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NGO, NPO & Social Enterprise Company news South Africa

An innovative partnership for the community

What do a performing arts organisation, a bicycle and an organisation which trains community members in aquaponic farming have in common? At first glance, not much. "But," says Sthokozile Nkwanyana of the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), "thanks to some creative thinking and support from the Social Employment Fund (SEF), these two NGOs have come up with an innovative collaboration."
From left to right at the Harvest Festival and launch: Thapelo Pule (MC, Provincial Coordinator), Ryan Dittmann (National Coordinator SEF ASSITEJ SA), Unathi Sihlahla and Janet Lee Ogilvie from INMED at the launch of the Kasi Sellers Network
From left to right at the Harvest Festival and launch: Thapelo Pule (MC, Provincial Coordinator), Ryan Dittmann (National Coordinator SEF ASSITEJ SA), Unathi Sihlahla and Janet Lee Ogilvie from INMED at the launch of the Kasi Sellers Network

The two NGOs, with seemingly unrelated projects, are ASSITEJ South Africa and INMED South Africa. In a collaborative effort between these two organisations, the Kasi Sellers Network was launched this month. As part of this initiative, aimed at enhancing market opportunities for smallholder farmers while creating employment opportunities for youth, a novel idea was born. Custom-made bicycles, with specially designed compartments for fresh produce and fish (tilapia and catfish).

Beyond growing markets for smallholder farmers, increasing revenue and creating employment, the Kasi Seller’s network will also strengthen investment opportunities for scaling among smallholder farmers.

About ASSITEJ: Education through the performing arts
ASSITEJ believes every child and young person deserves access to the arts, especially live theatre, which is a transformational force. The main purpose is to contribute to a more empathic, engaged and creative society. ASSITEJ South Africa, was launched in July 2007 at the National Arts Festival and there are now over 100 local and international volunteers, interns and members.

Its mission is to build the sector of theatre for young audiences in South Africa, through supporting and developing the artists, empowering education through the performing arts, creating strategies for access to the arts and advocating for the role of the arts as an essential right of every child and young person.

"We are pleased to say we have grown since our launch 17 year ago," says Yvette Hardie of ASSITEJ. "We hosted the 19th ASSITEJ ‘Cradle of Creativity’ World Congress and International Theatre Festival for Children and Young People, which was held in Cape Town in May 2017. It was the first and only time this major ASSITEJ event has been held in Africa and over 21 000 people attended. In 2023 we once again hosted Cradle of Creativity in Johannesburg where over 9,000 people attended. This included around 300 SEF participants who attended workshops and performances during this event."

Performers from the Orange Farm Dance Theatre, supported by SEF
Performers from the Orange Farm Dance Theatre, supported by SEF

About INMED: Aquaponics – providing food security
Aquaponics combines aquaculture (the cultivation of aquatic organism such as fish) with hydroponics – growing plants in nutrient-rich water, without soil.

INMED South Africa is an NGO dedicated to breaking the complex cycle of hunger, poverty and unemployment through climate smart agriculture. Among others, INMED uses aquaponics as a means to introduce youth, women and persons with disabilities to agri-aquaculture, enhancing social employment through aquaponics, while addressing the fight against food insecurity.

"Traditional farming has had to adjust due to climate change," explains Unathi Sihlahla of INMED. "Using aquaponics is an alternative method, it means you can have a higher yield from a smaller production area. It is environmentally sustainable and reduces soil erosion while providing fresh, nutritious produce which includes protein – from catfish and tilapia, as well as vegetables."

The collaboration
Both NGOs have encountered some challenges: Community aquaponic farmers struggle securing sales of their produce and the artists, who love their craft and have access to markets, battle to find consistent work throughout the year.

The custom-made ‘pimped’ tricycles - with specially designed cooler storage compartments, for the fresh produce and fish will be in various hotspots including Diepsloot, Orange Farm and Soweto in Gauteng as well as the small town of Bultfontein in Free State.

So, with farmers struggling to sell their produce and artists having access to the markets, the solution was simple. But brilliant. On their free days, the young creatives take produce from these community farmers on their bicycles and sell them at the markets. The revenue is then split. It’s a mutually beneficial solution.

Crops from the local aquaponics farmers
Crops from the local aquaponics farmers

Social employment
SEF, which helped these two NGOs collaborate, provides temporary work for previously unemployed people, who learn valuable skills and earn a stipend. Unlike a social grant, the stipend is paid in exchange for work participation.

In a South African context, there is no shortage of work to be done to address social barriers and access to employment and economic opportunities. SEF supports the creativity, institutional capabilities and broader initiatives that engage people in work that unlocks opportunities while equally benefitting communities.

The real value of the partnership between SEF and its NGO partners, is addressing unemployment and skills development.
Participation in work not only provides much-needed income through stipends, it also gives people with entry-level work readiness skills and the confidence, courage and enthusiasm to seek work opportunities. Vital skills for participants' finding employment in the wider labour market but it also enhances their chances of becoming self-employed or starting an enterprise

The SEF is supported by the Industrial Development Corporation and the Presidential Employment Stimulus.

The Social Employment Fund
The Social Employment Fund is providing 55,000 temporary jobs in areas like health, education, nutrition and food security. These jobs skill marginalised individuals in workplace preparation and foster entrepreneurship.
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