BBL PARTICIPANT: Nickolson Lekgau, Durban Deep, Roodepoort - Nico or Moyafela
In a Nutshell
Through his participation in SocioTech’s Broad-Based Livelihoods (BBL) strategies to stimulate personal economic activity, Nico Lekgau learnt the skills to provide food for his family.
He is making a positive difference in his community. The children he works with are learning to be creative and disciplined, and find joy in work.
My nickname is ‘Moyafela’. There isn’t a direct English translation but ‘moya’ is wind so it is sort of like saying someone is ‘full of hot air’ or perhaps ‘pie in the sky’. They call me that because I like to start projects that people initially think won’t work. The thing is that I always believe in them, and they do work out in the end. So, I don’t mind when they say that, because I know that they will soon change their minds when they see the results.
I was born in Sekgopo (which is just outside Duiwelskloof in Limpopo) and for the first few years of my life I lived there with my granny. When I was about 7 years old, I came to Johannesburg to live with my mother. For about the past 6 years we have lived in Roodepoort at Durban Deep.
I am involved in all sorts of community projects but what they all have in common is my love of problem solving. I am especially passionate about problem solving when that makes the lives of young people better. It is the problem solving that excites me, rather than the particular solution. I will take on any challenge that results in sustainable change for the better. Sometimes that means patrolling the streets at night to prevent crime, sometimes it means cleaning dustbins, at other times it is face painting with children and drama clubs to keep them busy after school. What they all have in common is there is a problem that needs to be solved, so let’s find a solution.
"Maybe it was beginners' luck but that first try went really well."
I knew a bit about gardening from when I lived with my granny in Limpopo, but I first started taking it really seriously when my group of friends decided that we should clean up a dumping spot at the end of our local primary school playground. It smelt and it was a health hazard, so we went to my local primary school and volunteered to clean it up and make a garden. The headmaster knew us from the youth section of the Community Policing Forum and our role in school anti-bullying campaigns, so he said we could clean and use that space. Fortunately, a lot of the stuff that had been dumped there was organic waste, so the soil was pretty good.
That first year we planted pretty randomly. We didn’t really know what to plant when, so we planted everything all at the same time. Maybe it was beginners’ luck but that first try went really well. We went to the garden every Monday, Tuesday and Friday, and at the end of the season we had a great crop. Everyone was impressed. None of us were working, so we took some of the vegetables home to our families, gave some to the school and used the rest for food parcels for children in need.
Because the first crops did well we were encouraged to continue. I went to the headmaster and suggested that when children were naughty they be sent to the garden to work. Before that, the punishment was to sit outside the classroom, but now they get sent to the garden. We are strict with those kids. We don’t take nonsense and so now those naughty children think twice about behaving badly!
I first met KG from SocioTech in the beginning of 2019. He was just what we needed, because our garden had gone as far as we could take it without training. KG taught us about organic planting and seasonality so we didn’t just plant everything all at once. He showed us about making trenches and after that he brought our tunnel. In 2019 our crops were even better.
The children – both the naughty ones sent by the teachers and the others who are not so naughty – have really benefitted from seeing the garden grow and succeed. It started from nothing and now it works really well. The teachers are also getting interested and there have been discussions about bringing agricultural training back into the school day. The idea is that the theory should happen in classrooms but the practical element could happen with us in the garden. If it worked in one place, maybe that vision could work in many different communities.
People keep telling me that I must try and be as supportive to myself as I am to other people. I struggle with that, because I really like community work, but I do need to try and find paid employment in some form, because I don’t get paid for any of the work I currently do. My goal is to find work in the community development space. I would like that, not just because I would get paid which I need to support my family, but also because I want to learn how to use the skills I have in different environments, and to grow my abilities in this field. I love solving problems and I would like to learn about all the different challenges and solutions that are out there in the wider world.
"... actually it is the thing that provides me with money to live."
My side hustle is also a major part of my life. I say ‘side’ but actually it is the thing that provides me with money to live. Thanks to the BBL MyFuture programme, I am increasingly incorporating it into my plans. I sell mala mogodu which I cut into pieces, then cook them and sell them for R1 each. I came up with this side hustle because I saw a gap in my community – all the places selling meat near me are selling big plates for R25 and I know that lots of the people I meet can’t afford that.
The result is that lots of people support and thank me for coming with this side hustle. It is really helpful not only to the community but also my family, because my mother lost her job. When I am busy with the garden, she takes over my side hustle.