TWENTY co-operative members from Ulundi, who received training to manufacture beauty products using the natural resource of aloe, were recognised at a certification ceremony in the town recently.
They are among 40 locals who are being upskilled to earn a sustainable living. The second group of trainees will begin the course in November.
Acknowledging the important role of co-operatives in offering economic opportunities, the Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority (CHIETA) recently invested in a programme in partnership with African Alabaster Square to empower co-operatives in the Zululand district.
The certification ceremony was attended by Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Blade Nzimande and other dignitaries.
CHIETA CEO, Yershen Pillay said, “Many of these first group of programme beneficiaries are being assisted to secure their first contract to supply soaps and other skincare products to a local lodge in Ulundi. These cooperatives are now well-positioned to grow their businesses and uplift their communities.
“At a time when unemployment in the country is at its highest exceeding 34%, and youth unemployment is at catastrophic levels, a project of this nature which creates jobs for local community members and especially the youth, becomes essential.”
This initiative started earlier this year when CHIETA partnered with African Alabaster Square, a soap and beauty products manufacturing company in KZN, to train co-operatives in the district to seize the opportunity provided by the abundance of raw aloe plant extracts in Ulundi.
African Alabaster uses ingredients like tea tree, aloe and other agricultural products to make products. “The training provided had basic educational entry requirements, so it gave opportunities to those who did not enter formal schooling. The skills acquired here have enabled candidates to start small businesses using these products, or to grow their existing co-operatives,” Pillay said.
Bolstered with business skills, practical experience, and mentorship, there are great opportunities for these forty beneficiaries – 75% of whom are young people and 55% of whom are women – to leverage this resource. Having become trained and operational, the co-ops are now off takers of raw material from the processing facility, which creates and promotes local value chain development.
Speaking at the launch, Nzimande said, “The Department of Higher Education and Training is responding to the needs of rural communities with this new and innovative programme for chemical cooperatives. I am very proud of the work SETAs like CHIETA are doing for cooperatives development in the country”.
Pillay added: “The main objective of this initiative was to help resuscitate rural economies through promoting and growing small enterprises. Aloe extract can be used for many products that benefit the community. CHIETA will be working with all the co-ops to ensure that they are registered on the central supplier database of the national treasury, so that in the future, TVET colleges, SETAs and other government entities may be able to procure from these chemical cooperatives.
“We will also be using our collaborative agreement with the SABS to support the co-ops with getting the SABS stamp of approval.”
CHIETA invested almost R1 million in this initiative.