South African National Parks (SANParks), through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), has partnered with small businesses to create jobs in local communities in the Western Cape.
The EPWP, which falls under the Department of Public Works, was launched in 2004 to provide temporary or ongoing work opportunities to alleviate unemployment and poverty.
SANPark’s Walter Mzimba, who is the Cluster Manager: Garden Route National Park - Biodiversity Social Projects, said the aim of the EPWP is to address poverty by creating jobs for the unemployed, especially women, youth and people with disabilities.
According to Mzimba, SANParks is one of the implementers of various programmes under the EPWP.
“Beneficiaries employed in the programme come from marginalised communities neighbouring SANParks and most, if not all, were unemployed,” he said.
One of the beneficiaries of the programme is Nosabatha Mbanzi, owner of Melodyhills, which is responsible for the maintenance of the park and garden areas.
She employs 16 workers, mostly young people.
“I employ mostly young people because it helps them put food on the table,” said Mbanzi.
Elsa September’s company, Elsa Contractors, removes alien plants for SANParks. Alien plants are a threat to biodiversity and clearing them reduces the impact of floods and wildfires, and also restores biodiversity.
September has been working with SANParks since 2006 and employs 12 people.
The work that September does for SANParks is continuous as various plants grow in different seasons.
Sonja Peterson, who initially started as a general worker at SANParks, is now responsible for maintaining the gardens. Her business, Bush Clearing, employs six people and is responsible for maintaining grass parks and hiking trails.
After being encouraged by a friend to join the programme, Peterson has not looked back. She enjoys what she does and that she can create jobs.
“If I can do my work, I’m relaxed. It puts food on the table,” she said.