BBL PARTICIPANT: Paul Rihlampfu, Verena, Mpumalanga
In a Nutshell
Through his participation in SocioTech’s Broad-Based Livelihoods (BBL) strategies to stimulate personal economic activity, Paul Rihlampfu from Verena in Thembisile Hani, Mpumalanga has added to his food gardening skills and he is passing these skills on to his grandson.
He is also saving money because he no longer buys vegetables and fruit from the shops.
I was a bus driver in Mamelodi for 40 years but every spare moment I had I was in my garden. Most days, I would go to work, do the 5am to 9am rush hour then quickly come home and check on my garden. Then I would go back to work.
Being a person who loves working the land, I found the lack of space in Mamelodi very frustrating so, when I retired, I looked for somewhere with enough ground for me to fully explore my passion for farming. I found it here in Verena D.
I don’t have a family connection to this area but I have made good friends (mostly other food gardeners) and it suits me very well. There is such joy in finally being able to keep my own hours and work around the hours of plants. No one is after you. No one tells you what to do. You work in the early morning and then when the sun gets too hot you stop until it cools down.
I learnt so much by doing the BBL MyFood training. I had been gardening all my life but there are always new things to learn. I didn’t know about deep trenching with the papers and egg boxes and bones and so on to get that rich soil. That was new to me and has made such a difference to the way I work.
Learning those new techniques made me happy but, in a way, it was sad too because I realized how long I had been doing things in ways that could have been better. I realized that there is still so much to learn and that it is never too late to improve. If I had had these techniques years ago, I think I would have been a commercial farmer by now.
There is no sense in lamenting what is in the past. Now that I know these ways of working I intend to use them to the fullest. My vegetable garden is coming along very nicely. It is still early days, so, I mainly grow for me and my family but when people in the community walk past and see the vegetables in my garden they often ask if they can buy and I do sell. I tend to say: “Give me five Rand” and then I take that money and buy seeds or seedlings.
"....it is never to late to improve."
Because I am obsessed with seeds and growing my garden I don’t want to waste money on any unnecessary things. When I go into Checkers and I see that they are selling three tomatoes for R18 it makes me so sad for all those people who don’t have money and don’t have gardens. Why pay R18 when you can grow much better tasting tomatoes for much less money? Do they know how many seeds I can buy for R18? Food gardening is about health and cooking and nice recipes but it is also a good way to save.
Thanks to Pastor Damba and Mama Di from SocioTech, more and more people in this community understand this way of thinking.
My five-year old grandson comes to visit me here in the school holidays. We work the soil together. He is like my little shadow. What I do, he does. If I take the rake, he will want to use it too. When his mother telephones to check on him he tells her that he can’t talk because he is too busy planting vegetables! And then, at night, we sit together quietly and talk about our day and all the vegetables we will plant in our future…