In a world where poverty and societal challenges persist, individuals like Alef Meulenberg, the founder of Rhiza Babuiyile (Rhiza), are striving to make a difference. Rhiza is an organisation that integrates principles from faith and economics to alleviate poverty and promote sustainable development.
Alef’s educational journey encompasses both economics and theology. With a background in economics from the Netherlands and a master’s degree in theology obtained in South Africa, Alef sought to merge these two passions in his work.
He believes in taking principles from faith, such as compassion, empathy and love, and combining them with economic principles like market-creating innovations tocreateprogrammesthat benefit the end users while ensuring self-sustainability.
Rhiza, officially founded in 2010 (unofficially in 2009), is Alef’s brainchild.
His vision for Rhiza was to develop programmes that address the most pressing societal needs, including job creation, access to education, healthcare and the cultivation of a sense of purpose in individuals’ lives.
Initially, Rhiza focused on the educational and psychosocial development of children, but later shifted its emphasis to more holistic community development including entrepreneurial endeavours, aiming to facilitate economic growth and empowerment. Rhiza’s approach revolves around a concept known as the “RhizaCycle.” This cycle involves a step-by-step process to develop communities and empower individuals.
- It begins by granting access to projects focused on psycho-socioeconomic development, such as education and healthcare.
- Next, Rhiza collaborates with the community to facilitate skill development and entrepreneurship, enabling individuals, especially the youth, to produce goods and services.
- The third step involves supporting individuals in trading their products or services to generate income.
- Finally, the beneficiaries are encouraged to reinvest in their communities, thus fostering self-sufficiency and long-term sustainability.
While Rhiza initially focused on South Africa, Alef aims to extend its impact globally. Reaching as many people as possible remains the core vision of Rhiza, as the organisation aspires to address pressing societal needs beyond the borders of South Africa. Alef’s experience has provided him with valuable insights into the complexities of poverty alleviation and social development. He acknowledges that these challenges are systemic in nature, resulting from an imbalanced society where the minority possesses wealth while the majority suffers from deprivation. To tackle such issues, Alef believes in the power of collaboration. Unfortunately, the sector faces the challenge of organisations viewing each other as competitors rather than potential collaborators. However, he remains optimistic, recognising the potential strength of South Africa’s civil society if it can unite to overcome systemic issues.
Alef’s decision to stay in South Africa reflects his deep sense of calling to make a lasting impact in the country. He acknowledges the intricate problems faced by South Africa and believes that long-term commitment is necessary to address them effectively. He finds inspiration in the country’s vibrant culture and resilient people, recognising that sustainable change requires collective efforts.
Through the reset cycle, Rhiza empowers communities by providing access to education, healthcare and skills development, ultimately leading to self-sufficiency and reinvestment in the community.
Alef’s insights highlight the importance of collaboration and the potential for South Africa’s civil society to effect substantial change. With a long-term commitment, Rhiza aims to extend its reach globally, striving to address societal needs worldwide.