By Tebogo Mokwena

The Chemical Industries Education & Training Authority (Chieta) has shown its support for rural cooperatives by investing almost R1-million in 40 cooperatives to manufacture beauty products containing aloe.

The investment is part of a partnership between Chieta and soap and beauty product manufacturer, African Alabaster Square, to empower cooperatives which are based around Ulundi in KwaZulu-Natal.

Chieta has also provided 20 of the cooperatives with training and is set to train the rest of them in November. Chieta CEO Yershen Pillay said the initiative started earlier this year when the authority partnered with the KZN-based company.

He said the partnership would help cooperatives in the Zululand district to seize opportunities from the extracts of raw aloe plants, which grow in abundance in Ulundi.

“The training provided had basic educational entry requirements, so it gave opportunities to those who did not enter formal schooling,” Pillay explained.

He said the skills acquired have enabled candidates to start small businesses using these products or to grow their existing cooperatives. He added that the main objective of the initiative was to help revive the rural economy by promoting and growing small businesses.

“Aloe extract can be used for many products that benefit the community,” the CEO said. “Chieta will be working with all the cooperatives to ensure that they are registered on the central supplier database of the National Treasury so that in future, TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) colleges, SETAs (Sector Education and Training Authority) and other government entities may be able to procure from these chemical cooperatives.”

A total of 75% of the beneficiaries were youngsters and 55% of them were women.

Pillay said the investment would see great returns for the community.

“We cannot train cooperatives without linking them to new market opportunities and new export growth opportunities,” he pointed out. “The new African Free Trade Continental Agreement provides precisely the new export opportunities for the small businesses and cooperatives that I am referring to.

“We will, therefore, combine the current efforts with increased efforts at collaboration to ensure that we work with the local community, local markets, including the local lodges, hotels and pharmacies, to get these wonderful products onto the shelves of retailers and into the hands of customers,” he added.

Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande welcomed the initiative at a ceremony hosted by where 20 of the cooperatives were awarded certificates for completing the training.

Minister of Higher Education and Training Dr Blade Nzimande hands over a certificate to one of the cooperative members

“Many of these first group of programme beneficiaries are being assisted to secure their first contract to supply soaps and other skincare products to a local lodge in Ulundi,” he said. These cooperatives were now well-positioned to grow their businesses and uplift their communities, the minister said.

“At a time when unemployment in the country is at its highest, exceeding 34%, and youth unemployment are at catastrophic levels, a project of this nature which creates jobs for local community members and especially the youth, becomes essential,” he added.

More about the Chemical Industries Education & Training Authority (Chieta) on www.chieta.org.za

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