BBL PARTICIPANT: Mavis Ngcobo, Tshepisong, Gauteng Province
In a Nutshell
Through her participation in SocioTech’s Broad-Based Livelihoods (BBL) strategies to stimulate personal economic activity, Mavis Ngcobo from Tshepisong, Gauteng has learnt how to farm and sell vegetables. She is frustrated by electricity load shedding which is damaging her baking business.
I grew up in Newcastle. When I was a child, we didn’t need to go to the store for food very often. My grandmother grew almost everything we needed in her garden - umbila (corn), cabbages, spinach, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, beans, mealies, amathanga (pumpkins), amadumbe. And things that you don’t see in town like ibhece, imbuya (amaranth) and umsobo.
When vegetables come straight from the soil you don’t need fancy cooking methods. Just a bit of salt or a little sugar and they are delicious. I remember with ibhece she just took off the skin and cooked it in water with a bit of sugar. No more. Nothing was wasted – we ate every part of the plant. When we ate pumpkin, we also ate the leaves as imifino amathanga. I still remember my granny’s isijingi (pumpkin porridge). That was my favourite as a child.
People these days are lazy to work with their hands in a garden, but in those days, we knew how to work hard. My grandmother taught me that we must work together and help each other. I taught all my children that lesson. I am proud to say that 2 of my children work in our garden, growing crops to sell and my youngest daughter helps me here on my street stall. We are a family business.
I came to town when I got married. I worked at the municipality for a long time. I only learnt about SocioTech after I retired. I thought, maybe I was too old to join, but when I asked about joining, they said there was no age limit. That is the beauty of SocioTech, anyone can join. Young or old. They say that we can all learn new things every day. And they are right. I was gardening and trading before, but through the SocioTech training I have learnt so much.
"I am selling much more than before."
Soil preparation, when to plant, how to plant. Because of that training my crops are much bigger and better than they used to be. I am selling much more than before. Before I sold vegetables when people came to my house and asked to buy but I didn’t market them. I didn’t have a stall as I do now. I bring my spinach to the stall and people walking past can buy. Those are people who otherwise would not know about me. We also learnt about saving but I am finding that very hard. These days things are so expensive. I am trying to put away a little money every month. I said to myself: “start small with what you have and gradually the money will grow.”
My stall is just a simple wooden structure by the petrol station - I would like to have some kind of container that can be locked up when I am not here, but like I told you: “start small and grow over time.” We sell vegetables from my garden and Cadbury’s eclair sweets and Chappies. I also make muffins and sponge cakes. I portion the cake into squares that I can sell separately in plastic bags.
People love my sponge cake. Load shedding is a big problem for me, because they don’t stick to the schedule. Sometimes I have cake in the oven and the power goes out. Some say the power also goes because of illegal connections. I don’t know why it happens, but I do know that it is not good for people like me who earn money from baking.