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Uplifting Communities in the Free State

On 7 September 2018, John Mark Kilian of Umsizi gave feedback on the Broad-Based Livelihoods Program which Umsizi has been implementing together with Taung Gold in Nyakallong and Kutlwanong in the Free State. He addressed the director, the office of the mayor, dignitaries, ward councillors, community stakeholders, the DMR’s regional manager and staff, and all others present at the event. John Mark had this to say:

Today is about celebrating and recognizing those of you who embraced the Broad Based Livelihoods Program and I would like to thank everybody for making time to be here today. We are here today to recognise a journey which began back in 2015, a journey which has touched the lives of over three hundred households in Nyakallong and Kutlwanong, a journey which Taung Gold is very proud to be involved in. Almost one thousand people have gained additional life-skills from the program, empowering them to advance their well-being. Our intention with BBL was to enable you to make a difference for yourselves, to reduce dependency on others and to set you on a path to being economically self-sufficient and sustainable. I am truly impressed by the energy and determination shown by you and I encourage you to continue with this energy and determination to further succeed. We will continue to assist where we can.

Broad-based strategiesIn the next few years, Taung Gold intends to develop a new project, the Jeanette Gold Mine, just to the East of where we are standing. Our journey, like yours over the past three years, is one that requires creativity and innovation to advance the Jeanette project since we acquired it from Harmony. Right up front we recognized that our local communities are very important to the success of the project and it is for this reason that we decided to initiate the Broad-Based Livelihoods Program. By necessity, creativity required us to engage with you and harness your energy and resourcefulness to create a high level of determination from all stakeholders and establish a successful partnership. 

Of course, there must be a foundation on which success can be built and, in our case, the very earth on which we are standing provided such foundation: Firstly, this earth contains one of the very reasons why Taung Gold exists; a deposit of gold which lies deep beneath our feet. Secondly, this earth also provides the opportunity for the Broad-Based Livelihoods Program, started by Taung Gold with its partners, as a sign of our commitment to sound relationships, whilst we explore, design, finance and build a new gold mine.

Of course, the willingness of the community to accept us and work with us has been critical to the success of the program and I really do want to thank everyone for that spirit of cooperation and support, without which we would not be here today. 

Enterprise Development ProgrammesAll great journeys begin with small steps and our starting point for the BBL program was to focus on growing food, a basic need that we all have. As we saw the commitment of the participants in the program this then progressed to education and assistance with small business principles. The program has been open to all interested people from the local communities so that as many people as possible could participate. Of course, we welcome more participation moving forward. This education and training imparts practical knowledge and business skills into the minds and souls of those who chose to “give it a go” and the results are clear for all to see. All of the participants in the program have demonstrated energy and determination to succeed and many of you have been able to establish sustainable small enterprises which are able to put food on the table.

Let me share with you some of the achievements of the Broad Based Livelihoods Program:

  • Over 800 people have attended the garden training workshops and these have, in most cases, put food on the table with lots of people now eating better than before;
  • Our records show that 85 households have been earning money by selling vegetables;
  • Almost 100 families have built their own vegetable tunnels and some have progressed to successful businesses in vegetable farming;
  • The vegetable tunnels can be seen on almost all streets in the local community. 

These achievements and the fact that there are vegetable tunnels on most streets make it obvious that the partnership between us is working and we should be proud of that. 

We are very excited about the fact that we have been able to assist you to make a difference to your own lives and to also impact positively on the lives of others in your communities. I believe that what you have been able to achieve sets a very good example for others to aspire to. You truly have set a wonderful example and I believe that you are a remarkable inspiration to society. 

I challenge you to dream of really growing your businesses, expanding your abilities further afield and developing your efforts into significant enterprises. Having taken the small and often most difficult steps to get going, I urge you think about expanding your horizons and dream big. 

A little later we will be recognizing local business owners who have completed the learning workshops on Business Tools for Profitability and they will each be receiving certificates of recognition. This training has enabled them to be able to look at their businesses and identify areas for improvement and to reduce costs, increasing profitability. Some of these people have even started to train their neighbours and help them to get going as well. That really is special and deserving of recognition. 

Just take a moment and think about your successes. Think about your dreams and aspirations and how to make them happen.

Many of these businesses are staring to get together and are creating their own Business Chamber to represent them and this will make them and the community much stronger. Unity will enable you to develop a stronger voice and to advance your collective interests so I encourage you to keep up these efforts and to work together towards your common interests in developing the local economy.

The Career Build Program has attracted much interest from school learners and this will soon be followed by the My Future Program which will include any person who wishes to plan a future and start taking steps to make that future a reality.

A couple of months ago we celebrated what would have been the 100th birthday of a person who was and remains an inspiration to all of us, former President Nelson Mandela. Madiba said that “a winner is a dreamer who never gives up”. He certainly knew the true meaning of those words. I say to you,  you will face challenges, but remember those words and never lose sight of and never give up on your dreams. I encourage you to reflect on your success to date but to build on that by developing your dreams through determination and commitment. 

Thank you for your time. I wish you all of the best with your efforts and look forward to returning soon to celebrate further successes.  

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