Women from South Africa’s townships make profits promoting cookies

A group of women from disadvantaged backgrounds in South Africa have found a way to support their families by baking and selling cookies through an initiative that employs women from townships and enables them learn new skills and earn a regular income.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA (REUTERS) – Workers prepare dough for the days cookies at a bakery in South Africa’s coastal city, Cape Town.

Khayelitsha cookies is a unique bakery that employs women who mainly come from the nearby Khayelitsha Township and aims to equip them with skills to enable them bake premium cookies that can help them earn a decent income.

Most of the women have never been in formal employment and working at the bakery has enabled them to support their families.

The bakery makes over 30,000 cookies a day, with most of the work done manually.

Khayelitsha cookies is known for its chocolate chunk cookies, ginger snaps, nutty fudge brownies and shortbread cookies.

The bakery project was started in 2004 as a training institute that relied on donors for support.

Today the bakery is under new management and is now a profit making business that sells its products to customers in parts of the country and abroad, supporting over 90 women working at the bakery.

The bakery has a turnover of about 72,000 US dollars a month and each employee has a share of 30 percent in the company, through a trust fund.

Eunice Nyobole is the co-director of Khayelitsha cookies.

“For me working with them we like family ,it’s very close to my heart, because most of them when they come here they have never worked before maybe they are single parents ,they need to take their kids to school and put food on the table,” said Eunice.

“The Khayelitsha Cookies helped me a lot, when I came here I was nothing and now I have money at the end of the month to look after my family and my child,” said Noluvuyo Nekemfu, an employee at Khayelitsha cookies.

Khayelitsha, South Africa’s second largest township lies within minutes of some of the country’s wealthiest neighbourhoods but many residents live in poverty.

Crime is rampant and law-enforcement around the crowded makeshift homes that make up the township — housing more than 500,000, is stretched.

Unemployment is the largest driver of poverty in the country according to the country’s statistics office with South Africa’s unemployment rate indicating that over 5.6 million people are now out of work.

Africa’s most advanced economy is on the brink of recession after contracting 1.2 percent earlier in the year as manufacturing and mining activity shrank.

With the government encouraging entrepreneurs to create jobs, initiatives like Khayelitsha cookies can provide much needed income for unemployed people.

The bakery’s products are sold in various stores in the country and also bought by corporate clients, who want to spoil their customers with a complimentary treat,

Crystal Towers Hotel And Spa located in the city is one of the bakery’s clients.

“Job creation is very important not only on our property but the entire estate and beyond not just the employment that comes from the making of the cookies where possible we do try to employ their staff in our own hotels,” said marketing co-ordinator, crystal towers hotel and spa.

The women plan to increase their production and sales by expanding the business even further. With their earnings they have been able to invest in land meant for growing organic vegetables for sale, as they seek more sustainable ways to make a living and meet their families’ needs.