Bergnek Community Projects Cooperative is a My Arms Wide Open Community Empowerment Initiative that supports the people of Bergnek in Limpopo, South Africa. It's co-led by a local called Keabetswe Mosumane, whose story inspired him to do all he could to better the circumstance for women, youth and children of his home town.
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Bergnek is 37km outside Polokwane city in Limpopo Province.
Bergnek 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. It's hard to determine if this has in fact benefited the majority of workers.
We have over -+1000 hectares of land that can be used for cultivation or other businesses. Overall the community has 5,000 hectares of land.
Bergnek is a small community with a population of about 2000 people people.
80% Sepedi; 15% Tsonga and 5% Afrikaans. Sepedi is the official language in the community.
86% of the youth (10 - 35 years) in the community understand and speak English; 99% of the adult people understand and can speak Afrikaans; Only 5% of the elderly understand speak English. Maybe 5% of the community speak and understand Xhosa.
We are a community that is evolving with times, but most older people understand Afrikaans better than English and the younger is more English.
There is no internet. Most youth have a mobile phone.
We have winter in June and summer from August to February. The rainy season can present challenges in the spring.
Other than in Bergnek Projects, there is no work available in the community. The majority of people in the community work at nearby farms.
We currently have GirlStuff which manufactures re-usable cloth pads and school uniforms. We also have a community vertical vegetable garden. These are part of the Bergnek Community Projects Cooperative, which was co-founded by myself and a not-for-profit called My Arms Wide Open.
The first thing My Arms Wide Open did was to engage a large group of the community, who drilled down into the core issues and challenges in the community. The first of which was the the total lack of water. the pump for the community pump 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. My Arms Wide Open 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.
The next step in the process was to address employment and working with Lunapads.com, My Arms Wide Open 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.
The next two projects involved building vertical gardens, to address food security challenges, and extending the water access and distribution in the Bergnek community 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 and is currently being implemented. This will 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.
For more information, see: projects
There is Gold around the community, we have futile land for farming and livestock farming.
Culture & Religion
Mostly it's Christianity and African traditional beliefs.
There is only one combined school, for both primary and secondary level students. Kids are from 5yrs to 22yrs. Total of around 500 students. We need an update by grade.
The majority of the people live in huts and shacks, though there are a few that have RDP 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.
Bergnek is a community that is special, its diversity and intercultural people, like to work together in uplifting itself and working together to bring about a better future for our future generation.
Bergnek is special in that it has existed in a vacuum since inception. What people can offer Is their creativity and the symbolic context of their 'gifts'. Perhaps having a short story of the makers life journey attached to the gifts would carry with it the spirit of the maker to remind those who are more fortunate of the struggle of their fellow men and women in Bergnek.
Bergnek Projects Cooperative's goal is to transfer 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. The projects support food security, education, infrastructure, and leadership development within Bergnek to ultimately empower our community to sustain itself from within.
We would like to see our community grow into 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 center and make sure we eradicate unemployment and poverty.
The main challenges in the community are water, job creation, infrastructure development, brick and mortar homes, access to higher education and from having spent time in the community primary health care.
South Africa is prone to drought and Bergnek has a limited water supply.
The future looks bright, with all the initiatives and foundation we are laying at the moment, we want a community that is self-sustainable and has the basic service for its community, water, health and food.