BBL PARTICIPANT: Calfonia Moswathupa, Masanteng, Limpopo
In a Nutshell
Through her participation in SocioTech’s Broad-Based Livelihoods (BBL) strategies to stimulate personal economic activity, Calfonia Moswathupa has grown in knowledge and practice. She has developed a successful business selling fruit and vegetables door-to-door and from home.
My name is Ramagoro Calfonia Moswathupa and I was born in Eenkantaan. I got the Calfonia part of my name from my mother’s Catholic priest, Father Brozic.
I come from many generations of women farmers. When I was a little girl I used to accompany my mother and grandmother to their land and work alongside them. Their fields were mainly planted with wheat and mabele (sorghum), but when I married and moved to Masanteng there was less space, so now I grow vegetables like tomatoes and morogo (a diversity of edible greens) and green peppers. I also have mango and avocado trees.
No one really knows how ‘Masanteng’ got its name but some say that it is because the soil is very sandy here. That makes food gardening more difficult than it was when I was growing up. It is difficult but not impossible. When Ntate Damba from SocioTech first came here in 2019 he showed us how to create deep trenches and then improve the soil in those trenches. We were gardening before and getting decent results but, now that we have Ntate Damba to guide us, things have really looked up a lot. It’s not just the soil quality. It is also things like the spacing between plants. Before we just went plant, plant, plant and the crops were too close together. All our new knowledge and our hard work has paid off because our crop yields have risen a lot. Ntate Damba is the best. Now that my garden is producing so well, I have enough to feed my family and also sell into the community. I have been drying spinach, dinawa bean leaf, guxe (okra) and moringa leaves too.
The other big issue we have here is water. We only get water once a week from the council. At the moment that is such not a problem because there has been a lot of rain (God is watering for us) but in a dry year it is very bad. When the water is on we fill as many 2-litre cooldrink bottles as we can so we have it even on days when there is none coming out of the taps.
I am passionate about growing healthy food. Especially now, while there is still COVID in the country. The Food Robot that Ntate Damba taught us about helps to keep us strong. During the worst days of COVID I made protective teas using the leaves from the Moringa trees and the lengana plants. In Masanteng 40 people passed away from COVID, which is terrible, but I think that the death toll would have been even worse without the gardens and the herbal teas.
The other great addition to my garden was the SocioTech tunnel.
I like that tunnel so much that I have now extended that first tunnel and also made a second tunnel myself using the same basic design. Thanks to the increased production I was able to start selling my tomatoes and green peppers. I go door to door, selling from a wheelbarrow. Business is pretty good.
"If you don't work hard, you don't eat."
That wheelbarrow is tiring and hard on my back. At the end of each day I take a bath and soak away the pain and only then do I feel normal again. I definitely sleep well after all that walking around with the wheelbarrow!
Through SocioTech I learnt about saving and planning and managing a business. It is complicated to remember to record everything but it is making a big difference in terms of boosting my income and profit. This is quite a poor community and one of the problems I encounter is that people don’t want to spend more than R10 at a time. If you try and increase prices, they are very unhappy. My solution is to make smaller packets at a price they can afford. For instance, they won’t pay R15 for 10 tomatoes so I reduce the number to 8 tomatoes for R10.
I am aware that it is important to have several income streams. I am also a dress maker and I also use the fruit from the mango trees to make atchar. Sadly, this year the mango fruit has not been good, but in other years that has made excellent profits.
Friendship is important. My friend Mama Melbourne lives close to me. We come from a similar background. Both of us grew up going into the fields with our mothers and grandmothers. When we were little girls we were both out there shaking tin cans filled with stones to make noise and scare away birds. We both learnt at a young age that if you don’t work hard, you don’t eat.
Maybe our friendship is what has allowed our gardens to thrive. Not all the other people who started off with the SocioTech gardens and tunnels at the same time as us, have been quite so committed.
I am not sure why, but I think that it might be our friendship that has kept us focused.