BirdLife South Africa launches new brand in support of local community products
Wakkerstroom, South Africa, 23 November 2009 - BirdLife South Africa (BLSA) has recently introduced a new brand called ‘Uthaka’ to help support the agricultural products and crafts produced by the local community in Wakkerstroom. A Swazi phrase meaning “wetland” or literally “a wet place”, the Uthaka label unites five community-owned enterprises, set-up by BirdLife South Africa, which produces products that are linked to sustainable resource use.
BirdLife South Africa is taking cue from the business sector to create a common brand that will contribute to improving the lives of low-income individuals. With a firm belief in the power of environmental stewardship through community engagement, BLSA has worked to authentically build the Uthaka brand, to establish new bonds of trust within the local community and to apply business principles to create positive change.
The Community Based Conservation Division of BirdLife South Africa, through support of the Wings Over Wetlands project, has been working with members of the impoverished eSizamaleni community in Wakkerstroom since 2007 and the success is that these beneficiaries are now important custodians of the surrounding wetland, grassland and its magnificent birds. The community members are now better educated about the environment, are role players in conservation action and management, and are direct beneficiaries from the conservation of the area through tourism.
These small businesses now directly support 44 members, and indirectly 220 family members with a steady income. “What this means within the context of conservation is that the more livelihoods we can tie into the preservation of this critical, yet unprotected area, the more chance we have of this beautiful ecosystem still being around for future generations and our birds,” says Kristi Garland, one of the Project Managers of BirdLife South Africa’s demonstration project in Wakkerstroom.
“This initiative represents an important step forward for the community which gives consumers the opportunity to discover local products. By purchasing Uthaka-labeled products, people can help strengthen the local economy and help conserve our wetland,” says Daniel Marnewick, Division Manager of Community Based Conservation at BirdLife South Africa.