The Ora as facilitator of sustainable local economic development in Orania
By Ronald Mears
The 10 point plan for SLED in Orania was spelt out at the conference in 2008. Firstly, Orania has to take stock of what they have achieved and decide whether the community is prepared to pay the price for a sustainable lifestyle, while they are still busy paying the price for using only their own labour. That was their choice for the sake of their culture, language and religion. They must now choose a sustainable lifestyle in order to let their children inherit a habitable earth (Strydom 2008:3+4). The solution to this problem must be tackled with passion and enthusiasm, because it is too late to be half-hearted. Definite rules must be laid down to achieve SLED. For example, all new buildings in Orania must be equipped with a solar system for heating water. For existing buildings a period of 5 years will be granted to convert to solar heating. A water tank to catch rainwater must be made compulsory at every house. Composting toilets that are functional must also be considered (Strydom 2008:5).
Secondly, the leaders in the community will have to lead by example to live sustainably everyday. Thirdly, serious consideration should be given to new developments. Each new development must be measured against the three principles, namely, using own labour, sustainability and adhering only to ecological and ethical principles (Strydom 2008:5).
In the fourth place, Orania must begin to make ecological friends. Orania has already made friends for the sake of identity and culture, but it is now necessary to make friends over the ecological spectrum. This is essential in order to learn from other communities to see what they have achieved and to share knowledge with them (Strydom 2008:5). Fifthly, the community will have to expand its knowledge of a sustainable lifestyle, which will include orientation and evaluation. In the sixth place, businesses in Orania should negotiate to buy goods in bulk with less packaging. The buyers should then provide their own containers and wax or brown paper that is more environmentally friendly than plastic.
In the seventh place, the community must be educated to generate less waste and handle the waste wisely. Harmful batteries should not be allowed to be thrown away and to land on non-recyclable heaps. Every household in the community must know how to make compost and realise the benefits thereof for the soil. For every 1000 tons of compost, nearly 1000 tons of CO2 is not set free into the atmosphere (Strydom 2008:5). Eighthly, it should be part of the culture to produce vegetables and fruit for own use and to keep chickens for fresh eggs. There are already some households in Orania that are almost self-sufficient in this respect. The community must also learn to do without food that is not in season and to grow more vegetables that are indigenous to Africa.
In the ninth place, certain practices should be encouraged and others opposed. Residents should learn to use ecologically friendly methods instead of using harmful chemicals. Safe bicycle lanes can be developed to save carbon emissions. Tenthly, the community must consciously focus on the development of green technology. This commodity will be in demand and can promote job creation. Residents must consciously cultivate a pride in the achievement of sustainable practices (Strydom 2008:6). Orania must stand out as leaders in finding solutions for challenges that can create problems in the future and be proud to be pioneers in SLED. The next sub-section examines some successes in SLED in Orania.
New hardworking and willing workers, including fowls, geese, bees, dragon-flies, frogs, wasps, owls and bats are employed in Orania for various purposes. A familiar sight is the bat hotels. The relative placement of bat hotels is important and contributes significantly to control unfavourable insects. For this reason flats for owls are also built to control mice and rats in the area (Strydom 2007a:5).To provide in the demand for labour, a system of labour banking is employed. Groups of 10 to 14 workers pool their labour to help each other in Orania. A member who has worked for someone else receives a credit, while the account of the member who received the work is debited. This is not a physical account, but rather keeping book of what time is owed to other members. The members are usually mutual friends and no supervision is required, because they are all motivated. Members see each other on a regular basis for weekly meetings that rotate. They share in each other’s joys or sorrows (Strydom 2007a:5), which is another example of a synergy that benefits all the members in a group.
The ability to dream, think, innovate and plan ahead, based on thorough research and study, is a prerequisite for a pioneering community. This was exactly the route which was followed to obtain an environmentally friendly waste disposal system in Orania. The sustainable recycle bank in Orania is such a success story that originated from a dream and hard work over a period of three years (Strydom 2007b:6). The recovery bank did not only have a positive effect on the environment, but also created new opportunities for entrepreneurs in Orania. A unique waste dispenser was developed that provides for five different categories of waste, namely metal, glass, plastic, paper and non-renewable products. Wine and cold drink glasses are made from empty bottles by Lorette Naude, an entrepreneur who saw the opportunity to be creative (Strydom 2007b:8). Orania is also close to breaking even in financing the waste disposal cost from the income received for the waste products. In addition, compostable products have to be handled by each household on their property.
On 9 August 2008 Orania reconfirmed that a responsible and caring community is a living and developing community. Strydom (2008:2) believes that everyone is aware of the debate and problems around global warming. It is not carbon dioxide (CO2) that is the problem, but the fact that humans with their lavish lifestyle are responsible for the levels of CO2. CO2 emissions are threatening the survival and take between 30 and 40 years to be absorbed into the atmosphere. If all carbon emissions were stopped in 1972, the levels of carbon emissions would now have been on the decrease. If the whole world was far-sighted and could now switch over from a dirty to a clean economy, global warming will still continue, but the CO2 levels should start to decrease in 2040. The average temperature on earth will still increase by one percent, but only in 2100 (Strydom 2008:2).
Residents are therefore encouraged to provide local products, to use each others’ services and to buy locally. The community accepts and thrives on challenges to support itself and to become as self-sufficient as possible (Orania Movement 2004b). The most rational economic activity any community can perform is to satisfy local needs with local resources (De Klerk 2005). For success the community requires as much control as possible over its resources and finances. A local money system contributed significantly to growing economic independence.
The next section shows that Orania is a community of pioneers and innovators. They do not wait with cupped hands for handouts, but work hard to achieve their dreams.
The Freedom Foundation, which later became the Orania Movement, was established in 1988 with the aim of self-determination for Afrikaners in their own territory. After much deliberation it was decided to settle in the sparsely populated and economically underdeveloped North-West Cape (Boshoff 2008:15). In 1990 the Department of Water Affairs sold the dilapidated construction camp that had been utilised as a housing site in the construction of the Oranje River Scheme to the Afrikaner Freedom Establishment (AVSTIG) for R1,6 million. Orania was publicly introduced to the Afrikaners on 13 April 1991 when the purchase of houses, stands and businesses could begin. The farm Vluytjeskraal of 2 300 hectares was bought in November 1991 and an irrigation scheme was developed. Within months the infrastructure and houses were restored, using only the labour of people within the community, and Orania started growing (Boshoff 2008:18).
Orania has a vibrant and dynamic population of over 700, with an average age of 35 years. There are nearly 100 enterprises in Orania, both small and large, which means that 14 percent of the population are entrepreneurs and have their own businesses. Many institutions develop, organise and manage the economic, financial, social, cultural, sporting and political activities in Orania. The economic institutions include the Vluytjeskraal Shareblock Company, which manages the local affairs of Orania. People become shareholders by investing in the property of Orania. The directors are appointed at the annual general meeting of the shareholders. The town manager is responsible for the execution of the decisions of the town council, which in turn is responsible for the maintenance of new infrastructure, such as roads, the provision of services such as water, electricity, sewerage and garbage collection and disposal (Boshoff 2008:18; Terblanche 2008:2-3).
The financial institutions include the Orania Savings and Credit Cooperative Limited with its own local currency and the Orania Growth Fund. The Orania Agricultural Society with its modern irrigation system, an Irrigation Council and many well-established agricultural businesses have also been developed. The local management institutions include the Orania Management Services (OBD) and Vluytjeskrial Share block Ltd (VAB). The cultural institutions include the local schools with Christian values, the Orania Coordinating Education Council and an Education Trust. On the social front institutions such as the Orania Welfare Council, Orania Homenursing, the Help-each-other Fund (Helpsaamfonds) and various support organisations, such as the Orania Development Forum, Orania Growth Power and the Tourism Council have been established (Boshoff 2008:18; Terblanche 2008:2). The social institutions include Radio Orania, the weekly evening market on Fridays, the cultural almanac arranging various live shows, an Arts Council and the Orania Cultural and Historical Museum and Archives (Terblanche 2008:2).
Orania also boasts various sporting and recreational facilities, which, together with the institutions, form the well-balanced Orania Movement (Boshoff 2008:18). The fact that all these vigorous institutions and organisations have been established and function well, is mainly due to the fact that the community does everything for itself and does not wait for the government to provide such facilities.
Orania has a well-established community with a sustainable structure and is experiencing positive population and financial growth (Boshoff, de Klerk and Opperman 2008:28). The population increased by 25 percent during the period 2005 to 2008. During 2008 a further 380 hectares of land were purchased by the Kambro Cooperative as part of Orania territory. The property market is lively and significant price increases of up to 500 percent per stand have been reported over the last three years. Properties are increasingly traded at market related prices. The average income growth of the Vluytjeskraal Share block has increased by 22,6 percent during the financial year ending 29 February 2008. This confirms that Orania has a prosperous community served by many institutions as well as effective planning and management (Boshoff, de Klerk and Opperman 2008:28).
Moreover, the Orania Movement increased its income by 25 percent during the 2007/8 financial year. The income exceeded one million Ora in real terms and enables the Movement to exercise its aims and objectives in Orania. The Orania Movement ended the year on a positive note with a surplus of Ø33 000. The balance sheet shows that the capital fund exceeded Ø500 000 during 2008 and that Ø14 000 of the long-term debt has been repaid (Boshoff, de Klerk and Opperman 2008:28). All this confirms that Orania has grown steadily into an established community over a relatively difficult period of 17 years.
The next section analyses the role of the Ora in facilitating sustainable local economic developments.
The A-series or first issue of the Ora was used from 29 April 2004 to 1 May 2006, when it expired and was exchanged for the B-series. The Orania Chamber of Commerce issued a series of Ora coupons in four denominations, that is, 10, 20, 50 and 100 Ora, on 29 April 2004. The first 100 sets of Ora coupons, numbered from 1 to 100, were made available to collectors of commemorative items. More sets were also made available to collectors (Wirz 2008: 8). The results of these transactions or donations to Orania are discussed further in Section 4.2 and in the catalogue of Wirz (2008). The B-series was used from 13 April 2006 to 1 May 2008 and the C-series from 12 April 2008 to the present.
Figure 1 shows that each note has an advertisement on the back and there are six different advertisements for each of the four denominations of notes. These advertisements paid for the printing cost of the Ora coupons. This also confirms the confidence in the currency. Moreover, full disclosure of information on the Ora and knowledge about its functioning gives a better understanding of the local currency, which leads to greater acceptance of the currency (Van Zyl 2005).
Figure 1 shows that the ten Ora coupon depicts the history of the Afrikaner. It shows Racheltjie de Beer as an example of the role of women during the Great Trek, the wars for freedom and even women’s contribution today. The Namakwaland daisy on the note is an indigenous flower of the region, colouring Orania in different shades of orange. The twenty Ora bill depicts the arts, with Trompie as the literary hero. The camel-thorn also appears on this note and is an indigenous tree of the area. The fifty Ora coupon depicts the culture of the Afrikaner. The girl reading is part of the Verwoerd commemorative collection and the horses are commemorated for their role during the freedom wars. Finally, the hundred Ora note depicts Orania. The boy that rolls up his sleeves symbolises the community of Orania and its endeavours to work for freedom. The agile steenbok and the “diehard” or variegated aloe are also typical of Orania. This is explained with each commemorative set (Wirz 2008:10).
Figure 1 shows that on the reverse side of the coupons is a branch of the pecan-nut tree, representing an important industry in Orania. The six conditions pertaining to the coupons are also printed on the reverse side in small print. It states that the coupon is freely exchangeable at all businesses of the Orania Chamber of Commerce, amongst other financial conditions (Wirz 2008:10).
This section shows that thorough planning and innovative thinking led to the development of the Ora. However, the fact that the community wanted to create their own currency to become more independent is the main reason for its success. The next section analyses how the Ora contributed and facilitated SLED.
The quarterly figures in column 1 of Table 1 are based on the number of Oras that were booked out of the vault for issuing and use in Orania at the end of each quarter. The turnover of Oras over the counter is very high and a large portion of the issued Oras is traded daily over the counter in the form of deposits and withdrawals. The OSK does not keep separate books to record the turnover of Oras, as they are handled together with Rands as cash. The figures are 95 percent correct and provision has been made for unissued Oras in the drawers of cashiers at the close of the day (OSK 2008:1).
Table 1 and Figure 2 show that there are significant fluctuations in the quarterly figures. These vary between +60,2 and -37,4 percent per quarter. After an initial slowdown in circulation the growth was progressive from Ø80 970 in March 2005 to Ø39 5170 in September 2008, or a growth of 488 percent over a period of 4½ years. The lowest circulation was in September 2005 when only Ø73 110 was issued and the highest in March 2008 with Ø438 300 issued.
An effort to quantify the increase in the acceptance of the Ora as a means of payment was difficult to ascertain (Opperman 2008:1). The increase in acceptance is an ongoing process of advertising to achieve more general acceptance of the Ora as a means of payment. The aim of the local Business Chamber is ultimately to use the Ora as the only method of payment as far as this is practically feasible. This will emphasise the unique character of Orania to the world and to its visitors. This is confirmed by the wide support of the Chamber, for example, by sponsoring advertising boards to 22 members at Ø800 per bill board. It also sponsors one page of free advertisements per item that is paid for by means of the Ora. The Chamber also finances the purchase of banners, hats, lights and infrastructure at the Friday evening markets. All payments at the evening market are by means of the Ora and the OSK facilitates the exchange of foreign currency for the Ora at the exchange points. Approximately R2 500 is exchanged for Ora at each Friday market (Opperman 2008:2).
An estimate was also done of the use of the Ora by the local community at the end of 2008. This showed that the percentage of Ora in the tills of traders on a specific day was as follows: OK Ora Grocers 30 percent, Eureka Supermarket 40 percent, Afsaal Café 50 percent and the Wine House 50 percent (Opperman 2008:2). A survey of local institutions shows that salaries and wages are paid in Ora at the following institutions: Town Council 50 Percent, OSK 50 percent,
Orania Movement 100 percent and the Elim workers receive 70 percent of their wages in Ora (Opperman 2008:3). According to the OSK the deposits by businesses in 2008 consisted of 40 percent Ora and 60 percent in Rand, while R300 000 per day was handled in cheques over the counter per day. The Chamber also endeavours to increase the use of the Ora through creative thinking and projects, such as discounts when using the Ora and making the use thereof compulsory at the annual show and evening markets. Every issue of the local newspaper (“Dorpsnuus”) emphasises that local businesses and individuals are protected from theft when using the Ora (Opperman 2008:3).
The Coloured community working on neighbouring farms uses the Ora occasionally due to the convenience and economic gain thereof. They sometimes ask to exchange Rand currency for Ora at the Eureka Supermarket for use at the Wine House to qualify for the 5 percent discount. A farmer, Herman Wiid, has paid his workers at least once by means of Ora. Enquiries at stores where the Coloured community usually shop show that they pay with Ora occasionally (Opperman 2008:2).
According to Potgieter (2008:1) no records are kept of how often the farmers in the area use the Ora. Therefore, limited data on the use of the Ora is available, mainly because the OSK does not distinguish between the use of the Rand and Ora. This is a mixed system of use and not two separate systems for Oras and Rands. The contribution which the Ora has made in the establishment and development of institutions and the community is therefore not precisely determinable. Potgieter does not believe that the OSK and the Ora have made a direct or significant contribution to the growth of the Orania movement. This is only part of the general marketing of Orania.
According to Laubscher (Sake 24, 2009:14) South Africa’s welfare is in its own hands. It can not achieve a sustainable high growth level that is able to address poverty, unemployment and inequality decisively by doing more of the same thing. The answer lies in entrepreneurship and an enterprising spirit, creative thinking, innovation and in working hard and being productive. This is the opposite of crime and corruption, rent seeking, uncritical thinking and expecting handouts. Orania is an example of what this means and how it can be achieved. Future research intends to survey all the businesses in Orania to determine why Orania has such a high number of businesses and what contributes to the entrepreneurship in this small town.
Although Orania is an example of a well-functioning small town in many respects, it is still classified as a farm and has not yet been proclaimed as a town. This has allowed Orania to develop in its own unique way, independent of government intervention and by financing all local developments itself. The article reports on developments in Orania to demonstrate and measure their success in achieving sustainable development. Examples of this include the practice of permaculture, the use of bat hotels and flats for owls, labour banking, an environmentally friendly waste disposal system and a unique waste dispenser for 5 different categories of waste, namely, metal, glass, plastic, paper and non-renewable waste, Orania’s 10 point plan for SLED is an example for any community not practising sustainable development yet. This shows that Orania is a community of pioneers and innovators. They do not wait with cupped hands for handouts, but work to achieve their dreams.
Numerous enterprises, institutions, societies and organisations were established by the community for themselves. These achievements were possible because the community is not materialistic, but pioneers and innovators with founded beliefs and values. Orania has a vibrant and dynamic population of over 700 people and nearly 100 enterprises, both small and large. This means that 14 percent of the population are entrepreneurs and have their own businesses. Many institutions develop, organise and manage the financial, social, cultural, sporting and political activities in Orania and form the well-balanced Orania Movement. This together with the healthy financial position confirms that Orania has grown steadily into a well-established community over a sometimes difficult, but very interesting period of 17 years.
Developing communities can obtain similar benefits from local currencies and banking institutions as received from their local banking by developed communities, if their banking institution is started first. Therefore, the Orania savings and Credit Corporative Limited (OSK) was established in 2002 and the Ora in 2004, after intensive planning. The Ora is an internal coupon system with its value coupled to the Rand. A local currency ensures the following advantages for a community. Firstly, cash in circulation is replaced with coupons, while the national currency earns interest. Secondly, more purchasing power is retained in the community and this cuts the leakage rate. This enables the community to move to a higher level of activity. Thirdly, local currencies are collectors items and in this way at least R215 000 was donated to Orania during the period April 2004 to September 2008. An own currency also promotes the supply of the local products and services that use little or no imported components. The Ora also improves the community’s feelings of a shared identity and economic independence or self-reliance. Local businesses stimulate the economy by giving discounts on purchases made with Oras and it is safe to use Oras.
The national currency does not serve the poor as well as it serves the rich in many developing countries, areas or towns. This is another reason why Orania uses its own local currency and finances its SLED with limited support from government. Only a small number of Oras are needed in circulation, because of the high velocity of the currency. There were also high fluctuations of between +60,2 and -37,4 percent in the quarterly figures. After an initial slowdown in circulation the growth of Oras was progressive from Ø80 970 in March 2005 to Ø395 170 in September 2008. Although efforts were made to estimate the acceptance of Oras, this was difficult because the OSK uses a mixed system and not two separate systems for Oras and Rands. The contribution that the Ora made in the establishment and development of institutions and the community is therefore not precisely determinable. The OSK and the Ora were, however, an important part of the general marketing of Orania.
Boshoff, C.W.H. 2008. The Afrikaner Freedom Establishment (AVSTIG) 20 years. In Voorgrond (Forefront), an official publication of the Orania Movement. June 2008, 2/4: 14-18.
Boshoff (IV), C.W.H. De Klerk, F.J.D. & Opperman, H. 2008. Annual Report of the Orania Movement for the year 1 April 2007 to 31 March 2008. In Voorgrond, June 2008, 2/4: 28-30.
Dasgupta, P. 2007. The idea of sustainable development. Published online in Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science and Springer on 13 March 2007. Sustain Sci (2007) 2:5 pages 1-5
De Klerk, F.J.D. 2004. The Ora money system and currency for Orania. Unpublished document. Orania: Orania Beweging
De Klerk, F.J.D. 2005. Chief Executive Officer of the Orania Movement. Interview on 13 May 2005.
IRI & NBI. 1998. The local authority’s role in economic development: a handbook for councilors and officials. Johannesburg: International Republican Institute & National Business Initiative for Growth, Development and Democracy
Laubscher, J. 2009. “Recession? SA welfare is in our own hands.” Sake 24, Beeld Wednesday 4 March 2009:14.
Lembethe, M. & Mears, R. 2005. Using local independent currencies in informal and rural settlements to unlock human potential. Paper read at the Biennial Conference of the Economic Society of South Africa. Elangeni Hotel, Durban. 7-9 September 2005.
ODM. 2008. Khulis’umnotho ODM LED. Overberg District Municipality LED training workshop. George: Urban-Econ Development Economists
Olivier, J. 2005. Owner of Orania Hardware and current Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce. Interview on 13 May 2005.
Opperman, H. 2008. “The Ora” letter from Dr Manie Opperman dated 10 December 2008.
Opperman, H. 2009. Telephone Conversations with Dr Manie Opperman on 10 March 2009
Orania Movement (Beweging). 2004a. Jaarverslag 2004 or Annual Report. Available online: www.orania.co.za. Accessed May 2005.
Orania Movement (Beweging). 2004b. Voorgrond, an official quarterly newsletter, also used as an advertisement to raise funds. December 2004.
OSK. 2008. Unpublished data supplied by the Orania Savings and Credit Cooperative Limited. Fax received from Manie Opperman on 30 September 2008.
Potgieter, P. 2008. “Information on the Ora”. Letter from Prinsloo Potgieter on 8
December 2008 addressed to Dr Opperman.
Reynolds, N. 1994. The peoples’ agenda: local currencies. Unpublished article received at the Orania Movement from Frans de Klerk
Strydom, C.A. 2007a. Orania lives the ecological dream. In Forefront (“Voorgrond”), a quarterly news bulletin, Kimberley: Orania Movement and Economy, Politics, Environment and History (EPOG), April 2007:4-5.
Strydom, C.A. 2007b. The challenge: a sustainable recycle bank for waste. In Forefront, Kimberley: Orania Movement and Economy, Politics, Environment and History (EPOG), April 2007:6-8.
Strydom, C.A. (Lida) 2008. A responsible and caring community is a living community. Community and environment: two sides of the same coin. Unpublished paper presented at the Orania Movement conference to provide answers for new times, Community Hall, Orania on 9 August 2008.
Taljaard, L. 2005. Chairman of the Orania Spaar en Kredietkorporatief together with 9 directors who each has a minimum of 300 community shares.
Terblanche, E. 2008. Community institutions and instruments: the building blocks of a selfsupporting community. Unpublished paper presented at the Orania Movement conference on new answers for new issues, Community Hall, Orania on 9 August 2008.
Van Zyl, C. 2005. Designer of the Ora and Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce during the establishment of the Ora as well as joint owner of Afsaal Café and Overnight Accommodation. Interview on 12 May 2005.
Wirz, H. 2008. Ora money system of Orania. Certified catologues. Edenvale: CatologuesforAfrica@tiscali.co.za.
Professor of Economics, University of Johannesburg, Auckland Park Kingsway Campus.
Although it may seem that the rest of this section was written by Lida Strydom, she is the editor of Forefront (in seeking publicity “Voorgrond”) the quarterly news bulletin of the Orania Movement and EPOG. As such this bulletin portrays the ideas and beliefs of the Movement and that of the author.
Full details of the Ora is available in a catalogue for collectors by Heinz Wirz, 2008