BBL PARTICIPANT: Nkageleng Tlelima, Khutsong, North West

In a Nutshell

Through her participation in SocioTech’s Broad-Based Livelihoods (BBL) strategies to stimulate personal economic activity, Nkageleng Tlelima 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 knows how she wants to grow and diversify her business activities and she and her husband are inspiring their son, who is gaining real life skills and a positive outlook on the future.

She says…

Nkageleng Tlelima

I didn’t know anything about farming when I started this way of life but I did know that there was no work and that if my partner and I waited for other people to change our situation we would stay with our problems forever. I didn’t want that. We have a seven-year old son, Tshimollo. Just sitting around won’t provide for his needs. Together we decided that we had to make things happen with our own hands.

I live with my mother – well, I suppose in English she is technically my mother-in-law (my boyfriend’s mother) but in our culture we call them as our parents so she’s my mother – and there is a space at the front of the yard that wasn’t being used so that is where we planted our vegetables.

At first, there were a lot of problems with the garden. There were pests eating the plants and some of my chickens died. I went to see Mama Mnisi in Extension 5 who knows all about farming and I asked her for advice. She introduced me to the people from SocioTech. I learnt how to make deep trenches and fill them with bones for calcium and tin cans for zinc and iron. I learnt about manure and mulch and all of that stuff. Then in 2021 the tunnel came, and that was when things really started to work well.

"We are making our future."

It isn’t easy. When you farm, you work every day. You make every moment count and there are never enough hours for all the work that needs to be done. As I work I talk to my plants. I say ‘please grow. I believe in you.’

God says if you plant you will get back what you planted and over time that has happened. It was so wonderful when my garden started to show signs of success. Now my partner and I each have a tunnel and we also have a second plot with mealies, beans, pumpkin and watermelons. There is no tap there but it is close to the river so we make a plan. In the last few days it has rained so much that we think that God is watering for us. There has been such a lot of rain that we think maybe he has forgotten to turn off the tap!

There is so much joy that can come out of a food garden. There are different sorts of joy.

First there is the joy of selling and being able to provide for your family – last week I went to the market with my produce and the people bought everything. It was so lovely. I sold big bunches of spinach and beetroot for R10 and it was wonderful to know that we are living from our land. We are making our future. We can see it happening.


Then there is the joy of eating from your garden – I love cooking. It makes me really happy. Even before I eat, there is joy in the smells and the creativity. I don’t use recipes, I let the ingredients guide me. Eating well is important. Now that the garden is doing good we can eat fruit and vegetables – something green, something red, and something orange – every day.

I think that this healthy diet is really helping my son. He is good at mathematics and reading and I am sure that the garden produce has helped with that. They say that cabbage is good for the brain so I make sure he has a lot of that. Also, tinned fish for memory and mind development.

I think the garden helps my son’s development in another way. I think it has helped him to see me and his father working and succeeding. He has started his own little garden patch and planted beans. They are growing well and he is so proud of them. He tells me “Mama I am going to sell these beans and help you.” I am so impressed with him. It isn’t just a little boy playing. He has a proper plan. He sees us saving money and he has learnt. The other day he said to me ‘when my beans are ready I will sell them for 10 Rand. I will save 5 Rand and the other 5 Rand I am going to go to the hair saloon (sic) and get a German cut!’ He also told me that if I need money he will lend it to me from his savings. I think the garden is teaching him how to work hard for himself and be independent. That is an investment in the man he will grow up to be.

The third joy is being able to see into the future – both for my family but also for my community. Once you have a garden you start to think about the future. You have to because that is the way plants are. You plant now and then you have faith that in the months ahead things will happen.

Once you start thinking that way it is hard to stop. I do it all the time now. I look at the ugly dumping sites in our area and I think we can clear that and make another plot for mealies and pumpkins. I look at the apricots on the trees and I think we could make jam. I see the watermelons and I think ‘can I make watermelon and cucumber juice to sell at the market?’ The problem with jams and juices is that people around here don’t have money for those kinds of products but I think that is a reason to look at the markets in town where there is more money.

I have always liked to do massage so now I look forward and think ‘maybe I should plant lavender so that I can make herbal massage oils’. The massage and beauty aspect of gardens interests me. I think that there could be a side hustle in manicures and massage and maybe even hair dressing. All those things use oils. It is a new idea but with a bit of training I think that I could really make that business work.

All these plans for the future are in my head and every day I do something to get closer to those dreams. Next year we want to move into my own home. I have been to the municipality and I am getting title deeds for my own space. I want to have pigs and cows and organic chickens and start selling. Over time I want to become a big farmer serving a much wider market, making more money. I want that not only for me and my family but also so that I can help my community. My plan for the future is to grow enough that I can donate to schools and give to orphans and old people. In the long term I want to be able to employ other people too.

None of this is easy. None of it happens right away. But through God, all things are possible. I have decided that the way to be is to think carefully about the plan, then think about how to get to that goal and then to start imagining how being in that new life would look and feel.

Once you imagine it fully and from all sides, you can do it.


Nkageleng Tlelima
Nkageleng Tlelima
Nkageleng Tlelima