BBL PARTICIPANT: Emmelina Sekwane, Motsephiri, Sekhukhune, Limpopo

In a Nutshell

Through their participation in SocioTech’s Broad-Based Livelihoods (BBL) strategies to stimulate personal economic activity, Emmelina Sekwane and her husband, Jan Sekwane from Motsephiri in Sekhukhune, Limpopo have a steady income and much improved health and fitness from their vegetable production. Jan has been free from his diabetes medication for four years already, which he attributes to eating healthy organic vegetables straight from the earth.

She says…

Emmelina Sekwane

When I was a little girl, my father grew all our vegetables; beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cabbages, pumpkins, onions and tomatoes.  Anything you can think of he grew. And we had a peach tree that gave wonderful fruit. My mother made jam which we had with freshly baked bread.

My mother is still alive, but my father is no longer with us. I miss him but I am grateful for all the things that I learnt from them. Sometimes I will be in the garden or in the kitchen and I will find myself doing something the way they used to do it, and it always makes me smile.

We had some lovely meals out of that garden. If I close my eyes, I can still taste those long-ago Christmas dinners with my parents. There was always a bowl of creamy mashed potato and a hardbody chicken with a rich meaty gravy. I made a very similar meal this Easter that has just passed.

My husband and I started this vegetable garden in about 2010. We began because I wanted to save money. It seemed foolish to buy vegetables when we could plant them ourselves. I took sewing, not agriculture at school, so I didn’t have any formal training, but I soon realised that I had learnt quite a lot from watching my dad work.

In 2020 we got a phone call inviting us to a community meeting. That was where we met Cletus and Di from SocioTech. My husband and I did the MyFood training together and we found it very helpful. Learning about trenching was a real game changer. I also learnt to grow my own seedlings which saves us a lot of money.

"We began because I wanted to save money. It seemed foolish to buy vegetables when we could plant them ourselves."

But I don’t want you to think that SocioTech is just about gardens – it teaches about God and how to make money. We were taught you can all sell something. Make up your mind to learn something new each year. Volunteer for free to help your peers learn.

We now grow almost everything we need. I don’t ever go to the shop for vegetables. Only sometimes I buy fruit - although we put in nartjie trees last year and they are small but already producing fruit. At the moment there are strawberries too.

We also sell. We don’t have transport costs because customers come to our garden, and we sell straight from the soil.

Some things sell better than others. For instance, we grew a lot of brinjals this year and they are just rotting on the plant because we don’t really know how to use them. I think I am going to try pickling them. When I had a glut of chilies and tomatoes, I made hot sauce which I sold for R50 a bottle, so there is good business there. 

I know some couples split the garden tasks – you do watering, I will do weeding and so forth – but we both do all the jobs. If I am busy with my sewing, he does the garden. If he is busy, I take the lead. I think that the work we do keeps us fit and healthy. In the old days, my husband used to get up in the morning and go for a 10-kilometre run, but now he works in the garden all day and that is enough. At night we sometimes have sore backs from all the bending, but it is worth it.

We are always looking for new opportunities. Last month we did the MyPoultry training. I am very excited about that. My plan is to raise and sell Sotho chickens.

They taste better, they are better for health, and they fetch a better price.

I am new to chickens, so I am taking it slowly, but my hens hatched 23 chicks from eggs last week, so that is a good start.

Emmelina Sekwane
Emmelina Sekwane