Maphumalanga

BBL PARTICIPANT: Aphelele Nonina, Bokamoso, Rustenburg, Northwest Province

In a Nutshell

Through her participation in SocioTech’s Broad-Based Livelihoods (BBL) strategies to stimulate personal economic activity, Aphelele Nonina from Bokamoso in the North-West Province has gained farming and business skills.

She says…

 

Aphelele

My husband has been working on the mine since 2012 so this is where we live for now, but we come from Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape. I like the Northwest, my kids were born here and we have strong connections into this community – for instance my husband coaches the local soccer team – but Eastern Cape will always be home.  And one day we will go back there.

I first met Kwena in 2023 March. I saw a friend’s mobile phone status saying that there would be food garden training, so I went along to see. I won’t lie. At first, when they explained what you have to do to create the trenches, I felt overwhelmed. It seemed like so much work and I was discouraged, but for some reason I kept coming to the training and over time I was inspired to give it a try. I am so glad that I did because it has completely changed my farming style. Before, I was gardening but I wasn’t using the correct techniques, so I wasn’t having much success. Since I have started to implement the SocioTech techniques, things are coming along much better. So much better that I now have enough to feed my family and surplus to sell.

"Learning farming skills and entrepreneurship will be good for them."

Through Kwena’s teaching, I learnt all sorts of things that I hadn’t known about before. Now I know about crop rotation and soil preparation. I am aware of nitrogen fixers and soil destroyers, so I know not to plant heavy feeders in the same part of the garden every time. Before, I just put the same spinach plants in the same place every time without knowing that I was gradually destroying my soil.

My kids are very young – 8, 5 and 3-years-old – which means that while they want to help, they are at an age where they can damage a garden – I am looking forward to the day when I can send them unsupervised into the garden, but we are not there yet! I see other children not much older than mine who have started their own food garden patches and are even selling to make their own money, which I think is good for a child. That is definitely the way I want to go with my kids. Learning farming skills and entrepreneurship will be good for them. Wherever we end up living, here or in the Eastern Cape, knowing how to make your own food and start your own garden is a great life skill to have.

garden-care
Aphelele

I advertise on Facebook, WhatsApp and I put pictures onto my phone status. It all helps to get the business better known. I also get a lot of recommendations by word-of-mouth. If you do good work at reasonable prices, people talk, and gradually customers get to hear of your skills. In this community where we Xhosa people are far from home, but want to preserve traditions, there are community networks, and making garments for ceremonies is a good business to be in.

My dream is to have a workshop space to work in that is separate from my house. It is hard to run a beading business in the same space that we cook and eat and watch TV. Little children have busy hands and keeping them out of the beads is difficult. I sew too and that is even more complicated if you are trying to lay out patterns around family life. In my mind I am working towards having a workshop.  I want to use that separate business space to do my work and also to train others. There are too many young women around here with no skills who are depending on married men – other women’s husbands – for the basics in life; toiletries, money to send home to their families, clothes. If they had skills, they could leave those men alone and have their own strength and dignity through business.

 

"If you do good work at reasonable prices, people talk, and gradually customers get to hear of your skills."

 

 

In this economy, where there are so few jobs made by other people, making sure a child feels confident to make their own job and start their own business is one thing a parent can do to protect their child. For now, they are still too young to be gardening or selling alone, but they are benefiting from the nutritious vegetables I grow. I hope that they are also learning by watching me putting my heart, soul, and strength into something.

It is not just the hard work my children see. Through SocioTech’s MyFuture programme I have learnt money management. My kids see me budgeting and being thoughtful with money, and through that they are learning that money is not just a fruit you pick from the tree. They see saving is hard, but that it brings rewards. Understanding budgeting has been very helpful. It opened my mind. I now know how important it is to keep records and not to mix the money for my house with the money for my business. There is a pain in that discipline, but rather that than the pain of regret. Being responsible with money is not easy. You don’t just buy because there is money in your pocket. You have to constantly remind yourself that this money in my pocket is not for me, it is for my business. Honestly, I don’t always get that bit right - sometimes, even when you know that and you have the virtuous voices sitting on your shoulder telling you “no”, spending still happens. But if you focus on building your business and managing your money, those slip ups where you spend on things you want but don’t need, happen less and less.

The gardening is one of my side hustles – I believe that having multiple businesses is better than depending on just one plan – but my main business activity is beading. I started doing it professionally in 2012, but I have been beading all my life. It is a Xhosa tradition and I learnt it as a young girl from my mother. I started selling velvet doeks (head wraps) with beaded edges, and over time I have moved on and increased my range. I also make decorated aprons (for umgidi ceremonies) and hats and necklaces and the sort of respectful ceremonial blankets that people drape over their shoulders at funerals.

Aphelele