Description: Zibambele -- "doing it for ourselves" -- is a labour-intensive programme of routine road maintenance started in 1999 and is an initiative of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Transport. Its initial target was to create 40 000 jobs by 2009, and they have already passed the halfway mark.
The Zibambele system specifically targets long-term unemployed in rural communities, and focuses on those families that have been identified by the communities themselves as the most destitute. The communities themselves participate through structures called Rural Roads Transport Forums. The programme is run by the Provincial Government in partnership with the National Dept of Public Works, Provincial Depts of Agriculture, and Environmental Affairs.
Currently 23,450 contracts have been awarded to poor households of which some 95% are women-headed households. This has made serious inroads on the gender stereotypes in the construction industry.
A maximum of 60 hours per month are worked, in order to allow women sufficient time off to care for their families. Contractors are awarded equipment, which can be used for other economic or agricultural activities, and the contracts are renewed annually as long as the family is still in the "poorest of the poor" category.
A unique feature of the project is the creation of "savings clubs." 547 of these clubs have been established, thus encouraging the contractors to save a portion of their earnings. The members average about R20 per month into the savings fund, and have already contributed more than R1, 4 million collectively. It is a voluntary contribution and contractors can choose whether or not to participate. The community then decides on how to utilize the capital thus acquired -- as start-up capital, or collateral for a loan to create other income-generating projects.
This feature is possibly the most interesting of the project because it creates opportunities to break the cycle of poverty by encouraging entrepreneurship. The project has been recognized by the President as a "best practice model" in terms of poverty alleviation, for the Government's Extended Public Works Programme.
Innovation: Although a number of similar roads schemes have been adapted from the Kenyan roads schemes, this one is different in terms of its "Club" system, which creates the opportunity for members to go beyond manual labour and subsistence by becoming entrepreneurs.
Effectiveness: Currently employs 23 450 contractors and allows these persons to utilize provided equipment for food production.
Poverty Impact: The project addresses poverty from both the aspect of immediate job creation plus future prospects for other forms of production through the creation of a capital fund.
Sustainability: Although the project has had certain concerns regarding funding because of its exponential growth, and also the difficulties of providing sufficient trained administrators to handle the numbers, the matter has been well handled. Already - a few weeks after writing the application, they have arranged a Cabinet approved budgetary allocation under the Medium Term Expenditure Framework. This will be sufficient to keep then on track towards their target of 40 000. They are furthermore processing applications for supervisory personnel to assist with the administration.
Replication: The fact that both the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga have already started programmes based on this project proves its potential to be replicated.