Wool creates jobs for the youth
Dr Vuyo Mahlati has always been surrounded by sheep. From growing up in a community of wool farmers to attending a school headed by her mother who had been a shepherd, and now in business within the wool industry.
Decades later, she started her own textile business, Ivili Loboya, which made its runway debut at the recent AFI Cape Town Fashion Week under in-house fashion label Dedani Collection. Mahlati travelled to many countries, from as far as Morocco, to steep herself in the different ways in which a textile business can be run. She soon realised she was passionate about ensuring communities could benefit from being a part of her dream.
Mahlati was interested in ensuring communal farmers would not just benefit from selling wool but earn lifelong skills along the way. "Our clients here at home are factories in Durban and the wool industry in PE," said Mahlati, whose client list also includes customers in Paris in France.
"We work with farmers with indigenous goats for cashmere and farmers on the wool side as well. We have trained over 100 farmers that we work with. It's a totally new initiative. We are the first producer of cashmere in the whole of Africa and in the continent. We also got to develop an app for the logistics of the collections from the farmers."
While many might not have access to the Dedani app, members of the community have been selected to assist those members without access. Tsolo Agriculture College also has seven veterinarians who assist farmers through the app.
"When the animal has a certain disease or is behaving in a certain way then there is someone who is qualified to respond to their message on the app," she said. "It's introducing a new dynamic and it's a journey. We are learning new things all the time. What is also interesting is how we create jobs at the factories. The area of Butterworth used to be a hub of textile and clothing some many years ago and it became dilapidated," Mahlati said.
"We got in and actually refurbished a factory and brought nice desks into it and trained young men and women who have never worked before with assistance from the department of economic affairs."