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May 2021 2nd edition

Carving out a better future

Written by More Matshediso

Youngsters from a rural  Mpumalanga community are crafting a living for themselves as furniture makers, thanks to a learnership, state funding and self-initiative.

 A few years ago, government encouraged young people to establish co-operatives to help address issues of youth unemployment, inequality and poverty.

Manqoba Ngwenya is on his way to establishing a lucrative furniture business.

It also put measures in place to ensure that once these co-operatives are established, they get funding from various state entities and the private sector.

A group of young people from Diepdale in Mpumalanga heeded the call and started Themba Labasha Furniture Primary Co-operative Limited, which is gradually changing their lives and creating jobs for fellow community members.

They use solid wood, laminated pine and pine board to make furniture for clients, including clinics, schools, hospitals and individuals.

One of the co-owners of the co-operative, Manqoba Ngwenya, spoke to Vuk’uzenzele about how it all started and the progress made so far.

Themba Labasha means hope for young people

 “We came up with the name because most young people in our community are unemployed and poverty is real. So we had to be strategic about our brand because we envisioned owning a company that would create jobs,” he explained.

The co-operative was started by nine young people in 2014.

“We had just completed a carpenter learnership with Komatiland Forests and the co-operative was our answer to the question: ‘What now?’” he said.

Five of the original nine are still involved and two of these are women.

After registering the co-operative, Themba Labasha applied for funding and received R50 000 from the National Youth Development Agency to purchase material.

The co-operative  hired three more people on a temporary basis and hopes to create more jobs in the future.

 “However, we need more machinery in order for our business to grow. We also need vehicles so that we can deliver our products to our clients.”

The co-operative recently won an award in the forestry excellence category of the 2018 Youth in Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Awards and
walked away with a prize of R100 000.

For more information about funding from the NYDA call 0800 52 52 52