Tsakane Ekurhuleni

BBL PARTICIPANT: Nozuko Lusiki, Tsakane, Ekurhuleni, Gauteng

In a Nutshell

Through her participation in SocioTech’s Broad-Based Livelihoods (BBL) strategies to stimulate personal economic activity, Nozuko Lusiki has gained the skills to provide food for her family. Her business selling vegetables is gaining momentum and she has a five-year plan in place.  

She says…

Nozuko Lusiki (Tsakane) (1)

I grew up in Mthata in the Eastern Cape. In primary school, we had agriculture as part of the curriculum, and I really enjoyed it, but I gave it up in favour of sewing in grade 5. I really regret that now. Well, actually, I do and I don’t. For a long time, I worked at Edcon processing and quality controlling clothing manufacture, so sewing did become a part of my life. But then in 2020, along came COVID and I was retrenched. 

I remember sitting at home watching TV feeling really depressed. Worrying about the future. Not really knowing what to do next. Because I had all this extra time, I started to walk around my neighbourhood, and I noticed a field that had been left to become an illegal dumping ground. It bothered me that every day this dirty, dangerous pile of rubbish was getting bigger and bigger. Not only was it dangerous but it was also a waste of good soil. I could see that under all that rubbish was potential. 

I spoke to some friends, and we decided the if the land was cleared, we could start a food garden. This was at the start of COVID when money for food was so scarce. It seemed like the obvious way forward. The plan was to clear the waste off the land, then plant a food garden and through that to eliminate hunger in our area. At first, there were only 4 of us. People thought we were mad when they saw what we were doing, but as time has gone by and the results of our labours have become clear, others have seen the wisdom in our plan. Many of those who were sceptical at first have now joined us. We are 22 people now. The way we work is that we each have our own planting space, but we support each other, sharing tools and experience. 

Somewhere along the way we heard about the SocioTech training, and we went along. That training changed everything. We learnt a lot about tunnels and irrigation and soil preparation but most of all, it changed the way we thought about our work. We went in thinking we were unemployed people growing vegetables. We came out understanding that we were small farmers providing an important service in the community.

"While I work in my garden I think about the future, and I am busy developing a five-year plan."

Things really took off when the tunnels came. Before that we had been very vulnerable to birds and heat but with the protection of the tunnels everything got better. The quality of the vegetables in those tunnels is beautiful. In our group we don’t yet have enough tunnels, so we grow inside and outside the tunnels. This means that we can very clearly see the difference. The different areas taste different too. I like cooking and the
pumpkin leaves that come from inside the tunnel are so delicious. Green and juicy and a little bit sweet. Quite soon we are going to need more space – our vision is to start farming on a much larger scale and supply shops, hospitals, schools and so forth. The MyFuture training has helped us to shape that vision. The basic idea is that you should start small and once that small side hustle is working, expand and move as you see opportunities. While I work in my garden I think about the future, and I am busy developing a five-year plan. I don’t want dreams and fantasies that come to nothing. There is a lot of big talk in the world and usually that comes to nothing. I am making a clear plan with every step worked out.

Our sales are going really well. Some of our customers get to hear about us because they walk past and they see how beautiful the crops look. Other customers come to us via WhatsApp. We have a local WhatsApp group and when crops are ready photos are taken and put up. That system is working well but it would be wonderful to get some additional social media training. I am sure there are ways we could expand our business online.   

Nozuko Lusiki (Tsakane)
Nozuko Lusiki (Tsakane)

I am not saying that everything is perfect. In our area of the township, the big problem is water. It’s not a new thing. At the council they tell us that this upper level has a small water valve so during the day the lower level doesn’t get water. We also desperately need more fencing. Pigs, cows, goats get into the crops and create problems. 

All these food gardens have brought us together as a community. Last weekend we had a baby shower for my daughter. We set up long tables in the street and decorated them in a pretty yellow. Yellow napkins, yellow balloons. And all the vegetables for that feast came from our garden. The only things we had to buy were flour and sugar for the cakes and meat.

Even there, the meat had a garden element to it because Tsego who has a food garden in another part of the township brought some of her homemade chili sauce – she grows chilies in her tunnel – and we used that as a marinade. 

Quite a lot of the people in our gardening group are pensioners. Mostly old ladies. I started off giving them vegetables, but it seemed better to empower them so that is what I have done. Training others is very fulfilling. I love seeing change happen. Especially with old people. There is special soft spot in my heart and soul for our elders. Some of the people involved are unrecognisable. When they started, they were sick and frail and now these old grannies say: “you have changed my life. I was tired and now I am fresh!” 

I know just how they feel. When I started, I was full of fear for the future, but I have seen that with my own two hands I can improve things. If I have got this far, why not try to go further?