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Tourism with Purpose: Meet the Bags4Bread superwomen

Meet Portia of Bags4Bread

It is not easy to create your own business, especially for people living in the township. However, there is no shortage of ideas and matched with hope, tenacity and the belief that you can change things, an idea can sprout into something. But ideas often need a little help to turn into profit-generating and job-creating businesses. The answer is found in collaboration.

Bags4Bread is one such emerging success story from our very own Kayamandi township. Portia Nzanzana, mother of two, has been making bead jewellery since 2012. Her customers were mostly tourists and visitors to Kayamandi but when COVID hit and tourism stopped, she found herself back at square one with no means to support herself and her family.

She started crocheting winter hats, re-usable facewipes and other bit and bobs from cotton. It was then someone suggested using plarn (plastic yarn cut from plastic bags) to make functional gifts and items. Very quickly the idea grew, and Portia managed to turn a humble plastic bread bag into a uniquely South African bag that is both useful and sustainable. Then someone asked about lanyards and another proto-type was developed.

The lanyards first debuted at the SATSA conference in early April 2022 and were an immediate hit! The delegates proudly wore the lanyards and we even saw some being worn at another tourism trade show hosted the next week! At WTM, many local and international agents and tour operators also fell in love with the concept and many ordered bags for the clients on their tours. The Department of Tourism alone ordered 2000 lanyards.

“Orders are streaming in, and we can’t keep up with the demand,” says Jeanneret Momberg of Visit Stellenbosch. “This project is very close to my heart, and I am working closely with Portia and the ladies, assisting with quality assurance, product development and bread bag collection.”

Bags4Bread quickly had to expand its capacity and now employs seven women, young and old, from Kayamandi.

“Every bit helps, and this opportunity helps people to earn a meaningful wage. The business through Bags4Bread is amazing. Another benefit is that we can stay at home and take care of our families while earning money,” says Portia.

Portia says one of the current biggest challenges is getting bread bags. She uses three bags for a lanyard, and seven for a wine bag and is actively collecting bags in her community. Jeanneret has been keeping a close eye on the project, assisting with guidance and mentoring, and has also started using her connections to collect bread bags.

“We are working with corporate canteens, churches, feeding schemes, university residences and will also start collecting from schools. We desperately need more bread bags!”

Please collect your plastic bread bags and drop them off at the Visit Stellenbosch office at 47 Church Street. You can also post them to Postnet Stellenbosch Eikestad and we will collect your bags from there.

All the proceeds are paid to the women who cut plarn or crochet, so the more they produce, the more they earn. This means that every bag will help a local Kayamandi family put bread on the table as well as keeping this plastic out of our oceans, rivers, and landfills.

Read more about the Bags4Bread project here. 

Next up in our Bags4Bread superwomen stories, is Gcobisa Sigwayi. Click here to read all about this superwoman.