The Umgano Training Academy  is an initiative of the Umgano Foundation (NPO) and aims to become a training service provider of excellence to service the education and training needs of the Mabandla Community and surrounds.

The economic development of the Mabandla Community is driven by the Mabandla Community Trust with over 3200 household beneficiaries. The Mabandla Community Trust is the 100% shareholder of the Umgano Development Company (Pty) Ltd with a number of subsidiary companies providing employment and economic development opportunities in the Mabandla Community.

The Umgano Training Academy will service the skills development needs of the Umgano Development Company and its subsidiaries in order to promote the human resource capacity development of both existing and potential employees in the Mabandla Community.

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The development of an accredited training academy in the Mabandla community has been on the cards for a number of years. This business plan outlines a way forward to bring this vision to fruition. Although the initial focus will be on setting up a campus in the Mabandla community, the longer term vision is to establish a brand that can be scaled up to operate further afield to service the demand for rural skills in developing rural economies throughout South Africa.

As the largest economic sector in the Mabandla area is forestry, the Umgano Training Academy will seek it’s accreditation through the FP&MSETA (Fibre Processing and Manufacturing Sector Education and Training Authority).  This will enable it to offer short courses and full qualifications that lead to National Qualifications Framework (NQF) credits. The provision of NQF accredited training is quality assured and thus undergoes stringent quality measures to ensure that learners are provided with high quality and relevant training.

Extension of scope with other SETAs will enable the Academy to offer courses in other sectors too such as agricultural courses (AgriSETA), eco-tourism & conservation (CATHSSETA), environmental management (LGSETA) and Business Management (Services SETA).

The Mabandla Traditional Authority has agreed to provide a currently unused Cultural Centre on a long-term lease to the Umgano Training Academy. This is an ideally located venue for the establishment of a campus for the Academy. It consists of a large training venue with multiple offices, ablutions and kitchen that could seat in excess of 200 students. In addition, there are 5 large rondavels with ablutions that could comfortably accommodate up to 60 students and Tutors. The facilities will require funding for basic maintenance, upgrading and fittings to establish it as a functional training venue (i.e. training and office equipment, computer laboratory, bedding, catering equipment and so on).

The key achievements of the Umgano Training Academy to date include:



The Mabandla community, situated in the Umzimkhulu Municipality in southern KwaZulu-Natal, are the owners and managers of a successful 1300 hectare commercial plantation business. The business provides over 100 full-time jobs, 30 part time jobs and an annual turnover of R12m. The business takes its name from the Umgano mountain, the lower slopes of which were identified as a suitable area for plantation establishment back in 1995.

The plantation is now in full rotation and is FSC certified, assuring the community of a continuous source of income from the sale of timber.  The commercial plantation business has served as a springboard for a range of other businesses that provide additional jobs for community members and revenue for the Mabandla Community Trust. These include a sawmill, cultural tourism business, a cattle business and a conservation and development initiative.

The Mabandla Community Trust holds a 100% share in the Umgano Development Company and majority shareholding in all the subsidiary businesses and companies operating on the project land, in order to generate funds to satisfy the main objective of social and economic development amongst the greater community. The business models focus on entering into joint ventures with businesses or persons able to offer a high degree of expertise, experience and business skills to ensure the success, and profitability, of any new business venture, together with the Trust.

In 2014 the Umgano Development Company initiated the idea of establishing an accredited training academy to deal with the skills shortages related to the operations of its various subsidiary companies. With the aim of these companies being to create jobs and economic growth for the Mabandla Community, the option of employing in skilled workers from further afield is in contradiction to the development goals of the Mabandla Community Trust.

The establishment of an internal accredited training academy would allow the various subsidiary companies to provide ongoing skills development initiatives to both their existing employees and to prospective employees from within the Mabandla community.


Umgano Training Academy is in the process of developing its core training offerings in the following:

Umgano Training Academy is in the process of developing its core training offerings in the following:

Once established, the campus at Mabandla will also serve as a resource centre to the local community to access online resources using the computer laboratory e.g. matrics doing online research for school assignments or anyone wanting to improve their computer skills.