Pietermaritzburg – For the second year in a row the iconic Mfula Store will play host to the overnight stop of the BSi Steel dusi2c and owner John Graaf is using the race and the store as a way to uplift and facilitate the community into creating a sustainable environment in which they can earn a living and the two-day mountain bike race starting at Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg on 21 and 22 June, is another opportunity for the locals to receive an income.
Graaf is no stranger to the Valley of a Thousand Hills having been paddling the river for years and managed to buy the store off the original owner Christopher Gwala who sold the store due to lack of profitability and following the passing of Gwala, Graaf purchased the popular landmark.
“It is such a beautiful part of the world and the place is the hub of the community,” Graaf said. “We originally had to ask permission to ride through the area and that is how we formed a relationship with the local people and it has just grown from there.”
After taking over the store Graaf believed that it was important to try and help the community in as many ways as possible and facilitate them in making some money out of the place where they lived which they have subsequently tried to do.
“There is a common perception that the Valley is a dangerous place but that is not true and in recent times some of the locals have created picnic sights and camp sites along the river that people can enjoy.
“Using the environment does not cost money and so a local man cleared out some of the Lantana and created a beautiful picnic site that people enjoy and they pay him to use it which is great!” a delighted Graaf explained.
The facilitation process has been both direct and indirect which Graaf maintains is a positive aspect as the community are now in a position where they can created income on their own and with a race like the dusi2c the opportunities have grown.
“The community are responsible for clearing the camps and erecting the tents for the overnight stop which is a help to them but a major project is the beadwork that seven of the women provide and that brings in a fair amount of money.
“In the last year around R60 000 has come through the community which has directly made a big difference to the lives of the people in that community.
“Although we own the store we do not run it and that is up to the family of the original owner which is another initiative that is benefitting the local people,” he added.
The common perception of the Valley being a dangerous place is in the process of being altered, Graaf believes due to the fact that during the dusi2c in 2013 a number of the riders were not too concerned by safety and it was not an issue.
“The local people provide the security during the race and there is a fence around the camp site but a number of the riders decided to sleep outside this fence and there were no reported incidents at the overnight stop which was encouraging,” mentioned Graaf.
After a successful debut as an overnight stop last year Graaf does not see why there should be wholesale changes to the venue and with a bit more grass being laid there will be very little different to 2013.
“We are not going to change a lot at the Mfula Store for the overnight stop, there will be a few tweaks to what we did but it was successful enough last year so we will stick to what works!” concluded Graaf.
More information can be found at www.dusi2c.co.za
Source: Gameplan Media