BBL PARTICIPANT: Peggy Rasebopye, Pankop, Mpumalanga Province
In a Nutshell
Through her participation in SocioTech’s Broad-Based Livelihoods (BBL) strategies to stimulate personal economic activity, Peggy Rasebopye from Pankop in Mpumalanga has added to her pre-existing farming skills. She is in the early stages of business development.
I attended the Mantlole Combined School. Our teacher, Mr Maraba, was a great inspiration to me. Those teachers that we had in the 1960s didn’t just teach us the topics in the textbooks, they also taught us how to think logically. I use that ability to analyse a problem and find solutions every day. For instance, I do a lot of pottery work and if I see a pot or a bowl that I like, I can look at it and work out how it was made.
During the time I was at school – all the time from what we called Sub A until my matric exams - I was never in second position. Only once, when I got to Matric, did a fellow pupil called Michael Selomi, beat me into second place but that was the only time. I think, if my life had gone differently, I might have become a nurse. My family didn’t approve of further education for girls – they thought that if a young lady was highly qualified her husband would become lazy and take advantage of her. I didn’t like their decision, but I had no choice. Sometimes it makes me sad that I didn’t study further because I can see that if my life had been different, by now I would be a matron with badges all over the epaulettes of my uniform. But that was not the path I took. Instead, I got a job at the Babelegi factory as a seamstress and later I worked as a clerk and then an assistant manager at the Department of Home Affairs. Then lobola came and after that they classified married women as temporary staff which is so unfair. Even though I worked for many years I was always classified as temporary.
Before any of that, when I was still at school I would come home and have to work. In those days children and adults worked hard for everything. Each day I had to fetch water, help with the vegetable garden, cook and clean. My parents grew sweet potatoes, pumpkins, peppers. My father had a kraal with cattle. We grew maize and there was a hand mill to grind it. That is something I miss – when you mill your own mielie meal it tastes much better. It is rich and flavoursome. Not like the stuff you buy at the shop.
"I use that to analyse a problem and find solutions every day."
For me food gardening and cooking and health have always gone together. We were taught that in childhood and I stick to that way of seeing the world. When the plants are right there growing you can cook them straight from the garden and you have so many more options in the way you cook. For instance, a pumpkin from a shop is just that, the pumpkin, but if you have them in your garden you can use the stems and leaves too. And you can choose when to pick the pumpkin. I love to use leaves, stems and young pumpkins in my pampoen morogo. You take leaves, not everything but for instance every 2nd or 3rd leaf so that the plant can still grow, and you take a few very small, green pumpkins. Those young ones you don’t need to peel you just use them with the skin. With the leaves and stems you have to peel off those stringy spikes. Then you cook it very simply, just boiled in salted water with a little onion and at the end you mix in some peanut butter to give it that lovely rich taste.
That traditional way of growing, cooking and eating is very healthy. If I think about my parents’ generation, they were never at the hospital - only occasionally if they had an aching tooth but other than that they lived long, strong lives. One of the things I like about the people from SocioTech is that I can see a lot of the old ways in ideas like the Food Robot. A Food Robot is very similar to the way our parents traditionally ate.
I first met Jabu and Mandla from SocioTech in late 2018 or perhaps early 2019. In those days I was part of a traditional dance group (we were called Bomme Ba Kutlwano) and we used to meet to choreograph and practice routines at the Rebone Lesedi community centre. SocioTech training sessions also happened there and one day we were invited to participate. I have been gardening for a long time but there are always new things to learn, and I did benefit from the things that Jabu and Mandla taught me. Those deep trenches were not something that I had done before.
The way I see it gardening is an all-round health plan. If you work in a garden, you save money and you also get fit. If you work in a garden, you can grow medicine like lengana. All through Covid-19 we stayed healthy in this house because I made a lengana syrup (with lemon and garlic and honey) and we all had a spoonful every day. The little children love it. If I forget to give them their daily dose, they follow me around saying: “Mama lengana”.
After the MyFood training, I did the MyFuture sessions with Charles. That was when I got very emotional. It was exactly what I wanted, and it spoke to me on so many levels. It helped me to understand how different parts of my life fit together. They seem separate but they can be considered as a single vision, Charles talked about the spirituality of all things and how we need to consider God at the centre. If you do that everything else flows from that. Discipline, hard work, success in business, relationships with your family and friends, success in all areas of life, they will all come once you put God at the centre of your life.
These days, I still work with the women who were in my dance group. We are not dancing anymore but we are still a team. When we first did the MyFood training we collected all our cans and bones together and we dug our garden trenches together. Some of us are more experienced than others so we support each other. If someone is sick or must be away from their garden, we all help out.
"It is still early days, but we aim to make this into a business. "
Now we are concentrating on pottery. We use recycled materials like coffee cans and pilchard tins to make the frame and then we build our pots around that structure. We make flowerpots, bowls, plates in a range of different shapes and sizes. It is still early days, but we aim to make this into a business. We are considering how we should get publicity so that customers will know about our products. We were thinking maybe a website. Someone suggested Instagram. Our hope is that over time we will be able to supply garden shops and supermarkets.
The lovely thing about Charles is that he told us if you ever need any advice that we must call him, and he will come. And he does. A lot of people promise to do things but not many of them actually do what they say that they will do. If there is a problem, Charles comes. He thinks about a problem, and he doesn’t just give us an answer. He takes time and helps us to think through what the solutions can be. He has become like a spiritual guide and motivator to me. Like a priest, a brother, a son. I am rich because I have him in my life.