Tag Archives: resilience

Every Home Must Have a Garden

“Every home must have a garden” declares Ntombenhle Mtambo passionately.

Not content with turning her tiny back yard into a food forest, Ntombenhle has been pestering the uMngeni Municipality for the past 8 years to allow her to use a vacant plot, which Mpophomeni residents have been using as a dumping site, for a food garden.

r dumpsite with n3tc

“This is so important,” she says, “Everyone should have the ability to afford a healthy lifestyle. In this garden we will share skills and teach people to recycle all the things they think are waste.”

r barrowfull of plastic waste

The Mpophomeni Conservation Group has set about creating this community garden with great gusto. Watch this short video of the original dream: https://vimeo.com/92513329

Volunteers began a few months ago, clearing the rubbish from the site – eish, so much buried plastic and chunks of concrete!

r Mpop clearing rubbish JPG

Neighbour, Bonokwakhe Madlala brought them all gloves when he noticed they were working with bare hands.

glove man

Then Hilton and Howick Rotary, who share Ntombenhle’s vision, erected a fence to keep the goats and chickens out.

late afternoon light 140

A fence is absolutely essential if you want to grow food in a township where livestock roams freely.

late afternoon light 151

Thandi Sheleme who runs the crèche next door to the garden is terribly excited and keen to start a garden on her side of the new fence too.

mpop garden creche

Paul Duncan of Dovehouse helped draw up a plan based on permaculture principles. Zane Mnchunu of MIDI, who are delighted to be associated with the MCG garden commented Paul’s a magician, I’m convinced! What a man. Well done guys. Garden is looking good.

Paul designing mpop garden 327

Quick as a flash, swales were dug to harvest the rain and beds were made.

r mpop garden october digging swale

Ntombenhle and Tutu have been planting seeds at Qhamukile School nearby, so were able to collect lots of seedlings for the new garden from there – including onions, spinach and comfrey.

r mpop garden october onions

Barend Booysen brought bags of manure and mulch and some Vepris lanceolata trees.  “I am blown away by what is happening here. I can see a big future for this project.” he said, “I will be drop by with more whenever I am in the area.”

r mpop garden october barend

Alex March of Nkosi Nursery delivered indigenous trees and shrubs for windbreaks, shade, medicine and wildlife including Ouhout, Celtis, Buddleja, lots of aloes, Artemesia, Rhus lanceolata, Freylinia.  He donated a whole bunch too.

r trees

Fortunately, the rain arrived soon after, so digging holes was not too much of a challenge and planting commenced with gusto.

r nathi ntombenhle mpop garden 078

The small stream that runs through the site is ideal for watering everything.  The water is clean and fresh. Plans are afoot to plant arums and incema in the waterlogged areas.

r mpop garden october collecting water

Margie Pretorius visited the fledgling garden, was terribly impressed and sponsored a whole lot of fruit trees, herbs, seeds and seedlings.

late afternoon light 141

Ntombenhle popped into Hopewells to stock up – Peppers, Brinjals, Beetroot and Kale seedlings and seeds of nasturtium, coriander, courgette, beans, sunflowers, carrots, parsley and fennel.

r ntombenhle hopewells

Every day as the volunteers clear and dig, people stop by to chat about the project. Ntombenhle says “A guy from the municipality stopped by too. He was speechless. They made us wait so long for permission to create this garden. Now they can see for themselves what we can do.”

r mpop garden october 038 planting spinach

Mrs Mncube who owns the Tuck Shop across the road brings over trays of tea and sandwiches to keep them going.

tea and sandwiches mpop garden 308

N3TC have sponsored some inspiring learning for the group – to Enaleni Agro-Ecological Farm to learn to bake bread and make fruit cordials, and to the Khula Shanti Food Garden to discover pea pyramids, chicken tractors and the importance of rocks in the garden.

r rock in mpop garden 109

Ntombenhle concludes “This piece of land is going to bring lots of fun, unity in the community, new skills and challenges. I can see a bright future if the community roll up their sleeves and learn to make money out of waste and gardening.”

r mpop garden october 023 planting row

Come and see for yourself what is happening on the corner of Mhlongo and Stadium Roads in Mpophomeni. Or like them on facebook.com/MpopConserve

Clearing out your garage this holiday?  Ntombenhle will be very grateful for used roofing and poles to create a shelter, pieces of shade cloth, wire, trellis, watering cans, garden tools. They do need as much mulch (hay) and manure as they can get their hands on – so if you are clearing out the stables too…..  She is quite determined not to spend any money on these items and rather make use of/recycle things other people no longer need.  Contact her on 071 916 2550.

r seeds

We Are What We Eat

Seven members of the Mpophomeni Conservation Group visited Enaleni Farm recently. Enaleni is an agro-ecological mixed farm – a place of abundance.r Mpop Kidz Club 260

At Enaleni, Richard Haigh and Dave Brennan, grow most of their food. All the pulses, herbs, fruit and vegetables they need and much of the maize. The maize variety is heirloom. It is called ugati gati – traditional Zulu red maize. While Enaleni farm is a small operation – it is BIG in terms of animal care and compassion. All the rare and primitive breeds of animals, birds and vegetables mean they are making a big contribution to food diversity too. Richard takes great joy in celebrating the uniqueness of our food heritage – particularly Zulu culture – and farming with hardy ‘indigenous’ breeds which have adapted to tough African conditions.

r enaleni ugati gati drying

The idea of the workshop, funded by N3TC, was to inspire the Mpophomeni Conservation Group to add value to the food they grow already, to learn how to keep money flowing in the community, and produce food that neighbours would like to buy and which is much healthier than store bought alternatives.

r Mpop Kidz Club 271

The day included with a farm tour – visiting the permaculture veggie garden to gather ingredients for lunch.

r picking intofeshe

They also visited the Zulu sheep, dairy cows, Colebrook pigs, indigenous fowls, and rabbits. This was animal lover, Penelope Malinga’s, favourite part of the day. “Although their destiny is to be eaten, at least their lives are worthwhile. The spotted pigs were adorable.”

r enaleni piglets

At Enaleni they grow orchids too – everyone was amazed at the beautiful blooms and incredible colours.  “I have never seen such flowers,” said Tutu Zuma, “or such beautiful chickens.”

Enaleni indigenous chickens.res

As most of the group are using low energy cooking options, harvesting water and aiming at sustainable lifestyles, they were interested in the alternate infrastructure which Enaleni had installed, including a solar water pump. “It was a great day to learn and see different things, feeding my brain with more knowledge. One thing I really liked was learning new skills by action.” commented Tutu.

r solar panels

This is what they made: real bread, pasta (cannelloni), yoghurt cake, cordial, mayonnaise, butter, bottled guavas, rhubarb and apple crumble and a rhubarb relish.

r Mpop Kidz Club 292

These recipes are tried and tested on the farm and are made regularly. Richard pointed out that the method of making is as important as the ingredients. “Don’t cook in a hurry, take your time and enjoy the process of preserving and transforming food.” Everyone took home a set of notes. “Everyone needs bread and most people dig mayo,” said Penelope – looking forward to trying out her new talents.

r Penz mixing bread

They stuffed the cannelloni with spinach and cheese for lunch. Richard shared plenty of tips and anecdotes throughout the day “We started off making pasta with a hand pasta machine that broke the first time we used it. In Italy we witnessed people hand rolling pasta with a rolling pin, needless to say we now only ever hand roll our pasta. The trick with pasta is in the method. It’s all a ‘feel’ thing given that eggs are not equal in size and flour varies. We use a quality stone ground flour and fresh farm eggs.”

r Mpop Kidz Club 716

Richard’s advice for bottling surplus produce: “The essential rule with bottling is hygiene and hotness at the time of bottling and focus. If you have a mobile phone turn it off or better still throw it away. Make sure that the bottles are washed in hot soapy water and placed in the oven for 20minutes at 100o C or boiled for 10 minutes. Always use new lids and never plastic lids if you want to keep what you have bottled for several months. Bottle only when bottles are hot and add boiling water to lids just before screwing them on. Never add cold ingredients to a hot bottle. Use stainless steel spoons and stirrers. We keep some bottled produce for 2 even 3 years successfully. Store in a dark place if you want to keep what you have bottled for a longer time in a cool area.”

r bottling guava

While everyone was squeezing oranges, kneading dough and slicing fruit, there was ample time for discussion about nutrition. Richard explained the E numbers on food labels – the colourants and preservatives and other additives in processed food. Many people do not read the labels on the food they buy and they do not know what is in the food they eat. These things are generally very bad for your health. They are added by food companies to make food look nicer, last longer and taste better. “Yoh, today was one of the most special days of my life” commented Ayanda Lipheyana, “I will never forget this awesome experience. I enjoyed every minute, but like making the cordial juice the most.”

r Mpop Kidz Club 731

Richard Haigh also had a good day. “What a nice group to work with – energetic doers and all so appreciative. We had a busy day to say the least. I’ve asked them to please implement their new skills within 14 days and 7 days if possible, as it is well known that unless there is practice within two weeks, skills are often forgotten.”  Nathi Adam was impressed at how healthy and simple to prepare the food was. “I had an amazing time at Enaleni, I have already made cordial and prepared spinach the Enaleni way.”

r Mpop Kidz Club 823

Tutu got stuck in right away too “I have made cordial, baked a bread, cooked spinach with cheese and turned rhubarb in my garden into a relish for my family. I will never buy butter again, now that I know how to make  it.  I am starting to be a friend to my kitchen!” she reported after a couple of days. Thembilihle Mchunu had made some delicious cakes for her family. “I am so proud to be one of the lucky people chosen to attend this workshop.” She said.

r Mpop Kidz Club 299

“We were treated like kings and queens,” concludes Ntombenhle Mtambo, “we will treasure everything we learnt this day and teach others. Richard and Dave are heroes – they have planned everything on the farm with love and care and now they have it all. I wish one day to copy their example, or at least work with other people who have a farm like that.”  Ntombenhle was delighted to be able to try her hand at bottle feeding a little lamb.

r entle feeding lamb4

Before returning home, everyone sat down to a delicious wholesome lunch including the food they had just made. Soon, they will gather a few neighbours who were not able to attend the workshop, to share their new skills and knowledge and bake a batch of real bread to celebrate!

r bread

This programme is part of the Midlands Conservancies Forum’s Building Resilient Communities Project which is funded by N3Toll Concession.

r making bread Mpop

Green Grant Builds Resilience in Mpophomeni

A small group of conservationists, food growers and environmental activists have started the Mpophomeni Conservation Group under the auspices of Midlands Conservancies Forum.  They host regular walks and talks, screen environmental movies and hold discussion groups on environmental issues. Their own organic food gardens are living/working examples of sustainable living.

r mpophomeni girls with cabbages

In South Africa, an estimated 1.5 million children suffer from malnutrition, 14 million people are vulnerable to food insecurity, 43% of households suffer from food poverty.  School children who are hungry cannot concentrate or perform to their potential.  There are 35 000 residents in Mpophomeni, the HIV rate is over 60%, and Unemployment about 80%.

The Global Green Grants Fund have provided funding to start this process.  To begin with, low energy cooking equipment was purchased.  Ntombenhle Mtambo was so delighted with the Wonderbag and Sunstove “We can do other things while our food cooks, we don’t have to watch it all the time and it will save so much electricity.”

r mpophomeni girls with cookers

Tutu Zuma set water on to heat right away in her SunStove for herbal tea (herbs just picked from her garden, naturally).

tutu sunstoves mpop res

That evening Penz Malinga made vegetable curry on the Istofu and was amazed at how little wood it needed to cook “It’s unbelievable”, while Tutu’s neighbours all snuggled around hers as it kept them warm indoors – no smoke!

penz with istofu.crop. jpg

A week later, some of the garden equipment arrived. Penz had the most fun spraypainting red symbols so they would be identifiable.

r mpophomeni tools spray painting

Ntombenhle Mtambo is absolutely thrilled. “I have never owned so many tools, before my hands were my tools. I love them all! Now we have to go out there and educate people about how to grow food and help each other.”

r mpop ntombenhle is thrilled

Lindiwe Mkhize “My favourite tool is the small yellow garden trowel. First I have to use the pick remake my veggie beds and collect manure in my bucket.” 

r lindiwe ntombehle mpophomeni tools 030

Shine Murphy helped with delivery and was rewarded with an impressive cabbage!

cabbage for shine res

Despite her garden being absolutely devastated by rats this winter, Ntombenhle has redesigned and replanted with renewed enthusiasm – see her wonderful old garden at:  http://plantabundance.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/permaculture-princess/

ntombenhle new garden Aug 2013 mpop res

Memebers of the Mpophomeni Kidz Club (aso an MCG intiative) are also excited by the abundance of tools and cannot wait to start helping in one another’s gardens. The hosepipe is their absolute favourite!

helping tutu water  mpop res

Penz has already planted peanuts and rhubarb, a tree tomato, peas, onions and spinach and built a compost heap.

penz compost heap aug 2013 mpop res

MCG plan to inspire others in their communities to think about their lifestyles with regards to sustainability, resilience, climate change, biodiversity conservation and animal rights.  Leading by example MCG intends to help and influence their neighbours , one garden at a time by hosting workshops and gardening parties (known as ilima in Zulu culture) to assist people to improve their gardens, grow indigenous plants and food plants.

101010 veggie garden in the making R

The idea being that being that while they work, they informally chat about recycling, sustainable living and environmental issues.  Their own lifestyles, homes and gardens will provide the inspiration to share their vision of a better, greener, kinder and more sustainable future for their community. Read more about Tutu Zuma’s inspiring garden at http://plantabundance.wordpress.com/2013/03/25/tutu-zumas-garden/

r bronze mustard chinese cabbage tutu mpop

Next up: water tanks and gutters to harvest rainwater, fencing to stop chickens and goats from helping themselves, a brushcutter and plenty of old hay to mulch the gardens and build more compost heaps.

bulelani goats mpop res

Ntombenhle and Tutu have approached the uMngeni Municipality to turn two areas of wasteland into community gardens.

“We would like to help the community we live in. We would like to see them learn to understand the importance of nature and caring for the environment where they live in their daily lives, every day.  Learning about these things will open their eyes, save money, water, energy and give them opportunities to earn money out of waste and gardening. 

We would love to get rid of all the dumping sites because they cause misery for those who live near them, the rubbish blocks the storm water drains, rotting things smell bad and can cause disease. We need to teach the community that much of the waste is useful so they stop dumping and causing problems. Education is key for people to take advantage of opportunities to grow food and improve their lives.  Programmes like “One Home, One Garden” fail because although they are given trees and seeds, most people do not have fences or information on how to make a garden or plant a tree.  We would like to help people to start gardens and be able to sell surplus or donate to those in need.

Previously, we have approached the Municipality, but despite promises, nothing has happened.  We are still standing and proud to carry on doing the things we believe are most important – growing food and helping the community.”

finger painting in mpop res.

Watch this exciting initiative unfold! Join Mpophomeni Hills group on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/321905831247501/