BBL PARTICIPANT: Mara Mintoor, Pella, Northern Cape
In a Nutshell
Through her participation in SocioTech’s Broad-Based Livelihoods (BBL) strategies to stimulate personal economic activity, Mara Mintoor learnt the skills to provide food for her family.
She has grown in confidence and has found emotional and financial rewards through her work. She has a clear, comprehensive plan for future business growth and is working consistently towards opening her own guest house. Her children are not only benefiting from her efforts, but through her example, they are gaining life skills and a positive expectation that they can shape their own future. She says…
Life was very difficult for me growing up in Pella. There was a lot of moving around and worrying about where I would find shelter. There was also a lack of financial security and an almost daily struggle for food. There wasn’t a lot of stability or guidance from adults. There was also bullying at school. So, it wasn’t a happy time.
That early insecurity has shaped who I am in so many ways. I know, for instance, that as a child I was quite guarded and I didn’t play with other kids very much because if I was alone I didn’t have to explain what was going on in my life. I am still a bit like that – cautious about letting people in.
I make food and parental supervision a priority for my kids. I always want them with me so that I can guide and support them. I never what them to know hunger and fear around food. I think that part of my intense focus on gardening is to do with that emotion and anxiety. I know that if my garden is growing well, there will be food for my kids.
"Circular farming is very satisfying because it means nothing is wasted."
At the moment my garden has strawberries, green pepper, tomato, cabbage, herbs, pumpkins, watermelons and so much more. Knowing that the garden is growing well is what lets me sleep at night. I don’t have to buy any vegetable except potatoes – I don’t know why but I don’t seem to be able to succeed with potatoes. Not yet anyway…
In addition to my vegetables, I also have twenty-seven chickens and two roosters which not only makes for a business selling eggs – I sell eggs to the Aggeneys police station and also to a local bakery in Pella – but also provides material for compost. I find this kind of circular farming very satisfying because it means nothing is wasted.
My anxiety around food and my determination to make sure that no one goes hungry in my home is not just connected to the people. I worry about the chickens too. We are a team, the people and the animals working together, supporting each other. Recently it has been difficult to get the right food for chickens and that has been bothering me a lot.
For about ten years, I lived in Cape Town and life was really hard. When I first arrived in Cape Town, my mother had no money to send me to school so I left. Then there was all sorts of crime and violence. So, when I came back to Pella about five years ago I didn’t really have a plan, but I knew that I this was the chance for me and my kids to have a new start.
I knew that I would be able to get ground for a house and I was clear that I needed to make a fresh start for my children. So, that is what I have done. My garden, my chickens and my plans for a guest house – that is my fresh start. I work and work and work every day to make it a success.
I couldn’t do any of this without the support of my husband Shannin. He encourages me in everything I do. We make a good team.
Job opportunities are limited in this part of the world – especially because I don’t have much education and I had a road accident a few years back that has left me with some damage to my short-term memory. Both of those things limit the jobs that I could apply for but the wonderful thing about farming is that plants and animals don’t discriminate. You don’t need certificates to garden. You need ground and you need to work hard. Because I was born here in Pella I have a birthright to ground. Because of my history I know how to work hard.
My short-term memory issue might be a problem in other work but with a garden and animals they talk to you without saying anything. If you forget, they constantly remind you! You just look at the garden and you will know what it needs. If you work with your chickens you know them and if they are sick you can see it.
"I want to be self-sufficient."
"My priority is food for my family and my animals."
My long-term dream is to build a guest house but I know that you need to take things one step at a time. My first priority is food for my family and my animals. Once I have that in place, the guest house business can begin. I know exactly what I want to do with the guest house but its time will come. First, I need to raise the money for building. To do that I will need to extend the amount of space so that I can farm more and earn more. I will need fencing and a borehole. All of those things cost money and they can’t happen overnight.
A guest house is a logical step forward for me. Pella has lots of visitors but very little accommodation so tourism is an amazing opportunity. I know exactly how I want the guest house to look. My plan is to have the structures look like traditional Bushman huts on the outside but have all the modern features that a guest would want – WIFI, flat screen, proper beds – those sorts of things.
Slowly but surely, I am making progress towards my guest house goal. I have registered my business. I have the tax clearance sorted and the BEE certificate in place. I have been doing business training courses so that when the time comes I will be ready. I know I still need to think through how I am going to build in a way that looks like an old-time structure but is modern inside. I know how to make a Bushman home in the real way but this is not quite the same and will take some thought as to how to make that work. Maybe even an architect. I am not yet sure but there was an old lady – we called her Ouma Toekoes – who used to run a business in Pella with such huts. She died and her children haven’t continued with that business, but I saw that it was possible, so it gives me confidence.
I still need to research the market and see what potential customers want. Are the visitors going to need Halaal meat? Are they vegetarian? I want to attract the sorts of people with money to spend on a guest house and I am aware that their needs might be different from those that I am used to. I want to connect and get to know them so that I understand the market. The same is true with the farming – I want to get into supplying the mine – if the mine is just taking out and not connecting with us that is not good for anyone – but to do that I need to properly understand their needs.
The reason that I am so determined for my businesses to succeed is that I don’t want my kids to have to look after me in my old age. I want to be self-sufficient. I want my children to be successful, educated people who can follow their own path because they are not being held back by having to support me.
My children are amazing. They are all very different but amazing. My older daughter, Waydine, is fourteen. She is the one who remembers most clearly how hard it was when we lived in Cape Town. She is very concerned and considerate about others. She never asks for anything. She works so hard for everything she has.
She saw that I was paying other people to help me with things like digging trenches in the garden so she said that I should rather pay her to do that work. We have done that for two years now and it works really well. She saves all her money – last year she saved R2000 that way and by the end of this year it will be the same amount again. She used that money to buy her school uniform and all her books and stationary – even the calculator. She tells me her plan is to study agriculture and then join me in the family business.
My second daughter, Josslyn, tried to do the same but she is a spender not a saver and it didn’t really work. But, everyone has their talents and Josslyn is an amazing supervisor! I know she will go far!
Samantha, my youngest, doesn’t remember the hard times in Cape Town. She is a confident, happy little girl. I love that she believes the world is a friendly, supportive place. She believes that there are swimming pools and strawberries in the garden. When you ask her about her future she says she wants to be so successful that she can drive a woerpa (super-speedy, fancy car). That is the way it should be for little girls. They should be able to dream big.