DUT-NGODINI BUNDUZ HIGHLIGHTS THE POWER OF SUCCESSFUL COLLABORATION IN COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

The DUT-Ngodini Bunduz Project is a unique collaboration between the Durban University of Technology (DUT) and Ngodini Bunduz, a collective of local businesses located in Eshowe, KwaZulu-Natal. The project was initiated in May 2022 and is led by Mr Nyane Mofokeng (a Lecturer in the Department of Applied Management) and Ms Thulile Ndlovu (A lecturer in the Department of Entrepreneurial Studies and Management). The project team is composed of staff from the Department of Applied Management, the Department of Entrepreneurial Studies and Management, and the Department of Horticulture.

The project empowers and capacitates rural entrepreneurs through training workshops, the provision of critical resources and relationship building. The programme also provides DUT students with the opportunity to observe and learn from entrepreneurs, whilst being actively involved in solving the practical problems that they may experience. “We believe in providing students with opportunities to learn from real-life entrepreneurs and actively participate in solving practical problems. Through these experiences, they contribute significantly to the growth and development of rural businesses,” explains project leader, Ms Ndlovu.

The project has successfully trained 25 entrepreneurs from the Ngodini village in Eshowe. Each of these entrepreneurs now possesses accredited certificates which they can use to apply for and access funding for their businesses, as well as a vast array of invaluable business skills. The Siyaphakama Ngodini Business Forum has also been established, which allows for knowledge sharing and communication among entrepreneurs. Furthermore, the project has overseen the building of a market structure which is used by entrepreneurs to sell their products.         

The project is comprised of two pillars, namely, (1) entrepreneurship advancement and (2) environmental education and sustainability. Ms Thulile Ndlovu, breaks down the structure of the programme for each pillar, “For the pillar of entrepreneurship advancement we hosted a meet and greet session with the local Ngodini entrepreneurs. Students from Applied Management, Entrepreneurial Studies & Management were allocated a business as consultants to conduct a formal business needs analysis. Students consulted with the entrepreneurs in an engagement to identify the needs of the entrepreneurs.”

This pillar also included a project-based learning workshop which focused on entrepreneurship advancement and a five-day intensive capacity-building and entrepreneurship workshop for local entrepreneurs. On completion of the five-day workshop, the community-based entrepreneurship forum was formed, and the workshop participants were awarded accredited certificates. Speaking on the outcomes of their project, Ndlovu states, “For the first time, the local entrepreneurs were encouraged to actively capitalize on existing opportunities in the area.”

For the pillar of environmental education and sustainability, the Department of Ecotourism mapped the Ngodini Bunduz as a tourist attraction and installed signage at the main gate, camping sites, and hiking trails. This activity also included an assessment for students, which contributed to providing a robust learning and teaching environment. The pillar also incorporated tree tagging by the Department of Horticulture. Ms Ndlovu elaborates on the experience, “The purpose [of this exercise] was to install QR coded plant and tree labels and to identify and eradicate alien invasive plants for improving the overall education experience at the adventure site. Students [also] participated in a variety of onsite assessments and learning activities.”        

The Ngodini Bunduz were awarded Social Partner of the Year at the 2022 Community Engagement Awards. Speaking on the award win and the power of collaboration within the DUT-Ngodini Bunduz team, Thulile states, “The team came to a realization that despite facing numerous obstacles, we are doing something right. At the core of our actions lies the keyword ‘INTENTION’ which drives us to do what we do. Our motivation does not stem from seeking recognition or impressing others, but rather from a genuine desire to make a positive impact on the lives of our students and marginalized communities. Our commitment is so strong that we willingly use our funds to support our cause.”

The project has been a roaring success, and it appears that it is only onwards and upwards from here – “We hope to increase our geographic footprint throughout the province of KZN and beyond. Due to the project’s impacts, the team was approached by the Majuba-Mavuso Foundation under the eDumbe Municipality to roll a project of a similar nature to assist businesses in that region,” states Ndlovu.

Picture: The Ngodini entrepreneurs receiving their Business Skills Training Certificates from the Department of Applied Management and Department of Entrepreneurial Studies and Management

Tracy Khuzwayo

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