Marikana North West

BBL PARTICIPANT: Lily Sambula, Swaneville, Mogale City, Gauteng

In a Nutshell

Through their participation in SocioTech’s Broad-Based Livelihoods (BBL) strategies to stimulate personal economic activity, Lili Sambula has learnt the money management skills to support her family and follow her dreams. Through Lily’s example, her son is gaining life skills and a positive expectation that he has the power to shape his future.  

She says…

Lily Sambula

I grew up at Duthuni in Venda. The climate and soils there are perfect for farming. Everything grows. When I was a child we had mangos, bananas, avocados, and litchis in our yard. It wasn’t a big space, but it produced a lot of fruit! We had wonderful vegetables too. It is about quality as well as quantity. The flavours were wonderful. The pumpkins were so good. Not just the pumpkin, the leaves too. There was this dovhi recipe that my mother made with pumpkin leaves and peanuts and some of the small pumpkins and pap. Even something as simple as pap tastes better when you grow the maize. We always took our maize to the mill and the tshigayani machine would grind it until it was fine and light like flour. It is that grinding that makes Venda style pap is so soft and smooth. 

My late father worked in Gauteng but every year he would come home for holidays and to set up the family food garden. He would dig in new manure and plant and then he would give us children instructions on how to look after the garden. After that he would go back to the city leaving us in charge. We didn’t disappoint him. Even now I feel like one of the reasons I garden is to honour my father. 

My dad was such a wise man. I miss him every day. Some of the things that he tried to teach me I am only beginning to understand now. I remember that when he came home, he always brought sweets and biscuits and clothes and also a little plastic bag with money in it. One bag for each child. And he would tell us to save that money. He would say: “I want to know your balance when you are 16”. When I turned 16, he gave me 500 Rand to open a bank account. He wanted me to learn good saving habits. At the time I didn’t listen to his advice. I regret that now. I was so young. When I made some money, my dad would tell me to put it in that bank account and to show him the slip. I did that but the next day I would take the money out again without telling him. He passed away thinking that I had money in my account and that my future was secure. That wasn’t the case. After doing the SocioTech training I began to understand what my father was trying to teach me. He was trying to teach me about saving and budgeting.

When I first started the MyFood training I wasn’t sure about the tunnels and tins – I worried that those tins would burn my crops but I thought the only way to learn is to try something new and so I did the work and the results have been good. My soil is so rich and the garden is flourishing. People who used to walk past me when I was first digging and tell me that I was wasting my time, are now buying from me. The growth of the business means that I can start to think about how I want to move forward in life. I have goals for my children and for myself. I need to increase the amount of land I am farming so that the business can grow and make our goals become a reality. To do that I need fencing. At the moment, anything that I plant outside the tunnel can be taken by goats and cows and human thieves. 

"Some of these can be small but if you work, they can grow and grow.."


My grade 9 son is serious about school. He has chosen his subjects and he wants to work in IT. He studies hard and a combination of his efforts and the money I make selling from this garden can take him to university and on to the life he sees for himself. I wake up every morning and I go straight to my tunnel. My son helps me carry buckets of water and as we do that together I see how the garden is making his dream come true. 

He is not the only one with dreams. My daughter wants to work in hospitality and that training costs money. Myself, I want to get qualifications to teach agriculture. I discovered that I love teaching as a result of SocioTech. In order to get a tunnel, you have to train others and I really loved doing that. I am still doing it. I want to see our location become like a fresh vegetable market. We need to be teaching our children about the importance of land. At the moment, any empty space there is, people put a house on it. It is not just urban areas. This is happening even in Venda. I understand that people need shelter but if there are only houses and no food gardens, how will we eat? 

One of the most important lessons that I learnt from the MyFuture training was that I must always be looking out for opportunities. Some of these can be small but if you work, they can grow and grow. I have been thinking about the mango atchars that I used to make with my mother when I was a child. When you meet people selling atchar in Gauteng and you say to them: “what kind of atchar is it?” they just say: “atchar is atchar”. They only know one type but there are so many different types. You can make it shredded, diced, garlicky and so on. There are different methods too. We always used to clean and dice and put in a bucket with a lid and leave it for a week before adding the oil. The way I see it, the atchar story can mean two things. Either I can be sad that there is no good atchar to buy, or I can see it as an opportunity for a business... 


Lily Sambula
Lily Sambula