BBL PARTICIPANT: Mantso Cecilia Samson, Theunissen, Freestate
In a Nutshell
Through her participation in SocioTech’s Broad-Based Livelihoods (BBL) strategies to stimulate personal economic activity. Mantso Cecilia Samson, from Theunissen, Freestate has….
I met Sizwe from SocioTech when I was working at the Community Works Programme (CWP). I already had a food garden, but it was just for my family. I didn’t sell and I had never thought of it as a way of making money. We talked about the potential that could come from the soil and I began to see that I could make a lot more money growing vegetables than at the CWP. When I changed my mindset, my life changed.
It wasn’t easy at first– digging those trenches and collecting all the cans and bones to correct the soil is a lot of work, but Sizwe motivated me to keep going. I like that he didn’t just give a lesson and disappear, he taught and then he kept checking up on me. He was always there to support and advise. He called me over and over making sure that I was following the plan. That was really important, because at first, I didn’t love gardening. I have learnt to love it through Sizwe. He is unusual – usually young boys like him are not garden people, but you can see that it is everything to him. He always makes time to help those who want to learn. When he saw that I had worked hard he came and put up a vegetable tunnel, which was wonderful, because before that my neighbours’ chickens kept pecking at the crops.
It wasn’t just farming techniques that I learnt from SocioTech training. I also learnt about selling. Growing vegetables and selling them are two different skills. The key to selling is to make yourself and your product known. I post pictures of my crops on Facebook and my WhatsApp status and customers order through those channels. When I get the order, I walk to deliver the goods, because I don’t have transport, but that is a good thing because I show the beautiful vegetables to everyone I see along the way. I tell them all about the products I have – those journeys are often very productive sales missions. Many new sales come along the way.
It is important to know who your customers are and what they need. I make combo packs – for instance packs with onion, tomato, spinach and green pepper. I make processed packs where I wash and cut up all the vegetables. Those sell well to ladies who are at work all day. I say to them, ‘don’t stress yourself. Let me do the chopping so when you get home from work you can rest.’ For someone like a teacher who gets home at the end of a long day, having the vegetables ready to put in the pot helps them a lot. They are prepared to pay extra for that service.
"All the knowledge that i received brought me to a better life..."
I have been inspired by the support I received from the SocioTech team. I feel I was given an opportunity, and I must pass that blessing on. All the knowledge that I received brought me to a better life and I feel that others also deserve that same chance. I teach others whenever they ask. I feel it is a duty and a blessing to be able to change lives as mine was changed. Sizwe and Charles helped me freely with love in their hearts so I must do the same. When we all work, we are stronger. Sharing is not something that we need to be afraid of.
Sometimes the people who ask for help are not people I know. In order to sell my crops, I post pictures on Facebook and many of those who ask for help saw my work there. For instance, there are three ladies in Kroonstad who have asked me to come and help them, so we have made a plan for me to go there and train them next month. I don’t only want to help strangers. My biggest dream is to help the people in Excelsior. I spent a lot of my childhood there and I know how those people are suffering. They aren’t working, but I think if I could show them how to make planting trenches, they could be living off their gardens.
Teaching also happens at home. My daughters are also learning by watching my success. My youngest daughter is nine and she loves to help with the gardening. She knows how to plant and harvest, and if I am not here and someone comes looking for vegetables, she knows how to make a sale. She understands the portion sizes and the price that goes with each portion. She knows to record all the sales she makes, so that when I get back, I can see exactly what has happened. I think she has a talent for business and selling. She has a little book and if people come wanting a particular vegetable that is not yet ready, she writes down their name and telephone number in her book. When we harvest, she calls them and lets them know that the vegetables they wanted are ready for sale. I am really glad that she gets involved with the business side of what I do. When I was a child, my elders had shops, but when they died those businesses collapsed, because none of the younger generation knew about those businesses. I don’t want that to happen to my business. I hope that my girls will know everything, so that they can keep my garden going long after I am gone.
My oldest daughter is 19. She wants to be an airhostess or a social worker. My second daughter is 13 years old. She wants to be a doctor. I want to be able to make those dream come true. I know that university education will cost a lot of money. I have asked the councillor for a bigger portion of land so that I can grow more vegetables and save more money to fund those educational dreams. I am confident that if I can get more land that I can do it because I have seen it working already. The SocioTech way works so well. I was amazed at how quickly I started to make money. The first season I grew and sold my vegetables I saved enough money to buy pots. I used those pots to make magwinya that I sold at the school gate, and from that money I bought a JoJo tank because water is a big problem here. My next business plan is to start growing seedlings that I can sell to other people who want to start gardens.
It is important to save for the future, but it is also important to create happiness in the present. I have always wanted to go to Durban, so I put some of the money I saved into funding that dream.
"I was amazed at how quickly I started to make money.."
On the 9th of July this year, me and nine friends hired a taxi to take us to Durban. We had 4 days at the Bayside Hotel, and it was so wonderful. Everything I had hoped for, and more. We went to uShaka Marine World and to the beach. I felt so happy and so proud. I had worked hard, and my hard work has made my dream come true. I didn’t have to ask my husband for any money. That holiday was made possible by my garden. Knowing that I can achieve my dream has given me confidence – if my garden took me to Durban, it can take me and my family other places too. I have already made a booking for January 2024 – I am taking my children and one of their friends back to Durban. And I have in my mind that November 2024 will be my time to go to Cape Town. I have never been on an aeroplane, so that is the next goal. After that? Who knows – I think I should apply for a passport…