Who are we?
The Ubunye Foundation is a rural development trust which was established in 2002 in response to the chronic underdevelopment in rural areas of the Eastern Cape.
Originally established by the owners of Kwandwe Private Game Reserve as a fundamental part of their vision for the land, it was named the Angus Gillis Foundation in honour of the philanthropic life of one of Kwandwe’s original owners. Over more than a decade we have grown to become an independently funded non-profit organisation with a reputation for developing and implementing innovative projects which focus on empowerment and self-reliance. In recognition of this transition and acknowledging our dynamic growth over more than a decade, in 2014 we took the decision to launch our new name, the Ubunye Foundation, which is more inclusive and meaningful for the communities we serve.
The Foundation initially worked with people living in the two villages of Brandeston and Kransdrift within the boundaries of the reserve. Many of these families have lived on the land for generations and have relatives in neighbouring farms and villages. As word spread about the Foundation, we were invited to expand our work into other communities, which we did by introducing our approach to local leaders and at community meetings. Whilst our relationship with Kwandwe remains very strong, we have expanded our reach beyond the reserve and currently work in ten communities in the Makana and Ngqushwa Municipal Districts.
Background and context
The Eastern Cape is by many measures the poorest province in South Africa with approximately 65% of its population of 7 million people living in rural areas, predominantly in the former homeland areas of the Transkei and Ciskei which were neglected under the apartheid government’s deliberate strategy of underdevelopment and continue to struggle with the legacy of this era.
Few government or NGO services reach these isolated rural villages and the Foundation is the sole NGO operating in most of the areas. Unemployment and poverty levels are very high but differ amongst communities. Farm workers receive modest wages and those employed on game reserves are relatively higher paid due to basic wage differences in the two sectors. In most villages employment opportunities are scarce and largely confined to some seasonal agricultural and government poverty alleviation programmes.
Households tend to comprise extended families and the population is disproportionately made up of the elderly and young children as many working age adults migrate to urban centres to seek employment. There is a very high level of dependence on social grants and many households survive on a combination of monthly old age pensions (ZAR1, 350.00) and child support grants (ZAR310.00).
Poverty is exacerbated by the wide ranging effects of HIV/Aids. Families affected by the virus are more likely to fall into poverty as family members get sick, are less able to work, prioritise medical and funeral costs over other expenses, and in some cases, are forced to sell productive assets to meet urgent and immediate needs. The greatest burden of HIV/Aids is borne by families and communities that support large numbers of dependants. The vast majority of orphaned children are being cared for within networks of close kin and many grandmothers fulfil the role of primary caregiver, often living in conditions of chronic poverty.
Economic poverty affects rural women more than any other population group in South Africa. Despite the government having invested significantly into a social security system over the past decade, for the majority of women in South Africa existing socio-economic rights, as guaranteed in the constitution, remain unrealised.