In the wake of the recent protest action and looting of various retailers in the Pietermaritzburg area, many citizens were left stranded without food and other essentials as large retailers were burnt down and others closed in fear of looters. The Durban University of Technology (DUT) Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Midlands campus staff took to the streets last Friday and Saturday to sell their freshly harvested spinach, this was to help counteract the rapid rise in food insecurity arising from last week’s events in the province.
The Centre staff also visited campus residences to sell to students who were not able to acquire food anywhere, as almost all local food retailers were burnt down and others closed in fear of looters.
The Centre manager Miss Nontokozo Ngcobo expressed that as an engaged and entrepreneurial university it is the institutions duty to actively participate in alleviating issues of distress in and around its communities.
“Spinach is a product of the successful Agri-Hub project launched by the institution last year in February, the Centre is also growing fresh tomatoes and seedlings for individuals who wish to start their own gardens. As an incubator for student entrepreneurs the Centre works to set an example for entrepreneurs to make the best of every situation and always find innovative ways to mitigate social issues such as poverty, unemployment and food insecurity,” she said.
Ngcobo further relayed that the Centre was bringing a solution to a crisis.
“Businesses were facing shortages of food, shops were closed and we saw that as an opportunity to close a gap. We did not have much of the produce but it showed how important it is to revive the agri-space and agri-education of our young people so that they can contribute and close gaps, this was an opportunity for us to engage with the community and swiftly close the gap. Our produce was quickly sold out and that was proof that our communities needed such support.”
She further encouraged small businesses to be creative thinkers and turn such catastrophes to opportunities.
“Every problem is an opportunity, be able to think on your feet and identify gaps, let’s not focus on the problem but the opportunities that can come out of it. If you see an opportunity that you can tap into, do that and don’t think twice,” she said.
She concluded by commending students who have started making the best of this crisis through innovative idea generation and diversifying their businesses.
Pictured: DUT students and staff harvesting spinach.