A Horseback Riding Experience

In Mpophomeni, horses are notorious and have become a synonym with the 20 something gangs and their tattoo faced free riding robbers. So naturally when people see horses they run well away, shutting their doors behind them. This is now starting to change because of Sabelo Xaba.

It has become prevalent for great ideas to be conceived over Sunday Chillas beers at a bar. “We were just chilling and chatting over drinks one day and I said to my friend Thobelani Dlamini “You have all these beautiful horses here, why don’t we take people for a ride on them?”  That is the day Mpophomeni Horseback Tours was born.

Horse Parking lot.

With the assistant of horseman Vuyani Zondi, who is a fountain of knowledge about horses, takes care of them and calms them down when they are skittish. Their first debut was at the Mpophomeni farmers market where short rides were on offer to the young and old and they were also featured at the Howick 10km Marathon.

I (Penz Malinga) was recently sponsored by Mnandi – a Taste of Mpophomeni to go on my very first horseback experience. Arum Bydawell and her gorgeous mom Angie from Hilton came to ride along as well. Arum and Angie had previous experience with horses, I had none except for occasionally bumping into them grazing in the foothills while walking my dogs.

I was just beyond excited, a smile was glued permanently on my face from the moment I climbed on and held on to the reigns.

Penz Malingas selfie with old Mlanduli

Our most experienced rider was 8 year old Lwandle who started riding when he was 3 years old so he was well seasoned by now.

8 year old Lwandle.

Sabelo and Vuyani helped us on and explained how we were to maneuver the horses, then we were A for away. We rode through the old waste water treatment works, which is very smelly but has plenty of biodiversity and birdwatching potential. We spotted the resident blacksmith plovers, some black ducks eduda edamini , a romantic pair of Egyptian geese and a lone Yellow billed kite riding the current. We also bumped into Mr Mtshalis horses grazing and Vuyani went to whisper to them to keep away from us.

Vuyani rounding up Baba Mtshalis horses.

As we gently crossed the Umhlangeni and Umthinzima tributaries of the Umngeni river, we were leaving the township behind climbing higher through the new housing development on the ancient road alongside hundreds of common soap aloes still in flower.

We realised that none of us had bought carrots with us when we stopped for a photo opportunity at the reservoir overlooking the entire township. Luckily Sabelo had some stale bread that we enjoyed feeding our horses.Sabelo pointed out some of the pioneering houses that were built in the 1960s.

Riding across the ridge was challenging okay maybe a little bit scary, but we knew that we could put our faith in our horses to find their own way. We then made our way back, through eMadala on Mtholampilo road, keeping to people’s outer lawns because not all our horses had shoes on all the way back to an optional delicious lunch at Midmar View Restaurant.

Arum and Penz all smiles after a delightful ride.

This is accessible to everyone young and old to be enjoyed by beginners and jockeys alike.
To book contact Sabelo Xaba on cellphone number-  078 492 7515 and do follow Mpophomeni Horseback Tours on Facebook.

Advertisements

Siyabonga

When Siyabonga Majola was growing up in Mpophomeni he never imagined he’d be a movie star. 

In Grade 10, with a few friends, he put on a sketch of ‘township comedy’ to entertain school mates. The feedback was positive, so they did another and soon Siya had decided that he wanted to pursue acting as a career.  With Mpophomeni Youth Productions and Izwi, his passion for acting grew and he decided to devote himself to making plays and becoming the best performer that he could.   Fellow performer, Lindokuhle Mshengu remembers he was full of jokes, but absolutely serious about his work. “You could see that acting was a real passion, acting gave him life. He never missed rehearsals and became a different person on stage, excelling in every role he was given.  I am sure that if we were in a place where there were vast opportunities, he would have appeared on our home screens by now.”

Facilitator, Eidin Griffin recalls him playing Daddy Dinosaur in Tyrannasaurus Drip  – a play about a vegetarian dinosaur born into a T-Rex family who finally finds his real tribe.  “Siya is a great actor, but what I really love about him is that he is so thoughtful and amazing with children. He is gentle and kind – a great mentor.”

Siyabonga Majola with Yiwa Productions

Recently, Siya has been involved with the Twist Theatre Development project where he has learnt more about script writing, acting and directing.  “I like being able to bring history and social issues to life through a play,” he says, “you get to engage with many different people and influence their emotions.”

In 2016 Siya directed ‘True Story’ a play based on the life of six year old Nokulunga Gumede, who was killed during the turbulent times in Mpophomeni during the 1980’s.    Gael Taylor, facilitator of Lisakanya – a programme for school leavers that Siya participated in – was impressed at his commitment to the project. “Siyabonga put his all into this project. He worked with no budget but brought the story to life. You could see his passion for the people of the community and his ability to transfer this piece of history in a really engaging way. His dream has always been to be in theatre or film and I think really to produce. He loves to laugh and yet took his role as mentor seriously.”

r history of Nokulunga Gumede Memorial on Youth Day

Siyabonga is very grateful for the leadership, networking and business skills he gained during his time with the Lisakhanya project. “If it wasn’t for them I doubt that I would have heard about Josh’s film. They forwarded me the article and helped me with emailing a letter to him. Lisakhanya is designed for school leavers who are willing to make a better life for themselves and their communities. I didn’t hesitate when I heard about the project and what I learnt from Gael and Jo Ngwenya is amazing – personal development, working in teams and on community projects.  These all boosted my confidence and communication skills – elements that you need as an actor.”

More recently in 2017, Siyabonga wrote and directed ‘The Protector’ a play that participated at Winston Churchill District Art Festival. “Stage acting is very different from film, because you engage with the audience and need to go deep into the character and use your body effectively to be believable. There is no editing. This improves your creativity.” Currently, Siya is working on a play called ‘Faulty Foundations’ about June 16th.

r nkulu and siya

On 1 August the Locarno Film Festival opens in Switzerland. 

Siya will be there on the red carpet to watch the World Premiere of the movie he stars in – Siyabonga We are Thankful.  Locarno is one of the most prestigious festivals in the world and has been a home for some of the film industries most significant faces, in recent times screening the films of Steven Spielberg, Ken Loach, JJ Abrams and South Africa’s very own Oliver Hermanus.  Siyabonga (the movie) is in the running for 5 awards, including the for Golden Leopard for Best Film.

r film still interview

This extraordinary turn of events is entirely due to Siya’s determination and dedication.    When he read in the local newspaper, The Meander Chronicle, that a young filmmaker, Joshua Magor, was planning to make a movie in the midlands,  he contacted him and they hit it off immediately.  Siya made such an impression, that Joshua scrapped his original ideas for a screenplay and set out instead to make a movie about Siyabonga instead.  “I think part of what impressed me about Siya was that he seemed totally unafraid to pursue the things he wanted. He just decides, “this is what I want” and then works towards getting it. So, I decided to make a film about him, and about this moment that stirred so much in me.  I truly feel like there are many moments in life where we can inhibit ourselves because we are afraid to make a drastic decision. In the particular instance of this film my intuition felt so strong it was impossible to not follow it.”

r siya blue

The film is based on real events, re-enacted by those who lived through them.  Siyabonga’s past echoes in his present in much the same way that South Africa’s own history seems to have left an indelible mark on the people and places of the film.  Siya is astonished at how things have turned out, “I honestly never thought for one moment that I would ever act in front of the camera, let alone on a proper film.  Playing myself was an interesting experience, I did not have to do any research about my character as I usually do.”

r siya bench

Joshua continues, “With this film I wanted to make something that presented the truth of a person’s spirit in the context of a country dealing with many obstacles and historical trauma. I wished to make something totally in awe of the presence of people and places as they are. I wished to do this while being observant and obedient to the rhythms and details that constitute their essences. To make a film that attends to the reality of life without bias, where both cruelty and joy are equal elements which cannot be escaped and therefore must be confronted.”

r film still park

Shot on location in Mpophomeni, Howick and Pietermaritzburg with many of Siya’s neighbours and friends (in particular, Sabelo Khoza and Ntokozo Mkhize) participating, this film is certain to delight local audiences, and we hope enchant the judges at the Locarno Film Festival too.

Ntokozo Mkhize, Sabelo Khoza and Siya Majola on the set of Siyabonga

Recently, Siya was himself a judge at the Trashion Show held in Howick. “I am passionate about helping my community. Mpophomeni is a great place to live.  It is a small community, but some of the issues are big.  I am determined to play my part in making things better.”

sq siya

So armed with his brand new passport, his signature crisp white shirt and stylish shoes, Siya boards a plane bound for Switzerland soon.  “I am most looking forward to seeing the movie”, he smiles, “I can’t wait to see the movie.”

We’ve put a bottle of champagne on ice and look forward to Siya coming home to tell us all about his adventures.  Would you like to contribute a little spending money to make this a memorable trip?  Banking details below.
r siya champagne

S Majola, Capitec Bank, Account number: 1380639830.  Do let Siya know about your generosity so he can share his stories with you when he gets home – mohhamedmajola@gmail.com

 

 

Sibuyisela Ulwazi

Mnandi was honoured to be invited to participate in the Biowatch SA Siybuyisela ulwazi Food and Seed Festival last week.   We sold many recipe books, made great connections, shared stories and seeds, and learnt a lot.  Biowatch SA organised the festival to celebrate the diversity of our indigenous and traditional seed and food cultures, exchange knowledge and ideas and explore innovations in support of food sovereignity, social and environmental justice.

stalls

Presentations about all the things we are passionate about were by inspiring and knowledgeable people. There were talks of seed and African spirituality, the Food Price barometer, GMOs, Climate Smart Agriculture (not so smart), the benefits of fermentation, Slow Food’s Ark of Taste, beautiful music made from the humble calabash and a myriad of food activists to connect with.   Legendary Permaculturalist John Nzira asked “What is the difference between seeds and money?”  Amongst all these seed savers and defenders of our food diversity the answer was unanimous – seeds hold our future. The diversity of seeds is the key to life. Phansi GMOs Phansi!

The climate-friendly vegetarian lunches were superb and we also got to taste traditional umqombothi and umqusho, peanut soup, sorghum, celery and apple salad and too many other things to mention.  Ntombenhle Mntambo shared her fantastic Rainbow Salad (all ingredients grown in her Mpophomeni garden) and talked about healthy eating.

Ntombenhle salad

We were proud to share the kitchen with author and dietician, Mpho Tshukudu. She inspired us with her talk African Food is Healthy, Beautiful and Delicious, singing the praises of our heritage foods (naturally low GI) and sharing new ways of preparing them.  Her book with Anna Trapido – Eat Ting is very interesting.

Mpho chopping

Agro-Ecological Farmer and activist Richard Haigh talked about the way Big Food has hooked us with their laboratory engineered ‘bliss point’ flavours, our addiction to sugar, salt and fat and urged us to de-colonise our palates.  Forager and Wild Food Champion Loubie Rusch shared her knowledge of Cape wild food and encouraged us to look around, to eat and the plant indigenous edibles in our gardens.  Gogo Qho followed with a passionate presentation about wild plants that are her food and medicine, the importance of traditional and indigenous food culture and the value of leafy greens for good health.

The festival truly celebrated the diversity of our indigenous and traditional seed and food cultures and advocated for a just and healthy food system. 

Pacsa seeds delwyn pillay

Comments from our group:

Nathi Adam – It was a fruitful day. The pure seeds and food displays, prepared by passionate people were amazing and all the talks were inspiring. I learned and saw the Earth differently after the talks. The food tastings were wow!

Traditional music goes well with traditional food prepared by people who care about what they eat. I was taken aback to see people enjoying themselves in this way. I loved talking to Sazi Dlamini and networking with many others.

It was saddening to realise that industrial agriculture is killing our earth. I learned that we need to put more effort into educating and assisting one another to take serious care of ourselves and our mother Earth, in order to realise better health and wealth in the Permaculutre way.  We have plenty of natural resources in Africa, but we should not misuse and abuse them. People Care plus Earth Care equals plenty for us and our children and their children.

Zandile Sikhakane – I learned a lot about seed and food that keeps us healthy. I took note of the importance of preserving our seeds, so we do not have to buy more.  Everyone who presented explained very well and answered the questions well. My favourite guest was John Nzira. He inspired me a lot about our food culture and urban farming. I was so happy to see Sazi Dlamini playing music out of the food we eat. I learnt how to plant sweet potatoes.

Ntombenhle, sanele, mary

Njabulo Mokoena – I enjoyed talking to different kinds of people in different languages. I learnt a lot from farmers like John Nzira and that if you respect nature, it will respect you back. I tasted food that was very delicious. There was African traditional food that I have never eaten before – like amabele.  I was so inspired by the farmers, that the day afterwards, I started a small garden at home. It was a beautiful event.

Mary Mlambo – I met many wonderful people, especially John Nzira. He spoke about how the love of money overpowers our love for seeds and nature that actually gives us life. “We can throw money on the ground and it won’t grow, but throw seeds on the ground and watch them grow into food.” That gave me a lot of motivation. I was thrilled to taste delicious indigenous foods that were prepared with so much love. I even got iHali, a very rare fruit I have not seen since I was a young girl. I had fun.

Mary Mlambo food is medicine

Eidin Griffin – I felt deeply honoured to be amongst such incredible earth workers and ethical food producers. Meeting the farmers from Pongola, Matubatuba and Lesotho was a profound privilege and I was able to trade seeds, shake hands and we could communicate in our special language of seeds rather than a common tongue. Grand gesticulation and a great amount of laughter helped too! Tasting foods created with love and looking at ways to nourish ourselves and our food supply really got my brain and heart excited. I truly hope that this is the start of an incredible annual event and I will share the new information that I gleaned (yes, good word indeed) and plant my new-found seed friends in the soil and nurture them as best I can and hope to return, wiser and stronger with more abundance to share next year.

Nhlakanipho Nzimande – My experience was good, I made many connections with conscious farmers. I learnt about healing herbs and plants and I invited a Khoisan man Q, to visit and perhaps we can work together. I learnt how to build and use musical instruments from Sazi Dlamini. I got cuttings of different plants and different types of seeds. I may go into strawberry production with the lady who sells homemade jams.

Mnandi Heroes Nhlakanipho and Eidin

Ntombenhle Mntambo – Sibuyisela ulwazi was great – food, talks, tastings and meeting people closely. My wish is that we all meet each other as one.  Languge issue is always a problem. I wish Richard, Mpho, John, Loubie could speak isiZulu because the translating of their talks was not that good, it only gave half the information and some people when they get home will say there was not enough information because they did not understand English. I wish the translator had finished everything that was said. The questions are important because it helps those that did not hear correctly to understand better. It was too fast, we need more days – how about 5? It was a very good event.

Xola Keswa – It was a festival which I feel should have happened a long time ago, but I am glad it has happened at last. It included people from all walks of life – from Zululand to the green forested South Coast. Food activists to environmental activists and many gardeners and farmers – a mixture of aware people, with everyone knowing something about what was spoken about from traditional food to traditional music, food tasting and activist talks. Richard Haigh from Enaleni shared his extensive knowledge and food. John Nzira, permaculture guru, was one of the main speakers. He has an incredible record for experience with transforming land into fully productive agroforestry. Environmental activist Method Gundidiza represented Sheila Berry’s Earthlore organisation – the man from Swaziland had a lot of strong words to say. Words that I think that have stained themselves on the minds of many who were there.

xola maya

Pinky Dlamini – I had an amazing day. The surprise of my life was the love, caring and communication. I learn about food that I had never heard of. Like one big nation we all eat together. I find friends from different areas- Venda, Cape Town – all these people talking about different things that can shape our lives and our cultures. I think it is up to us to tell people in Mpophomeni what we are doing and how to improve their lives.

Thabani Mnikathi – I enjoyed being around such loving people and seeing people from different parts of the country coming together to share information and life experiences.  I learnt a lot about different cultures, music, food, how to grow food, keep yourself healthy.  The food was delicious – colourful and exciting – a whole new experience.  What is best is that you never knew what to expect. Sibuyisela ulwazi has inspired me to try to make my own personal garden and try some home grown food for a change.

Nikki Brighton – It was marvellous to meet new people as passionate about food as we are and reconnect with fellow food activists. The variety of presentations was exceptional – something for everyone and all contributing towards the goal of food sovereignty.  In particular, I enjoyed the presentation by Richard Haigh who talked about how Big Food has hooked us with their laboratory engineered ‘bliss point’ flavours, our addiction to sugar, salt and fat and urged us to de-colonise our palates.  Also enjoyed Loubie Rusch, who shared her knowledge of Cape wild food and encouraged us to look around, to eat and the plant indigenous edibles in our gardens. Gogo Qho’s passionate presentation about the plants that are her food and medicine was enchanting and very informative. I found it interesting to learn that Climate Smart Agriculture is not so smart. Meeting the small rural farmers who had brought seeds to share and sell added a real depth to the festival.  I stocked up on all sorts of interesting ideas and ingredients – millet, sorghum, pulses to eat and plant.

local seed

Ntombenhle and Nikki agreed that this was more fun than the Slow Food Terra del Madre event they attended in Italy last year! We could make real connections, learn things that were appropriate to our world and contribute in a more meaningful way. Well done Biowatch SA.

Ntombenhle dancing

 

Our Food Heritage

Seasonal eating is not a new concept, although it is trendy right now. Our ancestors foraged and hunted – following the rains, the fruiting trees and the animal migrations. The first agriculturalists to settle in one place and cultivate crops, ate what was in season too.

r picking imbuya - amaranthus

Culture and food are interwoven across the world, with locally abundant ingredients determining the tastes that we prefer.  In South Africa, where only recently many people have become urbanised, food memories are largely influenced by rural life – hearty, satisfying food.  Mostly home grown, but including easy to store staples enhanced by an array of cultivated and wild greens.  Urbanisation and new wealth have caused many to abandon the simple nutritious food of our childhoods in favour of the artificially flavoured ‘modern’ food.

In the process of abandoning foraged ingredients, our diets have become impoverished. There is a perception that wild greens are ‘poor people’s food’ – around here we call them imifino, while in other places around South Africa, marogo is the common word to describe all manner of leafy greens. They are, in fact, jam packed with nutrients, often far surpassing that of more commonly eaten leafy greens like Swiss Chard and cabbage.

r leaf selection

Across the globe, many communities seek out the new growth of wild greens in Spring and Summer – a delicacy long awaited through the colder months in Europe. There is a great revival of the popularity of indigenous greens in East Africa. Now sold in large supermarkets, served in restaurants in Nairobi, and Kenyan farmers have increased the area planted with these greens by 25% since 2011.

Amaranthus is one of the most common greens and grows profusely in poor soils requiring little watering or attention. There are many varieties – green or red, tall or creeping.  It is versatile and can be used wherever greens are called for in a recipe.   Amaranthus leaves have heaps more Vitamin C than cabbage or chard – just 50g contains 100% of our daily needs.  The leaves are rich in protein, beta-carotene, iron, calcium, carbohydrates and fibre. Leaves are frequently dried and stored for winter use.  Seeds contain more protein than most other grains. Amaranthus is most often eaten with mielie meal, as a relish, but young leaves are great in salads, perfect to add to soups and stews or blend into your favourite juice mix.

amaranthus in sack

Isijabane is a great way to use imfino and a clever way of including greens in a dish for children who are picky eaters. While people usually use easy to find imbuya (or spinach), according to the community elders the very best imifino to use for isijabane is msobo (Solanum nigrum) and intshungu (Momordica balsamina) Pictured belowThese add a bitter taste and are perfect.  

  • 500g mixed greens
  • 1 or 2 chopped shallots or spring onions
  • 500g maize meal
  • ½ tsp salt

Cook the greens, chopped shallots and salt in a little water.

Once the greens are cooked (5-7 minutes) sprinkle dry maize meal into the pot and stir as it absorbs the water. Add a little more maize meal and keep stirring for ten minutes over a low heat.

The finished dish should be very green and have a soft porridge consistency.

If you really don’t like the idea of all that stirring you can cheat by cooking a soft maize meal separately and then adding it to the cooked imifino.  Or even using instant mealie meal or polenta.

This recipe is included in Mnandi – a taste of Mpophomeni, along with many other varieties of imifino and ideas on how to use them.

What memories do you have of your grandmother cooking wild greens and weeds?

flower intshungu.JPG
intshungu – Momordica balsamina

A Taste of Mpophomeni

Our cookbook, Mnandi

has just been printed and is available in the garden! Publication is sponsored by N3 Toll Concession. All money from sales is going to MCG projects – we are dreaming up some amazing things. It is very exciting.  Download a taste – Mnandi Teaser

mnandi-cover-no-p

In Mpophomeni, joy is a fundamental part of living. Here food is grown from the heart, meals are meant to be shared and stories are told with pride.  In this book of fresh garden food, the people with their hands in the soil and their creative customers share their delight in seasonal produce.  Ardent supporter of MCG, writer Nikki Brighton, has captured the colours and flavours – celebrating community and the environment.

spring

Savour Sthembile’s handmade lasagne with just picked spinach, try Tutu’s sun-cooked rhubarb stew and make Ntombenhle’s famous vetkoek or her favourite crunchy fennel and orange salad.  Customer at the Mpophomeni Community Garden, Caroline Bruce, Oaklands County Manor, shares her recipe for Sauerkraut while Kate Chanthunya of Rondavel Soap shows us how to make a salad dressing using maas.  The imifino (wild greens) section will encourage you to take a whole new look at the abundant greenery in your veggie beds.  Need a recipe to deter pests or boost your immune system? Passionate gardener Tutu Zuma says “My food forest and medicinal plant garden keeps me strong and healthy. I have never been hungry – I eat green food throughout winter.”

r bunch carrots

Anna Trapido, author of Hunger for Freedom – the story of food in the life of Nelson Mandela: ““We are what we grow, cook and eat. Mpophomeni’s gardeners and cooks are an example of what South Africa can and should be. Through the pages of this delightful book readers will come to love and admire a remarkable and resilient community. The recipes so generously offered are not only delicious but also inspiring and insightful – each one allows a reader to taste a piece of the story.”

r beetroot hand 073

Ntombenhle Mtambo, garden inspiration, is adamant that eating more plants is good for you. “Food is your doctor – the vitamins and minerals found in plants help prevent illness and promote healing. These recipes are ideal for people who want to eliminate meat from their diet for health reasons or are trying to balance their budget.”

Ntombenhle Mtambo by Toby Murphy

“The gardeners of Mpophomeni are quite simply amazing. We are thrilled that this ‘foodie’ dream of a locally-inspired recipe book has become a reality. It has been a privilege to watch this community garden project grow thanks to these gardeners who epitomise true passion for, and commitment to, growing organic produce that tastes absolutely delicious.”  Thandiwe Rakale N3TC

Mpop sept 2015 259

We hope that Mnandi (which translates as ‘tasty’) will inspire you to take part in the magical process of growing and preparing food that is good for you and good for the planet too.  Available at plenty of shops – ask about one near to you, or order here: mnandisales@cowfriend.co.za

Keen to visit us in the garden?  Join our Vetkoek Fridays – enjoy a garden tour and delicious lunch of fresh vetkoek filled with bom bom beans and rainbow salad for only R50 per person.

  • 1 Decmber 2017 11.30am
  • 15 December 2017 11.30am

Phone Ntombenhle to book: 063 410 4697

Vetkoek poster no date

 

Enemies from above coming for the Rats

barn_owl_flying_bird_predator_53455_3840x2400

Owls are beautiful, interesting creatures that hunt at night and are characterised by their flat face with forward facing eyes. There are twelve different known species in South Africa, the smallest weighing in at 50 g and the largest at 2.5 kg. The three most common in the Midlands are the Barn Owl, the Spotted Eagle Owl and the Wood Owl.  All owls have specially designed soft, fluffy wings that allow them to fly silently while listening out for prey, their tubular eyes are light sensitive allowing them to see their prey in low light conditions while sounds are bounced off their facial disk into little ear holes at the sides of their face and the rats don’t know what hit them until their hanging on that bill.   A family of owls can eat 2500 rats and mice a year.

IMG_1511[1]

After hearing the successes that Eco-Solutions has had in Alexandria township in Johannesburg introducing owls to reduce the rat problem, the Mpophomeni Owl Box Project is to be launched to fight our troublesome rodent infestation that has grown over the years due to a decline in their natural predators. Orphaned or injured owls are taken in by the Raptor Rehabilitation Center, nursed back to health and released back in the wild, deployed to feast on the rodent population restoring balance between predator and prey.  Many people in the community will testify that the infestation is out of hand, it’s only by luck that we don’t hear of rats chewing off the feet of sleeping infants but they do destroy food in the gardens and cupboards, mutilate furniture and, let us not forget, that they carry a multitude of diseases.

rat-virouses

Prevention is always better than cure they say, so we would like people to work with us in eliminating areas that could lead to the rodent population thriving. For example, piles of rubble next to your home and careless disposal of food scraps in the open attract rats.  We should stop treating vacant land as illegal dumping sites because we are only providing the rodents with a habitat to flourish in. We should also avoid using poison to kill the rodents because other domestic animals and little children are also in danger of ingesting and dying from it.

article-2287978-186D7047000005DC-590_634x421
Rats feasting on rubbish.

A release site will be erected at a private home in Mpophomeni this winter. This is facilitated by The Owl Box Project and Raptor Rescue Centre and funded by N3TC.  Local residents and learners will be invited to visit and educated on the importance of owls in eradicating the rodents. The owls nest in boxes that resemble their natural nesting habitat.  Barn owls nest in cavities, they like dark, quiet places so a big box with a small hole is ideal. Spotted Eagle Owls are not fussy they like open areas so a big box with a wide entrance is home for them and Wood owls live in forests and nest in holes in trees so they have along box with a small hole so that the can crawl all the way to the back. Barn Owls can alter their breeding habits in response to prey numbers, the greater the prey in abundance, the greater the owlets.  We already have a few owls resident in Mpophomeni.

A Barn Owl caught on barb wire
A Barn Owl caught on barb wire

Many owls sustain injuries and death due to colliding with razor fences, electric line and motor vehicle collisions. If you see or find an injured owl, try putting a towel or something over it before you pick it up, because they do have sharp beaks and proceed to call FreeMe (033 330 3036) or Raptor Rescue (076 724 6846) who have trained people to handle sick or injured animals.

This is a joint project of MCG, DUCT Enviro Champs, Midlands Meander Education Project and Funda Nenja and, of course, the Owl Box Project.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Terra Madre Day

We love picnics.  We don’t need much excuse, but Terra Madre Day on 10 December is perfect to celebrate local food with communities around the globe.  We invited friends, customers, neighbours and family to a bring along some food grown and prepared with love to share.

r erra madre mpop 083

Terra Madre Day is Slow Food’s annual day to promote the diversity of food traditions and production, and show how on the Slow Food network is using its creativity and knowledge to build a better food future.

r terra madre mpop penzSince 2009, each year on December 10 – Slow Food’s anniversary – food communities and Slow Food convivia around the world celebrate eating locally and sustainable local food production in hundreds of events: collective meals, community festivals, protests, workshops for children, excursions to producers and much more are held to promote local food traditions and demonstrate the Slow Food philosophy of good, clean and fair food to communities, media and decision makers.  Organic Farmer, Rob Symons, joined us “It was a pleasure  to attend. I enjoyed myself. It is always uplifting to connect with people who are intimate with the soil and have a love for all life.”

r terra madre mpop 008

“Terra Madre Day has continued to play a key role in addressing challenges by sensitizing communities and reminding them of the importance of sustainable agriculture, traditional food and biodiversity conservation,” says John Kariuki, Slow Food Foundation Vice President and coordinator of Slow Food activities in Kenya. “The event has also acted as a platform for bringing communities together and strengthening their local economies as a united force.” Read about last year’s picnic when the Mpophomeni garden was really just beginning.

r terra madre mpop 078

The Community Garden has become a pivotal spot for urban farmers to gather.  Nhlakanipho Nzimande is in the process of helping a number of people set up home gardens. He enjoyed chatting to veteran Mpop gardener Tutu Zuma about her successes and challenges.  Everyone shared their knowledge along with their food.

r terra madre mpop tutu and nhlankaniphe

Rob suggested to Ntombenhle Mtambo that comfrey tea was a great way to get good root growth on seedlings.  Kate Chantunya brought along some Baobab juice and told of it’s many nutritional and healing properties – pity we can’t grow a tree in Mpop.  “A fun ‘Slow Lunch’ with friends – an array of delicious food, freshly plucked and dug from backyard vegetable gardens. So inspiring!  This garden illustrates shows what can happen in a suburban setting. Grow your own, no matter where you live!” said Kate.

r terra madre mpop kate skirt

This celebration of local food does seem to be a truly important moment for local communities across the African continent. Edie Mukiibi, Slow Food International Vice President, tells us about one event in Uganda: “At the Nama Wellness Youth Centre in Mukono, the national SFYN network will organize an evening dedicated to local and traditional products. The Forgotten Vegetables Party will be a unique opportunity to get to know foods from regions and cultures around the country, with traditional recipes. We hope to get young people curious about these often-forgotten foods and bring back to the table products that can often play a fundamental role in food sovereignty.” Jesse Chantunya from Howick brought just dug potatoes from his grandmother’s garden and enjoyed the pumpkin leaves and amaranthus cooked with peanuts most of all.

r terra madre mpop 076

“Terra Madre Day is a the celebration of our traditional, indigenous and local foods. A day to showcase our food biodiversity with pride and gratitude to Mother Earth. The size of the event should not matter, but what matters is the willingness to come together and celebrate our food heritage and biodiversity”. Hleziphe Mbajwa enjoyed the beetroot and herb salad most of all, Nelly Makanya loved the free range eggs with homemade mayo and Thobekile Shezi tucked into the carrot, orange and fennel salad.  Between them they collected all sorts of fresh veggies and herbs from the garden to create a colourful chopped salad.

r terra madre mpop 043

Mbali Mlambo made everyone’s favourite – ijece – steamed bread.  Nathi Adam arrived a bit late because he was busy preparing scrumptious fresh spinach. Rutendo Zendah and Sam Govender arrived with masses of seasonal fruit – just perfect for the hot summer day. Three Gogos passing by, spotted the gazebo and joined in the celebration, sharing the phutu, cabbage and beans they had prepared for their own lunch.

r terra madre mpop 020

Yvonne Munk had a most  interesting and inspiring day.  “Wonderful to see what can be done with commitment and passion,” she said. Yvonne made the most of the opportunity to stock up on fresh veggies, a Wonderbag and Isistofu.

terra madre mpop ntombenhle and yvonne

Garden Goddess Ntombenhle was delighted with the event. “I love having so many people in the garden, everyone sharing and learning and trying new things. All the colourful foods make my heart sing. We must eat like this everyday.”  Pam Haynes brought gifts of organic dried bay leaves for everyone. “A most inspiring day – sharing food and meeting new people,” she said afterwards.

r terra madre mpop pam bay leaves

Are you a member of Slow Food?  Membership is just over R100 per year if you live in Africa. Should you share the Slow Food vision of a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it and good for the planet, you really should join. email Renee Gordge:  slowfood.imifinokzn@gmail.com  for an application form. Learn more: http://www.slowfood.com/  r terra madre mpop 047

 

 

 

Murky Waters and Mating Grasshoppers

For the monthly walk in March, I (Penz Malinga) was joined by Thorsten Euler, a German PHD student researching the environmental movement in KZN.  Thorsten’s comments about the walk are included in italics.

“Many tourists nowadays are including a tour through a township in their vacation schedule, most of them going to Soweto as it’s probably the only township area any European knows by name. Often they are then rushing through the narrow roads, disembarking from their air-conditioned buses, glimpsing in a tuck shop and finally embarking again to their fully-serviced lodges to relax in the evening. None of them would realise that the glass of water they are sipping at dinner is linked to those places. And they would never link conservation with it.

But that’s what you learn when you go on one of the monthly walks with Penz Malinga from the Mpophomeni Conservation Group (MCG). Mpophomeni doesn’t look like the kind of settlement that Europeans imagine when speaking about a South African township. Instead of dusty pathways you enter it via an alley of shady trees, instead of cardboard box huts you see little houses lining the streets, each with a neatly trimmed lawn or a cared-for vegetable garden surrounding it. There are cows and goats promenading along the roads and a kraal for the cattle between the buildings. So everybody has to have a fence around their house to safe the veggies from being munched by those hungry mammals.

Penz will have to tell you a lot about the area. As a white foreigner I had to have many things explained to me.”

r penz hills

The stream banks of the crossing are steep – a lonely cow was trying to cross. This crossing is the spot where you are usually greeted by a whiff of sewage – it is ever present but I guess it’s a little better than that whiff you catch when driving past Kwa-Sathane. A closer look at the water revealed a murky colour but definitely not as turbid as it has been on other days. The miniscule fragments of toilet paper seem to be coming together again and bonding while flowing down the stream from the overflowing manhole above.

r cow crossing umthinzima

“We started at a muddy road where the people living there are leaving their garbage in the backyard as no municipal waste trucks are coming along the bad road to collect the garbage. A manhole was leaking and spilling into the stream. Penz was able to identify it by the vegetation downstream and when approaching it, you could smell it by yourself. A lot of garbage was in the area around us and the cows were grazing in between. I was thinking how many of them had died already because of a wrapped plastic bag inside one of their stomachs.”

r rubbish in umthinzima

There was a pair of Black Smith Plovers, a heron, a flock of Sacred Ibis, and Cattle Egrets in the vegetation whose flourishing is motivated by the high nutrient load. Nevertheless, there are pretty red hot poker plants scattered along the banks of the uMthinzima. The floodplain is not as wet as it was around this time last year, it shows the rains have been scarce, a reminder of the drought we are in.

We followed the path through the overgrazed plains passing small gangs of grasshoppers mating, a pretty day moth and made our way to one of the tributaries of the uMthinzima. Here we  found some cool shade under the uMlahlankosi (Ziziphus Mucronata), Ntozanemyama (Dais Cotinifolia), and uMtshiki (leucosidea sericea) trees.

r shale in tributary

Following the small stream against the flow, we looked for signs of life but were not lucky. The stream is sandy, the water is the colour of grey tea with milk – probably because of the light shale rock bed. There is not a large volume of water but at least it doesn’t smell. The shade is nice though, far cooler than in the grassland. We headed up to the rocky hill side and took photographs of miniature grassland wild flowers. There is much more biodiversity here as this area is not often graced by the trampling hoofs of cattle.

r hillside tributary of uMthinzima

“We were crossing the grassland leaving the stream behind us and Penz was showing me different kinds of wildflowers and plants on our way. We finally reached another little stream cutting its way down the hills and through a small valley. The water seemed to be in quite some better condition although we failed in finding some insects or worms in the water. But you could still see what a difference a clean river makes.”

Some of the species found flowering were: the slender potato creeper (Solanum penduriforme), wild bergonia (Bergonia geraniodes),  uMvemvane olukhulu (Hibiscus trionum), and below, Caterpillar bean (Zornia capensis),

r zornia

On our way back, we walked past a span of Nguni oxen, it is nice to see that these oxen are fat and glowing and well taken care of.

r mpop cows

After crossing the stream we made a visit to the Mpophomeni Eco-Museum for a glimpse of the history of the township. We spent a long time analysing the very abstract Statue at the entrance. I thought that it might represent a multi-horned vehicle that destroys everything in its path.

“The sun was getting hot above us and so we were heading back to Mpophomeni paying a short visit to its “eco”-museum. Although there is written something about ecology on the vision for the museum, nothing “eco” is to be seen inside. Perhaps they should instead incorporate the work of the MCG and hand over the eco in eco-museum to them?”

red sculpture mpop

No township walk could be complete without a visit to the Mpopohomeni Conservation Group Community Garden. Ntombenhle was out working in schools, so we lingered along the garden fence admiring the abundance from there.

“MCG have certainly already achieved many impressive results, not only by conducting those explorations in the environmental mysteries of Mpophomeni but especially at our last stop – by converting a former dump site into a remarkable community garden by the work of Ntombenhle Mtambo and the team around her. Projects that should be established everywhere.

Altogether an impressive environmental effort set up by many enthusiastic people in MCG who care for their surroundings and who by taking care of the rivers in Mpophomeni are part of the security of the water supply for vast areas of KZN and those tourists and Durbanites who don’t even realise it when sipping their glass of water.”

What a lovely stroll it was. Next walk on Tuesday 14 April – book with Penz 078 236 4480

Save Lives

If you live in Mpophomeni you would know that there are no robots. Herds of cows and congregations of goats stop traffic morning and afternoon.

Mpop garden goats chilling in the road

Some of these cows are bought for the purpose of various traditional ceremonies and devoured by scores of people during the weekends. Often these animals and many others don’t get treated well during their lives.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Many people from my community discourage children from playing with pets from a young age. They do this by instilling fear. It is common to hear comments like: “The dog will bite you, the goat is going to stab you with its horns and trample you to the ground”. Even the meekest lamb is turned into a furry little devil creature that could maul a child to death. Why does our society do this? I don’t know, but I can tell you from experience none of it is true.

bulelani goats mpop res

The sad thing is that children who are taught to fear animals, in many cases turn out to be abusive towards them, disregarding their feelings. In the worst cases some commit extreme cruelty. I have witnessed children chase goats and cows away by hurling rock fragments along with curses, hitting them hard that it really hurts.

I also happen to know personally, two boys now 7 years old who tortured and killed a goat kid. Often the children who commit animal cruelty and abuse are children that have witnessed, or are victim of abuse, themselves.  Furthermore violence begets more violence as the animal abuser becomes a person abuser.

r dog mpop animals 002

It would be much more pleasant to live in a society where children are taught humane education early in their lives. They need to learn respect and compassion for animals so that the abuse stops before it starts. Funda Nenja runs an amazing programme on Friday afternoons at 3pm at Zamthule School. Their aim is to develop greater respect and compassion for all living things by promoting the bond between children and dogs, using the discipline of dog training.  Here are Ziyanda and Peno with Spookies on their way home from Funda Nenja class.

r dog and boys mpop animals 010

MCG plans to conduct lessons around animal rights and compassion is Mpophomeni schools this year too. At the end of the day we get far more than food from the animals with whom we share this space called Earth. We must remember that all living things are important and it is our duty to protect those that cannot protect themselves.

r snuggled pup