BBL PARTICIPANT: Elizabeth Matlatle, Moteti, Limpopo
In a Nutshell
Through her participation in SocioTech’s Broad-Based Livelihoods (BBL) strategies to stimulate personal economic activity, Elizabeth Matlatle from Moteti, Liberty in Limpopo has acquired agricultural skills and applied this knowledge to create a successful food gardening business.
I have always loved growing vegetables. Even when I was a little girl, I loved working in the fields. I knew that every plant that grew was a sign of God’s goodness, and I loved seeing God’s work.
When I first started, I was a very young girl. In those early days I did simple things like taking a tin can full of stones and shaking it, so it made a loud noise to frighten off the birds. Later my parents taught me how to plough and plant and later still to sell. By the time I was about 12 one of my jobs was to go around the village with a basket of fruit and vegetables to sell. I am a sociable person and a natural saleswoman, so that was a job that I enjoyed. I would go door to door chatting to the people I was selling to.
These days my garden has a wide range of different plants. Right now, it is winter so the vegetables that I have reflect the season we are in. At the moment I am growing 3 types of winter spinach, and beetroot, sweet potatoes, onions and lettuce. I use some of the vegetables for my own pot - my family never need to buy fruit or vegetables because we grow everything we need. The surplus I sell. I also dry bean leaves and pumpkin leaves and spinach so that (even when those plants are not in season) I can sell throughout the year. Dry spinach I sell for R15 a packet.
The vegetables in this garden are beautiful. I think it is because this soil has been enriched. It was the 2013 SocioTech training that taught me how to do that – with the bones and cans and paper. Because of that method my soil is so rich that I don’t need fertilizer. I use a bit of manure and that’s it.
Strong soil also makes for strong plants. Strong plants don’t need pesticides – if I have a problem, I just make a tea with tobacco or aloe from my garden and spray it on the leaves that usually does the trick. The only issue I still have is with birds. They eat my profits. I have some nets and a tunnel, but I need more. Those birds are a menace.
"Strong soil also makes for strong plants. Strong plants don’t need pesticides."
Don’t misunderstand me, growing this way is a lot of hard work at first. A lot of the people that I did the SocioTech training with gave up, but I kept going. I dug my trenches by myself. It took me 3 weeks and I had a very sore back while I was doing it. But I drank pain pills and I kept going. This garden has been worth that little bit of pain. I believe in the power of trenching. Trenches are number 1. Once the work was done, everything I grew came up fast and so strong. Then those people who had given up and run away came to me and asked me why my harvest was so good. I think they knew. They had done the same training as me. They just didn’t follow through on what we were taught.
Anyway, what other people do is their business. I know that I listened and learnt and implemented what I had been taught and it worked really well for me. The spinach is a beautiful, bright green. The beetroots are deep purple. I can see God in their beauty. They definitely reveal God’s goodness. Not just in their looks but also in their taste. The vegetables that come out of this garden are really delicious – so much nicer than the ones that come from the shops. Take this spinach and cook it simply with a bit of onion and tomato and you have a feast fit for a king. So delicious.
The great taste is partly about soil quality, but it is also about how fresh the vegetables are when we eat them. At my house we take those vegetables straight from the garden to the pot. Freshness makes a big difference to taste. I don’t know if it is the freshness that does it but the vegetables from this garden are also really economical to cook too. They don’t need a lot of electricity. They cook really quickly. For instance, when you buy beetroot in the supermarket, they will take at least half an hour to cook but the ones from this food garden take 5 to 10 minutes and they are perfect. So, growing at home saves fuel which saves money.
I also make space for my roses. I love my roses. Looking out of the window and seeing them bloom makes me happy. I know that roses don’t make money like selling vegetables, but they make joy and beauty. I go out each morning and I talk to my roses. I say: “Oh, lovely rose, I love you.” I don’t really talk to the vegetables, but I do sing to them. I sing gospel music while I am working. I think that it is God who hears the singing and responds by blessing the vegetables. Sing and praise God for what he has done for you, and he will respond with ever more blessings.