The Ndlovu family were one of the original families to settle in Mpophomeni in the 1960’s.
Originally from Endiza, Curry’s Post, they were relocated to kwaZenzele, and then to Mpophomeni when Midmar was being built. Despite their change in circumstances and the fact they had lost all their livestock, they kept farming and still today make use of a large plot to grow vegetables for themselves and fodder for their cattle.
Spha Mabaso, who lives with his grandfather Baba Ndlovu (uMkhulu) in Mtholampilo Street is proud of the fact that his family were pioneer settlers in the area and is determined to continue the farming tradition. Beside their kraal they have built an area for the whole community to bring their cattle for assistance with vaccinations and dipping. Sharing their knowledge and helping their neighbours is important for the Ndlovu and Mabaso families.
“We use the old methods, no artificial fertilizers or pesticides, so our products are all organic, they always have been. I am going to build a new empire.”
Ever since he was a little boy, Spha has loved being in the garden. He followed his grandmother around as she sowed seed and harvested imifino, learning so much from her in the process. uMkhulu Ndlovu spent much of his working life employed by Sarmcol and is an accomplished welder. He manufactured a playground of swings for his grandchildren. The workmanship is so good that some are still in the back yard – although Spha is getting a bit big to play on them!
Their homestead is a creative mish mash of metal work. “A farmer can make anything,” uMkhulu beams, proudly showing off a watering can and a wheel barrow he made himself. There are fences made with discarded bed springs, a chicken house constructed high above the ground to keep predators out, and the most interesting gate in the entire street.
Ever creative and enthusiastic Spha is looking at ways of adding value to their produce. The old guava trees planted by his grandmother still produce delicious fruit. While eating them fresh from the tree is first prize, the surplus is turned into fermented fruit juice and next season, there will be bottled and dried guavas in his product list too.
Spha is a regular at the Mpophomeni Farmers Market. His freshly picked turnip greens, amangoza, always sell out and he can’t keep up with the demand for his speckled sugar beans.
Recently he introduced a new product – iced tea. Made using leaves of the indigenous Athrixia phylicoides, which his grandfather calls itheye lentaba. At first, he collected leaves from wild plants in the hills, but to ensure sustainability he has now planted a hedge of Athrixia aka Bushman’s Tea in his garden. Twigs from this shrub are traditionally used to make hard brooms too.
What do his customers think of the tea? “They love it!” he grins, “with a squeeze of lemon and a bit of mint, it is really refreshing.”
The Market happens just twice a month, so Spha is planning to set up a farmstall beside his garden and invite other small farmers to sell their produce there every day. It is Mtholamphilo Street after all – so this is just where one would expect to find ways to improve one’s health! At the moment, the ground is covered in rubbish as people dump here, but Spha is undaunted. He will clean it up, build a stall using recycled timber off-cuts, plant a water wise garden and install his old swing for the neighbourhood children to play on.
Next, he plans to learn to make yoghurt and cheese from any excess milk in summer – first making sure that the calves get their fair share, of course. “Local, organic produce is the way to go,”says Spha emphatically, “we need to support one another, make the most of what we have and work hard to improve food security.”
There are seeds drying on the window sill for next season, a nest filled with eggs about to hatch, and are a couple of pumpkins left from the Autumn harvest. The peach trees are bursting with blossoms, the sugar cane is ready for summer, the potatoes have been planted and the onions are sprouting. This corner of the township is set to flourish. Without doubt, this is a space to watch.
Contact Spha at Emphare Organics 071 454 0323 firstname.lastname@example.org