1999 Winner
Eastern Cape, South Africa
Impumelelo Innovations Award Trust
Impumelelo Innovations Award Trust
South Africa
The road to Sitebe-Komkulu in the Bumbane district of the Transkei, Eastern Cape, provided the only link to clinics, schools and shopping facilities; however it had deteriorated to such an extent that even 4x4 vehicles struggled to use it. The South African National Roads Agency (NRA) has managed to combine the delivery of a quality road to this poor and disadvantaged communities, with social development and employment generation. The construction of the road presented a straightforward contract to any agency; but the NRA and the community, decided that building the road was not only to provide a link to the outside world, but also in creating employment opportunities, skills development and dignity for the mainly women rural villagers.

The NRA entered into a partnership with the Sitebe-Komkulu community, the Eastern Cape Provincial Government and Administration and the Dalindyebo Tribal Authority and Kei District Council. The approach encompassed the direct involvement of the Sitebe-Komkulu community, with the objectives of having the community doing the work themselves, and taking ownership of a project that would otherwise have remained in the hands of the experts.

120 community members received basic skills training, regardless of their educational background. Non-literate people were trained using hands-on, practical methods involving visual demonstration and on-the-job training. Literate members of the community received formal training accredited by the Civil Engineering Industry Training Board (CEITB), which included pipe-laying, laying stone-and-wing-walls, laying proper road materials in the course of road construction, in addition to business skills. A pass rate of 92% was achieved, and the training imparted sustainable lifelong skills and a transfer of technology.

A project management team included a social consultant appointed by the premier's office, to oversee the process and ensure social integration of all the players, and traditional leaders who were appointed as the main consultants and liaison persons. Local knowledge of the topography, water run-off, springs and geology were integral to the project design. The Department of Public Works was also involved through supplying plant and operators. Conscious efforts were made to ensure full participation of women in the process.

In addition to developing a high quality road linking the village to the national road, the project included a range of other benefits. Employment was created for local people, 70% of whom were women, in a region characterized by rural poverty. The project was deliberately designed to be labour-based to maximize employment creation, and the poorest households were earmarked for employment opportunities. Other benefits of project were heightened community organization, training and skills transfer and the encouragement of small-scale contractors.

The financial investment in the project was not large, and the benefits have been incalculable. The road gives access to further economic opportunities, and members of the community now have the capacity to form businesses or seek alternative sustainable employment opportunities. The local community itself is eager to participate in new projects modeled on this one.

"We could have built this road using technology to save time and money; but we made a commitment to community participation and involvement, and the training of people to leave behind something lasting" Nazli Allen, Executive Officer, NRA.

Innovation:The project trained 'bare-foot' engineers in road design and construction in a very different approach to the usual top-down method with outsiders coming in to do all the work. Throughout the process emphasis was placed on community involvement consultation and the steering committee itself played a leading role in setting standards, resolving worker disputes and directing the work ethos.
Poverty impact:In a poverty stricken community, locals have received training and employment. The road itself provides access to economic opportunities outside of the village. Women have been successfully and competitively integrated into the economy.
Replication: The concept of making a standard road-building exercise a project which includes social upliftment and development is replicable if the contractor is prepared to factor in additional time and financial investment, and receives support from local and provincial government.