BBL PARTICIPANT: Martha Ntshadi Mnisi, Khutsong, Northwest
In a Nutshell
Martha Ntshadi Mnisi lives in Khutsong, outside Carltonville. Through SocioTech’s Broad-Based Livelihoods (BBL) programme she has added to her horticulture knowledge and has developed her entire homestead yard for production. Her fruit and vegetable enterprise is thriving and she knows exactly how she wants to go about future business growth.
She donates to food insecure children and is always available to support and guide new farmers.
Home is where your heart is and my heart is in Khutsong. I originally come from Bushbuckridge in Limpopo but this place is my home. It might not be where I was born but it is where I put down roots and grew slowly into the person that I am today. I started in a shack and moved into an RDP house. I began with a small garden and now I have a large plot of land. All that happened in Khutsong.
Farming is my passion. Not just planting, growing and selling but also feeding, nurturing and teaching the people around me about farming. I grow for myself and I grow to sell but I also grow to support and donate to vulnerable people in my community. I know what it feels like to be vulnerable and I always have that in my heart to help where I can.
In Khutsong, there are lots of adults who aren’t working and plenty of children who don’t know where their next meal will come from. I have been in that place. I know it’s difficulties. When I was growing up in Bushbuckridge no one was working and my family was very poor. There wasn’t even money for education. Knowing the pain of such experiences has shaped my attitude to life. I always try to support others whenever I can. There is a creche not far from my house and I made them a garden which I now work in free of charge. When the plants are ready, I give all the food that comes out of it to the school. That is my donation to those children. The teachers get so happy and excited when they see the produce.
I love to share knowledge. If my early life had been different and If I had had more chances to get an education, I think that I might have become a teacher. When new farmers come to me asking for advice I always give it gladly. Sharing and teaching what I know is important to me. I feel that it is part of the cycle of life. Someone teaches you and you teach others. That is one of the reasons that I was so attracted to SocioTech. The Phinda-Phinda way of working makes sense to me. This way of working – teach, learn, teach – has been part of my own journey to success.
Before I came to Khutsong, I worked for commercial vegetable farms in Limpopo and in the Magaliesburg and I learnt a lot there, but farming on that scale is quite different from what I do here. So, you see when I first met the trainers from SocioTech and Umsizi I was a sort of new farmer, even though I wasn’t new to working the soil. They taught me about deep planting trenches and vegetable tunnels and drip irrigation. They were my mother and father on this journey. I learnt so much about how to make natural remedies to control pests. All of those things changed the way I farmed. Now it is my turn to pass that knowledge on.
"Having the right attitude is essential. One of the most important things is to always be aware of opportunities."
Whenever SocioTech organize a new training session, I am there to help. I say to the new farmers don’t be discouraged if things are difficult at first. If you don’t know or need help, come to me and I will help you. Of course, it doesn’t always work, because people need to be ready and willing to take on the information. They need to understand that farming is hard work and rewards take time.
Having the right attitude is essential. One of the most important things is to always be aware of opportunities. For instance, I love to fish so I take worms from my garden, wrap my cell phone in a plastic bag (to stop it getting wet) and I go fishing. Then I call the buyers and they come and buy from me. A smaller fish will sell for around R20 but a really big fish can be worth as much as R120.
In 2019 I won an award. The name of that thing is a mouthful but it makes me so happy to say it! The award I won is called Gauteng Province Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Female Entrepreneur Award for Best Homestead Producer. Like I said, it is a big mouthful to say but it was a lovely recognition of all my hard work.
Even though I won that award, I am not getting complacent. Every day I look for new opportunities. This year I want to learn more about poultry. Next year I want to plant mabele. Farming teaches you to always look forward. You plant now and reap later. You must always be thinking ahead.
And I am still looking forward. If I look into my future I see a time when I will get my own car so that I can transport produce and supply on a larger scale. And above all, I see my own farm where I can achieve my dream of becoming a successful commercial farmer.