BBL PARTICIPANT: Thabo Makanatle, Nchabeleng, Sekhukhune, Limpopo
In a Nutshell
Through his participation in SocioTech’s Broad-Based Livelihoods (BBL) strategies to stimulate personal economic activity, Thabo Makanatle from Nchabeleng in Sekhukhune, Limpopo …..
I grew up helping my grandmother - Mogomohtlha Legare - in her food garden. When I was very young it was little things like weeding and bird scaring. Later we worked side by side. She grew all those traditional plants; mielies, those little white beans we call stopi, dinawa (cow peas), ditlou (bambara nuts), legapu melons.
When she cooked, she wasted nothing.
For instance, bean leaves are morogo, pumpkin seeds are a tasty snack. Bogobe, dikgobe - those are the foods a child needs to grow strong. I still eat that way and I encourage my 11-year-old daughter to do the same.
I follow my grandmother’s example in other ways too. A lot of the gardening techniques that I use today I learnt from her. It is not just her farming methods. It is also the way I shape my working day. For instance, before I go to the garden, I make bread dough. Not a fancy thing - just a simple thing with flour and yeast and water- and then I let it rise while I am gardening. Later I come back and bake the bread between two iron pot lids with hot coals on top to make an oven. That is something she always did. It is delicious with morogo or a tomato gravy. Every time I do it, I think of her. It’s nice having those connections with the past. It would be very nice if you could come here, and I can teach you to cook traditional food.
I also try and follow her example by sharing the vegetables I grow. I know what it feels like to have nothing. I sell to people who can afford to buy but if an indigent person comes to me, I always give them food from my garden. I don’t want anyone to starve while I have vegetables.
"I think it’s good for boys to hunt because it teaches them about family responsibilities. ."
I think that sharing way of life was taught to me in other ways too. Growing up we boys caught all sorts of creatures – it was just us boys, girls didn’t have time because they were busy with tasks like fetching water. In the summer there were makantwane grasshoppers and in the winter, there were red ants who would build homes in mounds of sand - we used blades of grass as a tool to pull them out. We used catapults for birds, and I had my two hunting dogs, Style and Jumbo, for rabbits. The smaller things we tended to cook and share in the fields amongst us boys, but the bigger animals we took home for our families. I think it’s good for boys to hunt because it teaches them about family responsibilities. You don’t just catch a rabbit and eat it all by yourself. You are part of a community. That meat must be shared. It is what makes us human.
When I left school, my dream was to work with water. I understood that it is a vital community resource and I hoped to work for government projects supplying our people. I thought that water was the best way to help people – once you have water all the other things can happen – farming, building, almost all businesses need water. Sadly, I couldn’t find work in that area, so I worked as a groundsman at a hospital for a while and then I came here in 2017 to work my own land.
"That is a plan for a side hustle."
One of the things I learnt as a groundsman was topiary – clipping and shaping bushes – you can see that I have one section of my land that I use for vegetables and the rest is pretty, with maze designs and roses and rosemary. That part of the garden I want to use as an eventing space – if people have a wedding they can come here and take pictures. The area is big, so they could put out long tables or a tent. That is a plan for a side hustle.
I was thinking if the chefs from Joburg come to cook here, maybe the function could be held here.
In addition to the creativity in my garden, I also like to do other creative things – welding, woodwork, and most of all cement craft. I have made plant pots using egg boxes and cement.
My other plan is to get into berries. I met Mr Damba from SocioTech last year and we have been talking about looking for gaps in the market. I think berries are that gap. Not many people grow them, and people around here love them. I already do good business growing strawberries.
My dream for the next five years, is to become known as the berry man. To do that I would need more space than I currently work on. There is some extra land that my grandmother had. I could use that for berries, but I need to save up money for water pipes and fencing.
I am making plans.