Zibambele ("we are doing it for ourselves" in Zulu) is a poverty alleviation project by the Department of Transport in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal province. The Department contracts poor households in deep rural areas to maintain stretches of gravel road, the length of the road allocated to each household being determined by the difficulty of the terrain -- a household should not spend more than 60 hours a month on the work. This includes cleaning drainage gullies, clearing the verges of weeds and litter, cutting back vegetation to ensure good visibility and keeping the road surface in good condition. Each household is given equipment (a wheelbarrow, a pick, a shovel, a machete and a slasher) to help it fulfil the contract.

98% of the 4000 contracts awarded so far have been to households headed by women. Decades of regional conflict have left many of the men dead; others have disappeared as migrant workers into the urban ghettoes of Gauteng. KwaZulu-Natal is also the province hardest hit by HIV and AIDS. The consequence is shattering levels of poverty: 40% of children in KZN's rural areas are physically and intellectually stunted by malnutrition and 46% of the population is unemployed. Many of these households are so poor they cannot even afford the ID required to make them eligible for state support programmes.

Zibambele has been operating for a year and already provides sustainable employment and essential income to 4000 households; the target is 6000 by next year. There are also training programmes and a plan to organise the households into savings clubs and credit unions to enable them collectively to save and invest in other projects.

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