In an area where the mountains are green and air crisp, water is found in abundance in Donkerhoek, Mpumalanga.
With this precious resource in their backyards, villagers of Donkerhoek are taking full advantage and have formed the Donkerhoek Water Bottling Cooperative to purify, bottle and sell the water.
Construction of the factory, which will be used by the cooperative to bottle water, is now nearing completion.
The factory is situated in the village of Prospect, about 65 kilometres from Donkerhoek. It will bring hope of a better life for the people living in the villages of Driefontein, Shabalala, Prospect and Witbank.
The factory is expected to create 90 job opportunities for the locals. Its construction alone, which started in 2012, has already created 60 jobs.
Villagers are hopeful that they will be employed, providing them with a means to support their families, said chairperson of the cooperative Staff Ndaba.
“It looks like everything is finally coming together. We are excited that we will be able to create our own income from the factory and also develop the area,” said Ndaba.
Before joining the cooperative,she worked as a cashier at the local Pick n Pay “I have resigned from my job because even though we have not started with the actual bottling of the water, from the outset I believed in this project. I know it will work out and bring hope.”
The factory is a white, spacious structure, smelling of fresh paint with a reception area, boardroom, offices and a workstation where the water will be purified and bottled.
A water purifying machine with a capacity to carry 10 000 litres of water was recently assembled, while the pipes will reach deep into boreholes where the water is found.
The factory is surrounded by beautiful green mountains with trees that stand tall.
It all started with just five people, who started the cooperative in 2010, after learning from the Mpumalanga Department of Agriculture Rural Development and Land Administration (DARDLA) that the water in the area was clean.
“In 2011 we approached the National Development Agency (NDA) with our idea. The NDA was impressed and gave us R2.5 million to start the business. We are using that money to build the factory,” said Ndaba.
The NDA is a state entity, which reports to the Department of Social Development.
Maxwell Mathebula, the provincial manager of the NDA, said research was conducted by DARDLA through a service provider on how the area could be developed through agriculture.
“It was found that there was a lot of fountains that flow from the mountains into a river, creating this natural resource that the community wants to turn it into a commercial enterprise,” said Mathebula.
He added that the NDA was helping the cooperative obtain outstanding machinery so that the production can start in September 2013.
A hopeful Ndaba said soon the cooperative’s product would be on sale on local and international shelves, putting the rural Donkerhoek area on the global map.