The devastating Covid-19 pandemic forced many people to think out of the box and adapt to make a living. It was no different for women from Khayelitsha.
After retiring from the Independent Media group, Nokwanda Siga had to look at alternative ways to carve out a livelihood and she found this through vegetable farming.
At home one day, Ms Siga listened to a radio segment on how people could keep themselves during the hard lockdown. In all that, she picked up advice on farming where people were told that they can plant in tyres and tins, so to have their own garden, and most importantly, vegetables. She picked up the phone and called her neighbours about this farming idea. Some bought into it but others who had doubts rejected it.
But those who bought into the idea met with her and they then found out about a farming course by Abelimi Bezekhaya in Khayelitsha and enrolled in September last year. After the three-day course, they teamed up and called themselves Ebenezer Farmers – and as the saying goes, the rest is now history and they can now enjoy the fruits of their labour.
The new and emerging farmers from Khayelitsha are now trying new methods just outside their neighbourhood near Ithemba Labs.
They have secured a number of plots to farm and plough. They are farmers who historically have no background of professional farming but the course they did has been useful and at times they are given a helping hand by those who have been in the industry.
They have started harvesting and are happy with the progress.
Ms Siga said Covid-19 has been an eye-opener to them. She said if it had not been for it, maybe they would have done nothing. An excited Ms Siga said she started farming because she felt wasted at home. “When I heard over the radio, I also started my own garden at home. I went on the course and invited my neighbours. When I realised the results, I thought to myself we actually have something big. Again, we were not sure how long will Covid-19 would last. I am happy they bought into the idea. We had to look for a space to operate. We were really lucky to get information that there are redundant farms here. That is how we got here,” she explained.
She said they also decided to do livestock farming, starting off with pigs, goats and chickens. They hope to expand after they have a proper and secure area.
Another retiree and emerging farmer, Bukelwa Madlala said it had not been easy and smooth sailing. The group had no access to finance to grow their operations, so they had to dig deep into their pockets. Another challenge were tools, and the availability of water in the area. She said with the drought we had and potential water scarcity, these are foreseen challenges. “In our first days here we lost our tools to thieves. Our crop was also damaged by goats and other animals but we had to be strong and focus on what we are here for,” she said.
Ms Madlala said initially she also had doubts about the whole farming venture. She said she wanted to rest and be at home. “I was doubtful and lazy at the same time. I got interested after attending the course. However, even after that there were doubts but I eventually actively joined. And the results are encouraging,” she said.
The six-member group encouraged people, especially those who have lost jobs because of Covid-19.
Their wish is to have a bigger market where they will be able to provide fresh vegetables, ranging from spinach, tomatoes, cabbages, beetroot, carrots to many others. Now that they are harvesting, they already have a market but it is not enough. They are, however, very excited that people know about them and their farming enterprise.