News & Events
Beautiful Land, Beautiful People.
If you have never traveled the excellent tar road across the Elundini District from the town of Elliot through Ugie, Maclear and Mt Fletcher to Matatiele then you are unfortunate. You are missing possibly the most beautiful part of South Africa. On the commercial farms crops grow in stunning abundance and legendary trout streams flow through meadows and forests. Everywhere there is the magnificent backdrop of the Maluti Range leading up to Lesotho, with giant buttresses of sandstone and of granite.
Not far from Maclear you cross the Tsitsa River and enter the former Transkei. Here the story is different. The country side dotted with huts, houses and livestock is just as beautiful but it is clear that poverty is an old acquaintance here. But if you knew where to stop and who to talk to you would find a story as beautiful as the land, and as full of promise.
Development efforts in the area have brought dramatic benefits to livestock owners. But until the growth in their flocks is turned into cash through selling many more sheep and goats the average household income remains pitifully low and social grants are an almost essential part of survival. In this setting, a project to develop good homestead gardens ran for a few years until mid 2009. The idea was that households suffered from poor nutrition and food insecurity so to have the right foods available at the home all year round would make a real difference to ordinary people and especially to children and the sick. The project was a great success with simple new technologies (notably the keyhole garden) and improved access to seeds and seedlings being used by the 400 households involved. Surveys at the time showed that over 90% of participating households reported that they got “much more” quantity and variety from their gardens than in the past.
Usually, that is where the story ends and there is little or nothing left to see shortly after the project closes. The beauty of the Elundini livestock and gardens projects is that this was prevented. Instead, local people who participated in the projects were selected and trained from early on to take over the core project functions. Areas like Elundini have a crippling lack of access to basics like animal health products and seeds and seed lings so the core function was to remove these obstacles.
The 10 trained livestock workers sell livestock medicines by traveling village to village and have actually increased the scale of outreach compared to the project that launched them as micro enterprises. and from which they make a living. They make a net income of about R 4000 a month on average from this and in so doing provide vital animal health services to about 60 000 animals a month.
The three specially trained gardeners keep the flow of seeds and seedlings going but there is no money to be made from this. So they do from the heart, for nothing other than the pleasure of helping others to enjoy what they already have. They provide encouragement to existing gardeners and advice to new gardeners.
If you traveled through Elundini you could meet Ms Nothembinkosi Jezile at Hlankomo village and walk around the village with her and enjoy seeing each garden and its proud owner. The gardeners say that they will “never stop” because they love the feeling of being fit and healthy since they started producing their own vegetables and they love seeing the children more healthy and happy. They take orders from those who do not have gardens and make a little money which helps them buy seeds and seedlings. They say that they love having their garden at their own home and are not interested in group schemes.
You could go with Ms Jezile toward the hills and find the new Mdeni Senior Primary School at the village of Itsikarong. Here she has, with the active co-operation of teachers and pupils, guided the development of a school garden. This produced a bumper potato crop in its first year and the teachers are being guided by her on the planting of winter crops. Nearby you could meet Ms Zolile April who is growing her fist ever garden thanks to Ms Jezile. Once a month Ms Jezile takes the bus to Hlankomo to meet Mr Bejile Wana to collect seedlings. He was a mentor on the livestock project and has remained in the area to appraise how well the project effort is being sustained and to facilitate the continued access to livestock medicine, seeds and seedlings.
You could join Bejile as he travels to Etyeni village and meet Ms Makanyapa Laphaile or to Zwelitsha village to meet Eunice Masakala, both of whom are working in the same way as Ms Jezile. You would hear the same talk of what they are doing for other gardeners and you would be amazed and humbled by the generosity of spirit and pride in a job worth doing.
Perhaps you should make that trip to Elundini.
• Standard Bank is sponsoring the development of a national system of standards for farmer mentor selection, training and management so that mentorship can play a full and vital role in rural and agrarian reform leading to a successful rural and national economy. This approach is being piloted In the Eastern Cape and Free State but is intended for national use. Mentors have already been trained under systems developed through the grant and are being deployed to actual project, commonages and farms. Stakeholders from in and outside the province are strongly encouraged to visit these projects and to talk to mentors and farmers to see how the system is working. By mid 2011 stakeholders will be invited to a seminar to make inputs on what they see as working well and what should be changed.
Mngcunube is proud to have been entrusted with implementing the mentorship project. We cordially invite interested stakeholders to contact Dave Mullins at firstname.lastname@example.org or Jack Blaker at email@example.com about visiting the project to learn for yourselves, in dialogue with mentors and mentees, how the systems and approach are working. You are also invited to register an interest in attending the final seminar.
• The media often report on problems with farms acquired under the national programme of land reform. Mngcunube has for over 10 years been promoting the need for suitable support for land reform beneficiaries and other black farmers whether on private land, commonage or communal lands. To learn more about what we say and what we have done, ask us for a free copy of a documentary made by the SABC TV programme ‘Special Assignment’. Email Jack Blaker at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will post you a free DVD.