Thanda was founded in 2008 by Angela Larkan and Tyler Harkan. This community-based organisation – near Hiberdeen in KZN – focuses on sustainable development through innovative solutions. The organisation wants to empower people and enable positive change in the community.
Thanda provides an Early Childhood Development Programme, after-school programmes, creative learning training and skills development in organic farming. They also provide access to a library, a skate park, the Science Lab and the Art Centre where creativity is stimulated. To top it off, there is the Nivea Community Centre where children can safely play, explore and have fun – 365 days of the year!
At Thanda the focus is on education on one side and skills development on the other.
The goal of the Organic Farming Programme is to transform people from survivalist to subsistence, then early livelihood and finally the commercial level – but, the transition from one level to another is not the main objective. “The main thing,” according to Angela, “is to set a goal for each farmer, so some farmers you know are old gogos and they are only ever going to have a small plot, because physically they can’t do a bigger plot and all they want to do is feed their grandchildren. Sometimes we get new farmers and they start for subsistence, but they really have the potential to go all the way to commercial, so each person’s goal is different.”
The impression one gets is that there is a strong, underlying ethic of mentorship at Thanda. The essential skills that underlies Thanda’s values, namely self-esteem, empathy, perspective, creativity and critical thinking are also implemented in their organic farming project. The focus is on the person as a whole and the Thanda-team will not simply teach someone a skill and say: “Go into the world now!” Angela underwrites this when she says, “… we do a lot of self-development with the farmers too, so we look at their personalities, them as people, so that they can deal with issues … by doing that, they are more likely to be resilient in the future and it’s about the farmer, not the food. The food they can grow themselves, but it is the farmer that is the key, as person.” Their compassion for the community is evident and Tyler and Angela wants to ensure that “… people are farming continuously, so that season after season they are re-investing, they are replanting and they keep going – we are less concerned about an exit strategy and more concerned about really building long-term sustainability … We want to have really stable food sources in the community.”
Thanda have various funders and supporters and under them you will see the likes of the IDC, Nivea, Old Mutual, BASF, Distell, KFC and Rand Merchant Bank, amongst others. Funding is an enormous challenge for non-profit organisations, especially because a long-term partnership in this neck of the woods lasts only 2 – 3 years. The CSRNEWSSA’s Funder’s Round Conferences were instrumental to securing long-term funding for Thanda as these events created a platform for in-person meetings with funders. At the 2018 Conference the IDC came on board with Thanda and supported 300 rural farmers with infrastructural development in the Organic Farming Programme. During the second wave of Covid-19 the IDC distributed 1200 food parcels in the community and it is currently involved in the Flood Relief Grant of 2022.
Thanda is growing from strength to strength and the important role of funders renewing their financial support is critical to their sustainability. You can’t argue with the stats, because the Organic Farming Programme yielded R1,5m worth of produce in 2018 and by last year, 2021, the harvest’s worth capped the R4m mark!