BBL PARTICIPANT: Nwabisa Ngangezwe, Bokamoso, Northwest Province
In a Nutshell
Through her participation in SocioTech’s Broad-Based Livelihoods (BBL) strategies to stimulate personal economic activity, Nwabisa Ngangezwe from Bokamoso in Northwest, has gained additional agricultural and small business knowledge. She is working with her son (and the family dog Miss Pretty) to create future family businesses.
I have been trying to farm for several years, but I only met Kwena about 3 months ago. It is hard to think it was so recent because I have already learnt such a lot from him. If I think what I have learnt, it is farming techniques, business techniques and life skills too.
In terms of farming techniques, before Kwena I was just digging, which is not enough. Now I know that you need to improve your soil and rotate crops. Before Kwena I thought tin cans and bones were just rubbish to be thrown away, whereas now I know that they are your secret superpower in the soil. From those bones and tins come iron and calcium which goes to the soil and then into the crops. When we eat those crops we benefit from the health giving properties in those minerals. It is the circle of life and a beautiful, productive way of seeing the world.
"your secret superpower in the soil."
"....I know that is a good way to start the day. "
If I think about what I have learnt about business from Kwena, it is to not mix your family food with the food you grow for business – don’t eat from the business stock. That family bed of mine makes me happy and healthy – I know most people have porridge for breakfast, but this morning I had lettuce and tomato for breakfast. Thanks to Kwena and his teachings about The Food Robot, I know that is a good way to start the day.
Another business tip Kwena taught me was to always keep careful records, have a budget, and allow the two to work side-by-side to create a better life. Before, I just sold. I didn’t have records. If you have a household budget and you know what you need, and you work out your business profit, you can know where you are with your business and you can start to move forward to where you want to be.
"It is just ubuntu in action, isn’t it? "
I used to keep all my livestock at the house with me. Sadly, I have had to move the chickens and pigs away from my house, because the neighbours complained about the flies and the smell. I don’t like separating things out, because it wastes time travelling between the businesses, and I worry about security. My dream is to have a plot of land where everything can be in one space. That will take saving, but I am on my way. I want to have a butchery on that space too. I had hoped that the butchery plan would happen this year, but I can see now that it will take saving and planning. I am still trying to work out how long that will take. I think that 5 years is too long. Probably 2 years and I will be there. Patience is not laziness, it is about making sure everything is ready and building confidence. Be proud of your work. Make sure it is always good quality and adds value to other people then they will buy.
My philosophy is that if you want to start then start. We have hands and legs so we must use them. There are people who are not lucky and do not have arms and legs to work but those of us who do, must do! We must teach others and not keep our skills to ourselves. Phinda-Phinda is what Kwena calls it. It is just ubuntu in action, isn’t it? We are all people; we need to support each other to be the best we can be.
It is not enough just to have a budget – you need to stick to it, and study it, and say to yourself: “This money is for investing in business, this money is for emergencies, this is for the household.” When you don’t separate it out, things get confused.
Once you know where you are, a lot of the fear of not knowing falls away. That is when you can really grow with confidence and pride.
In the beginning it is about putting more into business than into pleasure. Knowing what you are spending money on and whether you need those things sounds so simple, but actually it is really, really important. Through working like that, lives can change. Profit, and having money in your pocket, are not the same; and if you are not making profit, then you are not moving forward. You only know where you are by having records and studying them to make sure that you are where you think you are.
I have always had several income streams – my house is in a good location. Lots of people pass by it, so a hairdresser rents space from me inside my yard at R500 per month. I also have chickens – I sell those birds separately and as braai packs (2kg and 5kg). When people buy a chicken, I remove the head and feet and put those aside in the freezer. Then on weekends I take the heads and feet to town and braai - so that makes 2 separate businesses from one bird. I have pigs too and do the same thing with them.
My 10-year-old son has been watching and learnng. I am so proud of him. He is still small, but he knows that there is nothing for nothing. He has a little garden of his own and he sells from it. I told him if you want money for school, there is your garden. If you want a bicycle, I will meet you half-way. You earn half and I will put in half. He goes around picking up bottles and cans for recycling, because he has seen that there is some money in that. I did help get him started. I bought him seedlings and I showed him what Kwena had taught me, but then I said: “You dig.” And he started to dig.
"No one can push you. You must push you. "
I think perhaps it is the healthy vegetables that helped my son think so clearly about business. These vegetables of mine have no drugs. If I put down Blue Death after a few days, you don’t see it, but where do people think it went? It isn’t like magic. It doesn’t disappear. It has gone into the spinach. How can that be good? Growing brains shouldn’t be taking in that rubbish. I am so proud of that boy of mine. He is part of our family team. In this family we all work together for a better future. Even the dogs are part of the team. They are fierce with other people and keep us safe, but they love this family. Especially Miss Pretty. She keeps us safe.
The basic truth is that working hard is hard. You will feel pain – especially at the start of a project - but rather feel that pain of starting, than the pain of regretting. No one can push you. You must push you.