BBL PARTICIPANT: Yvonne Sono, Pankop, Limpopo
In a Nutshell
Through her participation in SocioTech’s Broad-Based Livelihoods (BBL) strategies to stimulate personal economic activity, Yvonne Sono has learnt the skills to provide food for her family.
She is gradually growing in business confidence. Her relationship with both her father and her child have been transformed.
To be honest, I knew nothing about growing vegetables when I did the MyFood class at the beginning of 2020. Absolutely everything was new, and everything was tiring! Digging was such hard work – that was the worst part. We had had no rain for months, so the ground was very hard. I kept going by telling myself that for young women like me in South Africa there are no jobs. I can’t wait for the President to give me a grant. I have hands and it is better to use them than to worry about how I will feed my child or what he will wear.
Because I had no previous experience with food gardening everyone doubted me. They said: “that girl won’t even last two days.” But here I am nearly three years later with a beautiful crop of beetroots, carrots and onions. As I water my plants, I say to them: “Come on. Make me proud. Let’s show all the doubters what we can do.”
My vegetables now grow very nicely. My problem is turning food gardening into business and profit. My friends and family are worse than the birds. They are eating my money. Vegetables are being eaten by people who think that I should give them for free. It’s strange because they wouldn’t go into Shoprite and take the tomatoes away without paying but somehow if a person you know grows that tomato … I haven’t given everything away and I have made some money. I grew chilies and I made a peri-peri sauce with garlic and vinegar and a bit of salt. I sold those bottles at R20 for 250 ml and I made a profit of R1200.
"I can't wait for the President to give me a grant. I have hands..."
With my nine-year-old son I have always had the opposite problem. Until recently I had to work really hard to get him to eat vegetables. He was more of a meat and milk man. He had a terrible tendency of pushing any vegetables that I put into a stew or sauce to the side of his plate. So, when he finished his meal there would be a pile of green pepper bits and onion. That drives me mad. But recently, I see that this is changing. He has been coming with me to the garden - he doesn’t help with the garden, but he has a nice time jumping between the trenches – and the more he is with the plants and understands what it is I am doing, the more he is willing to eat them. Recently I was astonished because he saw someone making a smoothie on the TV and he said to me: “Please will you make me a green smoothie”. I said to him: “If I make it, you must drink the whole thing” and he did!
Another nice thing about getting into food gardening has been that it has changed my relationship with my father. My mother told me that years ago he was unemployed, so he planted in their yard and they survived on the money he made selling those vegetables. I didn’t know that, because it was before I was born and for all my life he has been a man with a job. And then when lockdown came his employer said that everyone over 60 years of age should stay at home, so he came to work with me in the vegetable garden. He was very fierce about it. He said we must get up at 5am and that we could only have 30 minutes for lunch. Before he came, I wasn’t working like that, but it was good for us both and it was good for the plants. In the garden, I got to see a whole new side of him. We are much closer now than we were before. As we work in the garden we talk. Growing up I was always afraid of him but the man I worked with during lockdown has become a good friend. He was happy. He told jokes. He has gone back to work, but he recently bought some land so that we can increase the quantity of vegetables we grow and start to supply shops.
That plan will only work if I keep reminding myself how business works. I have recently done the MyFuture training with Charles Bisimwa from SocioTech, and going forward I am going to have to get strict about making my family and friends pay for vegetables. I know it is going to be hard, but friendship and business cannot be mixed. Right now, I am planting for the season ahead and I have made myself a promise that these plants will not be given away. After all, I pay for the seedlings. I buy the electricity to power the pump. That is money I have paid out. I have used my time, my money, my sweat to dig and plant and weed and water. If I just give, give, give I won’t go anywhere.
Part of my determination is that I want to show those people who doubted me that I can make something of myself but a bigger part of it is that I want to show myself and my son and my dad that I can create a comfortable life for us all. I have realized that I can control my life, manage my money and make my dreams come true.
"I can create a comfortable life for us all."