient community, that has opportunities for all our community members. With everyone receiving equal opportunities, irrespective of the background or position in the community. We want a youth recreational facility, community health care centre, and to eradicate unemployment and poverty." – Keabetswe Keith Mosumane
Images courtesy of My Arms Wide Open
Bergnek, South Africa
We have fertile land for farming and livestock farming. Limited use due to lack of water. There is gold around the community.
Bergnek has access to over 1000 hectares of land that could be used for cultivation or other businesses. Overall the community has 5,000 hectares of land.
We currently have GirlStuff which manufactures re-usable cloth pads and school uniforms. We also have a community vertical vegetable garden.
South Africa is prone to drought and Bergnek has a limited water supply. This has made developing a local economy, that serves the needs of those who live here, almost impossible to do. The main challenges are food and water, job creation, infrastructure development, brick and mortar homes, access to higher education, community connection and access to health care.
Following the loss of my 21 month old son to treatable food poisoning, I sought help from a nonprofit organization, My Arms Wide Open. Together we founded Bergnek Community Projects Cooperative. The coops goal is to overcome the communities challenges by transferring skills within and outside the community through a number of development opportunities. Each of the projects we take on start as a locally based business venture serving needs identified by the people themselves.
To get going, Bergnek Community Projects engaged a large group of the community. We drilled down into the core issues and challenges in the community. The first was severe lack of water. The pump for the community had been stolen two years previous and the community members had to take what little money they had to buy water from a local farmer. We undertook to reactivate the well and purchase a new pump, which was completed in 2011. The pump was housed securely and dedicated to the children of Bergnek. No harm has come to it since.
Employment and Education
The next step in the process was to address employment and education. There is only one combined school. It serves both primary and secondary level students. Kids are from 5yrs to 22yrs. Total of around 500 students. Working with Lunapads, we established GirlStuff, which employs locals in the manufacture and distribution of reusable, washable menstrual kits. The kits mean girls who would otherwise be ridiculed and drop out of education to stay on.
Food and Water
The following two projects involved building vertical gardens – to address food security challenges – and extending the water access and distribution in the Bergnek community. This was important as many of the elderly in the community still had to walk long distances for their water. The water project was expanded even further with the help of Engineers Without Borders, but – to develop a sustainable community – we need to do more.
The majority of the people live in huts and shacks, though there are a few that have an RDP – Reconstruction and Development Project– house, which is government low cost housing. The majority can not afford better houses.
Although there is RDP housing for some these houses are built by contractors who try to pocket as much of the cash as possible. Quality is low and the house do not last long. The bigger project is to be able to built low cost HIGH quality housing for the community and have them pay for the housing through their contributions in other areas with the skills they already have or learn as a result of the projects.
Because Bergnek has access to silt, a better water supply could lead to the development of a brick making business providing much needed employment.
Income generated by the business will be used to produce bricks for building much needed housing and a small health care facility, at a significantly lower cost than what has been proposed by the regional government. The clinic will used by surrounding communities as well as the residents of Bergnek.
Bergnek is special in that it has existed in a vacuum since inception. To progress, the community must support each other, developing skills and economic wellbeing from within.
Language & Literacy
86% of the youth (10 - 35 years) in the community understand and speak English. Most of the adult people understand and can speak Afrikaans. Only 5% of the elderly understand and speak English. About 5% of the community speak and understand Xhosa.
Bergnek is a small community with a population of about 2000 people. Most of the population are Christian or follow traditional African beliefs.
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