BBL PARTICIPANT: Ellen Rankapole, Pankop, Mpumalanga

In a Nutshell

Through her participation in SocioTech’s Broad-Based Livelihoods (BBL) strategies to stimulate personal economic activity, Ellen Rankapole from Pankop, Mpumalanga has grown excellent food and medicinal herbs organically. She has diversified into food processing and started pottery-making with friends.

She says…

Ellen Rankapole

Jabu from SocioTech really opened our minds to how much of a blessing a food garden can be. Through him I learnt about improving my soil and growing God’s way without chemicals. I have found this method to be very successful. Don’t misunderstand me, when I say blessing, I don’t mean a gift that requires no effort. These blessings manifest themselves through hard work. Planting the SocioTech way is not easy at the beginning. You need to put in the hours digging and collecting before you start to see results. All I can say to people starting on this journey is that they should keep going because once the results start coming, they are amazing.

Before I met Jabu, I did have a food garden, but I used to just put plants in the soil with a bit of manure. That was it. Then Jabu explained to me that the preparation of the soil is what will make for success. Before you can put anything in the ground, you need to dig those three 6-meter by 1-meter trenches and collect all those tins and egg boxes. Thankfully I have good friends, we all used to be in a dancing group together and we did the SocioTech training at the same time, so when we needed to dig and collect and all that initial preparation, we could help and support each other.

We worked as a team to get our soil ready. And you know what? It really does make a difference. Everything I have grown since my garden beds were prepared, has been sweeter and bigger than it was before. Strawberries, cabbages, potatoes, spring onions, they are all bigger and better tasting than they were in previous years. I also talk with my plants. I tell them that I will do my part to mother and support them, I will make their soil rich and healthy, but that they must do their part and grow nicely. Maybe that is part of why they are looking and tasting so lovely.

"I believe that food should be our medicine."

I believe that food should be our medicine. People eating healthy food almost never get sick and even if they do get sick, the body heals well. The garden gives nutritious vegetables to keep us strong, but it also brings us moringa and lengana to treat many ailments. In these difficult times with Covid and other diseases it is important to do everything possible to stay strong. When I am working in my garden and cooking for my family, I always keep that in mind.

I have always liked to cook. I learnt to make buns and biscuits from my father on an old-fashioned coal stove. You need much more skill to do that than with the ovens you get now. One of the lovely things about having a garden full of fruit and vegetables, is that you can use what you grow to cook. This year I have made all sorts of things – a simple tomato and onion gravy, lemon marmalade, mango atchar. I also canned guavas in syrup, so that we can have that delicious taste and fruit goodness all year round. My family like to eat those with vanilla custard.

Our team hasn’t stopped with gardens. We have been working on a pottery project. We make beautiful pots, but now we need to find buyers. Perhaps a website is the way to go. Someone suggested that we might be able to sell on Instagram? We are still working out the details but I am sure with the help and support of Jabu and Charles we can find a solution.


Ellen Rankapole
Ellen Rankapole