BBL PARTICIPANT: Anathi Mphagele, Mfidikwe, Rustenburg, Northwest Province
In a Nutshell
Through her participation in SocioTech’s Broad-Based Livelihoods (BBL) strategies to stimulate personal economic activity, Anathi Mphagele from Mfidikwe in the North-West Province has gained additional agricultural and small business knowledge. She is working with her son (and their scarecrow) to create a future family business.
I come from Qokolweni – it is a settlement just outside of Mthata in the Eastern Cape - but I have lived in the North-West since I was 14, so this is my home now. I met Kwena from SocioTech through my neighbours, the Ralepelles. He held gardening training sessions at their house, so I walked across the road and joined the programme.
I had been gardening for several years before the training, but I didn’t know about deep trenches or soil improvement or spacing. Even though I have only been working the SocioTech way for about 3 months, I can already see the difference. These big, beautiful green leaves that you see here are amazing. They look great and they taste delicious. Some people have a sign at the gate to promote their crops, but I don’t even need to advertise - when my neighbours walk past, they see the garden in all its glory, and they come to ask if I will sell.
"People need to understand that in the beginning phase this method it is tiring."
At first, working the SocioTech way is hard work. People need to understand that in the beginning phase this method it is tiring. All that digging and collecting tins and paper and bone. When I did my first trench, every night when I went to bed my head hit the pillow and I was asleep immediately. Some of the people I trained with gave up at that stage which is sad because once you get over that initial workload, it is actually easier than the kind of gardening I was doing before. Once you have improved your soil with trenches and mulching, the earth is working with you. They call it farming God’s way and God is with you once you show that you have shown up to work with Him. When the bucket drip system goes in, it not only saves time but also money. And actually, the plants like it better – drop, drop, drop prevents overwatering.
Kwena told us that we should have several lines of business. That is the way to create profits and a good life. I agree that this is the way forward and I am exploring other business avenues. I like to bake so perhaps scones but people around here don’t have money to buy scones so I am not sure that would be a winner. I already have a business selling traditional chickens – those ones with tough but flavourful flesh and delicious eggs. The problem is that they only lay when they are walking around free. When you keep them inside the coop, they don’t lay eggs. But when they are walking around, they get so greedy with my plants! They like to walk around eating my spinach. I made a scarecrow to try and keep them out of the garden and that helped a bit but not enough. They were still always in the garden going peck, peck, peck. They were bad for business. In the early stages it is a total disaster – it just kills the tiny seedlings but even when the plant is bigger and stronger, no one wants to buy spinach that has bites taken out of it. So, I have had to keep them inside their coop, and they are not happy. Look at them! They are all sitting on that perch of theirs staring at the spinach.
"If something goes wrong or someone gets sick you have a safety net. "
I understand that the training must be shared. That is how it works at SocioTech – they teach you and then you pass it on. I really enjoy that part of the programme. I like to teach, and I have been showing my neighbours what I have learnt. I am also inspired by Zenobia, the more I watch her work, the more I want to become a professional trainer like her.
The budgeting side of the SocioTech training is also working well. Every R10 bunch of spinach I sell, I put R2 aside. That is not only good for me but also for my kids. Especially my 13-year-old son Odirile. He is at the perfect age to learn the SocioTech lessons. He and I work together in the garden, and he has an area that is his own little garden patch. I started him off with some seedlings and now he is selling for himself. He is also starting to save. I didn’t force him to do it, he just watched what I was doing and started to do the same. I see that if he sells R10 he saves R5. He says that his plan is to buy himself a phone. I am really so proud of his patience and hard work, because phones are expensive and that will take him quite a long time, but I see that he is determined. He is a lovely boy who has learnt that working hard and saving is not easy but that rewards come with time. He knows about skill, patience, and strength and those are the qualities that a man needs to succeed in life.
Sometimes when I am in my garden working, I do dream about the life I want for my family. I would love to see my business grow. I would love to see myself with more land and more crops. I would love to be working with my son in ten years’ time – him driving a truck and taking the vegetables we have grown on our farm to Shoprite and Pick n Pay.
"Sitting around feeling sad does nothing...."
Dreams have a place, but they are not enough, and I am careful about dreaming for a better future – experience has taught me that life is difficult, and disappointments are everywhere.
What has made me dare to dream is that I have been shown the method to make dreams come true. Sitting around feeling sad does nothing, but creating a clear plan and then staying with that plan, even when it is difficult, can be the beginning of something.