Spha Mabaso

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.

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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.

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“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.”

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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!

Mkhulu and Spha Swing

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.

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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.

A market shoppers

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.

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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.”

Spha iced tea

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.

Spha on stall site

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.”

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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 sphamabaso@gmail.com

Mkhulu Spha watering can

 

 

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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

 

 

Sisters in the Wilderness

“Will they be lunch for the lions?” asked Mrs Ntombela nervously as her daughter Amanda and Wendy Mkhwanaza packed for the wilderness trail in iMfolozi Game Reserve.

“I admit I had mixed feelings about this trip,” said Wendy, “I was excited because it is a dream come true, but also apprehensive.” Amanda adds “I even Googled my feelings of fear about what to expect, to make sure I was ready for the experience of a life time.”  Understandably, the young women were a little intimidated by the idea of sleeping under the stars, having no toilets, and walking near dangerous wild animals.  iMfolozi Wilderness area is a very different place to Mpophomeni!

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Amanda and Wendy had been invited to take part in a social impact documentary film ‘Sisters of the Wilderness’ which takes a fresh and unusual look at human and Nature interconnectedness and the power of wilderness to empower young people and develop a new type of leadership based on compassion and respect.   The passion project of London based, Ronit Shapiro, Founder of One Nature Films, will tell the story of a group of young women who aspire to elevate themselves beyond challenging life conditions and become a force for good in their communities. They embark on a life-changing journey, within and without, into the wilderness of Zululand where they experience true wild Nature for the first time.  “A journey into wilderness is an intense experience where one can expect to undergo a personal transformation. It can enhance personal growth and leadership development; and it is also a soulful experience that has the capacity to heal.” says Ronit who experienced it herself on a wilderness trail few years before.

“The second we met our new sisters – Andile, Nokuphila and Thembani –  all laughing at first sight, I had this gut feeling that this is going to be more than I could ever have imagined.” There was a  jolly atmosphere with much singing all the way heading to meet their guides Baba uZondi and Janet at the Wilderness Leadership School and Lihle, who told everyone to enjoy their last shower for a week!

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Wendy and Amanda take up the story:

We woke up early to do the final packing – filling our backpacks with pots, cups, food, spades and neutral coloured clothes that we would have to carry for the rest of the week on trail – all we had to survive!  Amanda was amazed at how a whole life can fit into a backpack.  Nokuphila said to Andile “Yours doesn’t look heavy, feel mine!” Andile responded “This back pack is like troubles of life – we all get a different load that is measured for each person’s ability.” Everyone laughed but we all knew it was true.  On the three hour drive to iMfolozi we sang and shared stories of our lives.

The iMfolozi Wilderness is home to one of the biggest rhino population in Africa. “I chose this location to highlight the plight of the rhino whose numbers keep plummeting due to the illegal hunting for its highly-value horn; and the threat to this unique wilderness area and the surrounding rural communities from intensive mining. This is a place which has so much potential to enrich us but at the same time it is greatly vulnerable and threatened by man’s greed and his forces of destruction.” Ronit tells the team. “You will be exposed to the elements and have to cope with emotional and physical challenges, and learn the practical skills of survival in the wilderness.”    Wendy adds “Most people don’t understand that everything we use comes from Nature – cars, clothes and food.  If there is no Nature, we won’t be alive either.  We must be more thankful for Nature and stop polluting with toxic waste and plastics that cannot decompose.”

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Just 15 minutes after crossing the border into the Reserve, the car stopped. Right beside the road there was a gentle giant – an elephant feeding in a tree. “It was so beautiful and so massive and just on left hand side there was this amazing herd of buck. I must say at this point Nature had welcomed us really well.” At the reserve offices, everyone made use of the toilet for the last time for the rest of the week, before shouldering their packs and starting to walk. Baba uZondi told us that at this moment we must leave all the burdens of the world behind.

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As we entered the wilderness we were told to walk in a straight line and be silent all the way but to keep our senses sharp. To communicate anything we saw, we would make a clicking sound to get the attention of the others.  Before long we reached a spot that was Ian Player’s favourite place – we sat on a rock beside the umthombothi tree (Spirostachys africana) and Janet told us all about Dr Player and his friend uBaba Magqubu Ntombela – their passion for the animals and how we can all learn from Nature.

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We crossed a river, feeling nervous about crocodiles, with our feet sinking into the squishy sand. Here we were able to see many other animal’s footprints – including buffalo and rhino.  Amanda thought “I can hear my foot steps and this bag is so heavy. It feels like although I am out of the world but I seem to have it on my back. I can hear myself breathing. We walked and we walked and we sat down by the trees to drink water and my back is already so sore.”

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We collected some wood as we walked so that we could make tea and supper when we decided to camp. We got settled in and made fire.  We were advised that if we needed to use the ‘bush toilet’ it was better to do this while it was still light and to take someone along to keep watch.

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Around the fire we were given instructions about the night watch – the sun had retired and the moon was now awake.  Each person had to keep watch for an hour and 20 minutes before waking the next person to take over. Baba uZondi told us that humans have a disadvantage as we can’t see as well as animals in the night. The most important thing is to be alert as each person doing night watch is responsible for the lives of everyone in camp. He told us that it was not our job to chase the animals away, just to keep an eye out and if we see animal approaching, best we wake up one of the guides.  “Lihle told use to use the time alone to think and be at one with ourselves but as she is speaking I am thinking hell no!  I was already shaking in my boots, I could hardly even hear what she was saying.” recalls Amanda. “I tried to be brave, but there were animals moving everywhere and I woke Janet a few times,” remembers Wendy. “Then I spotted some hyenas drinking and felt happy and very lucky to be able to watch these animals all on my own.”

Each day we woke early, packed up camp leaving no trace and set off through the bush.

On the second day we got to a place where Shaka and his family had lived – even finding the grinding stone that they had used. This was incredible because it was still there after all this time, untouched. We loved this history, learning about how people lived before all the technology existed in our lives.

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We had been advised what to do if we came across any animals and were excited to see some zebras and a rhino with its baby. The wind was blowing in our direction, so they couldn’t smell us but the rhino did hear our footsteps. The next thing the rhino changed direction and started running towards us, Janet said “take cover” and we quickly hid behind some trees until Baba uZondi chased the rhino away. Amanda was so surprised at how calm she felt – just wanting to see what would happen next and remember the experience.

Every time we crossed a river we saw footprints – of lions and leopards. We were scared a lot, but had to face our fears and continue. Wendy remembers “During quiet time, sitting alone, the first thing I did was listen to the wind blowing gently and the bush moving slowly – it was like the sound of water flowing. I breathed the fresh air and could hear different animal sounds.   My problems all just disappeared. I know that when you feel stressed the best way to relax is find a quiet place and relax.  This was an exceptionally quiet place.”

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Bath time in the river was very quick – just a few seconds as we knew there were crocodiles and we were scared of being eaten! We all got into the cold water at the same time.  One afternoon, after walking far from camp to find suitable soft ground to dig a toilet hole, two of the girls looked up to find an enormous elephant right nearby!  They covered up quickly and scurried back to camp.

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Then after supper it was time for night watch again. Amanda relates her experience:  Andile was first and I was second. I was awake the whole time Andile was on watch, huddled in my sleeping bag I did not want to turn my head torch off.  Although Andile was terrified she just seemed to be in control. Then it was my turn.  I was so scared that I didn’t even want to sit down.  After about 30 minutes I heard something walking in the water and although I was scared I gain courage to find out what is it so I can act. As I was looking, Andile and Thembani woke up and came to sit with me. When we shone the bush light about 15metres away from camp, two eyes were looking at us, big and shiny.  It was a buffalo so we decided to wake up one of your guides.  I woke Lihle by mistake and she said don’t worry, it is just my socks I hung in the tree to dry!  Andile kept an eye on a buffalo while I woke Jennet. She told us to keep shining the light on it eyes and it will go away.  We all ended up awake as my shift was about to finish.  Thembani spotted some eyes across the river –  judging from their height we thought it was lions, but later figured out that it was hyena.  One night Ronit mistook a pair of bright stars for eyes – it was so funny. We had lots to laugh about.

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Soon Wendy started to enjoy the nights:  When I was not guarding, I would look up at the sky filled with sparkling stars. I would imagine my ancestors and deceased family members looking down on me and say thank you for giving us light and protecting us. This made my smile every night as I did not feel alone or afraid knowing the stars were watching over me.

Every time we left camp, we cleaned up and left no human trace behind, to show we respect the environment.  Before we reached the next camp we had an Indaba using a talking stick to share how we feel. It was a very powerful session with tears and connections.

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The days followed similar patterns with lots of learning and sharing along the way. We were fascinated learning about some trees that are special to Zulu culture.  Umlahlankosi (Ziziphus mucronata, buffalo thorn) is traditionally used to fetch the spirit of someone who has died in an accident or far from home. The thorns on the branches face in different directions – one back and one forward –  illustrating the importance of looking to the future, while never forgetting the past.  We got to see the plant which the San people used to use to collect drops of dew to drink.

After a few days, we felt at home and more comfortable. We had a chance to watch sunsets each day and somehow as the sun set our troubles seemed to set with it. At night we didn’t only see the dark but saw the stars that came out, instead.

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The sisters bonded in such a powerful way. We felt free – emotional and spiritual healing.  On the last day in the wild we didn’t want to go back.  Our bags were much lighter and so were our hearts.  With blisters on our feet, sore muscles and the smell of the wild, it is safe to say this was the greatest adventure in our lives. This has helped us look the world with different eyes.

Amanda concludes “The most important lesson I have learnt is that it ok to love, it is ok to cry and it totally fine to be scared.  Just remember to never miss out on an opportunity to be home in the Wilderness.”

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For more about this project see: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/sisters-of-the-wilderness-part-2-social-impact/x/14796140#/

 

Lucia Buthelezi

Growing up in rural Impendle, Lucia remembers her grandparents growing all the food they needed – huge pumpkins, lots of imifino, sugar beans, mielies, chickens, goats, sheep and cows. “My job was to fetch the water from the river far away, carrying big buckets on my head. I was always so happy when the rain came because that meant less work.”

r Lucia Buthelezi

Living in Mpophomeni she misses the fresh food – there is absolutely nothing fresh to buy at Sandile’s Tuck Shop near her home. Believing that everyone needs good food and there is no point depending on the government for everything, Lucia started the Silungiseni Senior Citizen’s Club in 2010, to grow food on vacant land near their homes to eat and to sell. Her own garden is full of onions, potatoes, cabbages and carrots, with a handsome peach tree in the corner. “We are going back to the old ways, we know how to hoe and use our hands, using umquba (manure), not chemicals. This will save us money and the food will also be healthier.”

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Lucia’s receipe for Preserved Peaches is featured in our cook book Mnandi – A Taste of Mpophomeni, with other stone fruit recipes.

  • 15 peaches
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups water

Peel peaches and cut them in half

Remove the pips

Dissolve the sugar in the water

Boil peaches in the sugar water for 15 minutes

Test with a knife tip to check they are soft

Heat clean bottles

Pour the hot peach mixture into the bottles and seal

Serve with yoghurt, ice cream or fresh fruit 

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Gogo Zuma’s Plums

Do not cut the plums. Place them in a pot covered with plenty of sugar and stew until soft and melting. Ideal to do in the Sunstove, then you know they won’t burn.

Plum Jam

  • 4 cups of peeled plums
  • 4 cups of sugar

Mix fruit and sugar, stirring until sugar is dissolved

Cook for about 45 minutes until fruit is a pulp

Cool a little while you warm up clean bottles with boiling water

Dry the bottles and pour the hot mixture into the bottles

Seal the top with melted candle wax and screw the lid on tightly

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

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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

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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

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Mary Mlambo

“I have such happy memories of living at Rietvlei where my garden was full of mielies, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, goats, chickens, dogs and a cow”. Mary now lives on a small property in kwaChief where free roaming livestock belonging to other people cause her a real headache. No doubt though that she will soon transform this plot into a tiny organic farm and inspire her neighbours to start their own gardens too.

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“It is important to have chickens in a garden – to scratch, leave manure, eat nunus and make the soil soft” she says. Chickens can cause havoc with newly planted seedlings, so, roosters, hens and chicks live in a straw filled enclosure and take turns to spend time in the mobile chicken tractor working the soil. “When their work is done, it is best to prepare the bed right away, but if you have no time, you must mulch – that is very important.”

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Mary is proud of her son, Lucas, who is as passionate about organic farming as she is, and her daughter, Mbali, who creates delicious, nutritious meals from simple ingredients. “Many young people don’t understand how important growing good food is. They want to be pilots and doctors, but you can’t get food from a plane or hospital” she says sadly. “Even if we don’t have much money, we have good food, we are healthy, we work hard and we tell each other don’t give up.”

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Olga Maseko

When Olga Maseko retired in 2007 she decided that that was the last day she would hear a hungry child crying and started the Sizanani Feeding Scheme.

r olga masekoNow she and a small group of volunteers make lunch for 120 orphans and needy children in Mpophomeni every day. “It is so difficult to learn with an empty stomach, you can’t concentrate or participate, all that needs energy.” she says with determination. Local businesses donate food regularly and she recalls only one day in all these years where she was worried that there would be nothing to feed the children. “I came early to the kitchen and was sitting quietly wondering what I was going to say to the children when I heard a voice outside. I opened the door and there was a big truck with mielie meal, cabbage, butternut and potatoes – lots of wonderful food for us, my prayers were answered.”

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They have started a little veggie garden too, so that there are fresh greens to add to the stew every day. They do not peel vegetables, even the butternut, knowing that much of the nutrition is stored close to the skin. “This saves a lot of work too!” she laughs.

Knowing that, even if your stomach is full, it is very difficult to grow up without getting love, Olga offers a shoulder to cry on and listens to the often painful stories that the children have to tell.

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Hope Majozi

Hope’s sister calls him a rabbit because he is always chewing carrots and green stuff.

 

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Living in a family of carnivores is a challenge, but Hope is determined to stick to his principles and healthy vegetarian diet. “People are unaware, they do not realise the cruelty of meat production,” he says. He also avoids sugar, salt and too much oil which does make it difficult to eat with his family who prefer a less healthy diet. He has always loved gardening so growing his own food and helping others to create gardens comes easily. “I feel free in the garden,” he says quietly.

Hope garden fork

Hope’s Roti Recipe

  • Mix cake flour and water to make a wet batter
  • Grease your pan and heat the pan
  • Pour in just enough batter to cover the base of the pan
  • Cook for 2 minutes, turn over and cook the other side for two to three minutes
  • Serve with beans and potatoes, or yellow dahl and salad.

Hope’s roti, would also be delicious served with this Quick Bean Curry which serves two:

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes chopped
  • 1 chilli chopped
  • 3 tbls oil
  • 1 tbls curry powder
  • 1 green pepper seeded and chopped
  • 1 can of baked beans
  • Heat oil and fry the chopped vegetables with the curry powder. Add the baked beans to warm through.

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Vincent Ndlovu – A Compassionate Human

Vincent remembers his first dog Teaser, that his father bought him when he was 11 years old. Growing up in rural Zimbabwe, medical care was absent so when Teaser contracted rabies, all Vincent could do was keep her safe and away from infecting other dogs. One day when he went down to the river to do some washing, Teaser dug under the gate. “I saw her coming, she came to me, passed me by and I never saw her again. I believe she came to say goodbye before she died.”

As many Zimbabweans have done, Vincent came to South Africa in search of opportunity. He loves gardening so was thrilled when he was hired as a gardener in Underberg, going on to win the local Open Gardens competition many times. During these nine years, he volunteered his free time for the Underberg SPCA helping them in the rural villages, especially inoculating against rabies. One day a visiting vet said to him “You are a good gardener, but please won’t you help save more lives.” There were no opportunities to work with animals in Underberg, so he came down to Howick. Walking nervously into the Midlands Veterinary Clinic with his CV, he was warmly welcomed by the reception staff and when a dog left his owner and raced up to greet him, they realised he was definitely a dog person! He started the next day as assistant, learning from John Mahlala and is now an integral part of the staff, observant, gentle and willing. “To work with dogs is not really a job, it is my talent and passion. This job is in my heart,” he says.

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Every afternoon, when he returns from work, his beautiful dog Pansy, is waiting on the road to greet him. Together they run in the Mpophomeni hills and on his days off, walk through the township streets giving gentle advice to others on how to care for their pets. “Many people do not know, so I show them how to make a running chain rather than tying the dog up tight. If I see a dog is sick, I give them the number of the SPCA.”   His father’s dog, Cutie, used to visit with his owner, but enjoyed the brushing and attention he got in the Ndlovu household, so decided to move in! His father volunteers at FreeMe, helping rehabilitate birds.

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Vincent would love to have more time to volunteer for Funda Nenja, the dog training initiative who he believes is doing fantastic work. However, he also needs to nurture his other passion – to grow flowers and vegetables and encourage birds to visit his neat and flourishing garden.

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