BBL PARTICIPANT: Ester Zodwa Mkhaliphi, Bundu, Mpumalanga
In a Nutshell
Through her participation in SocioTech’s Broad-Based Livelihoods (BBL) strategies to stimulate personal economic activity, Ester Zodwa Mkhaliphi, from Bundu village in Thembisile Hani, Mpumalanga added to her farming skills and improved her health.
She has a thriving vegetable business and a flourishing side hustle. She hopes that her example will inspire her neighbours.
What I like about SocioTech is that everything starts with prayer. Everything is possible when prayer is the starting point. I know this to be true because from the very first day I started working with SocioTech, my pains became less and now they are totally gone. When I first started gardening, I was really sick. I had pain everywhere. I was even limping from the pain in my knees. I could hardly walk, but now I am so strong. I can walk any distance without fear. Two kilometers is no problem. I don’t even drink pills for pain. A few weeks ago, my courtyard had huge holes in it where the rains washed part of the soil away and I filled them in by myself. I think that through God and working in my garden, growing and eating all the healthy organic food without chemicals that my life has been turned around.
I have been gardening since I was a child, but I learnt many new things from Mr Kwena. Through him I learnt about trenches and mulching and drip irrigation. Using these methods, I have seen my garden become strong and successful.
It is not an easy journey, but farming is never easy. You must be patient to achieve results. It took time to get those trench beds ready to plant – you have to dig, then fill with cans and bones and manure and egg boxes, and collecting all of that is a big job – but once it is done the soil is so lovely and everything grows so well.
I think all that early effort to get the soil right and the fact that I don’t use chemicals is what makes the food from my garden taste so good. My sons say that the mealies (corn) from my land is the sweetest and tastiest they have ever tasted. I grow amaselwa gourds – boil gently and you can eat the whole thing. Even the seeds are delicious. I can eat green beans straight from the garden. I bottle guavas in sugar syrup so that my family can taste that lovely summer fruit all year round. These days I hardly eat meat because the vegetables I grow are so tasty.
I am not saying everything is perfect. There are still things I would like for my garden. I am hoping for a net to protect my crops from the sun and pests. Also, the water around here is a big problem. It keeps getting cut off from the municipality. I have a borehole, but the water here is very salty and not good for plants. I collect rainwater in buckets.
Because of MyFood and MyFuture I can save money. I don’t have to buy food so all I pay for these days is electricity and my funeral policy – the rest is for savings. Because the borehole water is so salty and the municipality water is so unreliable, I am saving for a JoJo tank to store more rainwater.
I started my business by showing my vegetables to my neighbours. There was a party and a lot of people were there, so I filled a 20 litre container with tomatoes and an 80 litre one with spinach and took it to that party. The first time, people buy with their eyes – they look to see that it is visually appealing. Then they taste, and that is what makes them come back. They bought at the party and after that they knew my vegetables tasted as good as they looked. I did the same at the clinic – took it there to show them. Now that they know the quality of what I produce they come to the house and I sell it to them from the garden.
"I hope my success has helped them to believe."
I also have a side hustle selling kotas, amagwinya and boiled eggs. I put them in buckets on a wheelbarrow and go to the school. I used to make amakhekhe style scones too, but my oven is not working at the moment.
I believed Mr Kwena from the first time he told us about the new methods, but some other people need to see success stories before they believe. Me, I believed from day one. For those others, I hope my success has helped them to believe, because this really has made my life so much better. I think that over time, as more and more of us achieve good things with our gardens, this development thing can spread across Bundu.