A friendly Zimbabwean man has turned on the ‘grow your own food’ vibe in my neighbourhood. Wherever you find Ben Tsuro he is working. Whether planting parsley at his neighbour’s garden, helping a Makoti mop the stoep or digging a hole, he loves to work. He calls himself a Socialist Farmer.
A painter by trade, he came to South Africa nine years ago to seek employment and has settled in most major South African cities. Back at home, he managed a farm that produces tobacco, maize, cotton, wheat and barley.
Ben loves growing food so much that he buys seeds and seedlings with money earned from his odd painting jobs and plants them, not only in his garden, but his neighbours’ gardens as well. This last year, he has assisted five families to have productive gardens. Coming from a country where farming is the staple of life it’s no wonder he has a fondness for agriculture. He is always friendly and generous, believing that people should not be short of greens. Ben says “Green equals Life, growing plants for food is a reflection of the life we lead.”
Ben has awakened people from their iCansi (sleeping mat). Mazwi Ngubane’s garden is now sprouting with cabbages, mealies, spinach and pumpkin, when not long ago it was just hard, bare ground shadowed by fruit trees. Ben’s landlord, Vusi Danisa, thinks he is a blessing as he would have liked long ago to have a vegetable garden but because of illness, associated with aging, never had the energy to get it started.
Ben has travelled around the globe, through Southern Africa all the way to Yugoslavia. He says “Every place you land, you must make a home and every person you meet, you must make a friend.” That helps him get through to people and motivate them into doing things for themselves. He hopes to help others establish household gardens and was delighted to hear of the iLima project of the Mpophomeni Conservation Group, where he will be able to volunteer his assistance.