Being an Owl Mother


I fell in love with birds of prey a few years ago while I was still a Game Ranging student. I don’t have a great eyesight so I was glad that I only had to familiarize myself with large-sh birds that would be easier to identify later. I soon found favorites in the Bateleur Eagle whose name means tight rope walker, the Gymnogene now called the African Harrier Hawk, the Lammergeyer also known as the bearded vulture and the common spotted eagle owl. I found that I did not want to persecute them for hunting my warm bodied cousins as I would persecute fellow human beings that do the same as the birds. In my modules I leaned of birds of the night, the Owl and the Night-jars and all the larger sized birds of prey of the day, from hawks to harriers, kestrels to falcon to kites, snake eagles to eagles to vultures and everything in between.

Bateleur Eagles at Raptor Rescue

We fast forward to a month ago when I got the opportunity to look after a pair of barn owls, rescued after falling through a chimney at Midmar Dam. I was way more than excited, mind you I did not know of any stereotypes attached to witchcraft except for those in the Harry potter movies. I only knew of the owls full of wisdom from the movies that I watched during my childhood.

Leftovers from owls.

It felt like I had opened a can of worms into the creepiest of worlds where witches hollow out the bodies of owls and give them an enema filled with Muthi to turn them into their own personal zombies and where diviners use the eyes of the murdered birds to grind into a mixture that leads them to seeing far into the future and through the darkness of human misery.


But like all problems the owls are not the true culprits, we are the ones that dump rubbish illegally inviting the rats, where there are rats there are snakes and we hate the snakes as well even though the earth belongs to all those who live on it. Besides, we cannot except to inhabit the planet alone with the animals of our choice, that is against the true balance of nature and if we believe that witches commit such marvels, they should be able to commit them with whatever animal they wish.

Pellets regurgitated by owls.

One of the strangest questions I received while spreading the, “owls are our friends” message was, “How will people tell the difference between the zombie owls and the project owls?”  This was tough to answer but I have never seen a zombie owl and neither had the person asking so it was safe to say let us speak only of the owls we have seen and know.

Regular visitors.

The owls being of a predatory nature meant that I had to feed them a day old dead chicks. The first time I was confronted with the task, I found it quite daunting as they looked like they were still moving while I walked with them thawed in the plastic bowl.

Day old chicks.

With more days passing and the same task repeated I grew immune. A while after their meal, each owl would regurgitate a pellet made of feathers and bones, sometimes the head of the chick would be in a pellets on its own still whole. My dogs Trevar and Sapphire tried to dig holes to gain access to the cage in the middle of the night to no avail though.

Gugu at her favorite spot.

Now that the owls have been released, I have to admit that I do miss them. Even my mother who was septic at first warmed up to them, she was afraid of the screeching sound they make but Siphiwe and Gugu did not ever screech at night while they were in Captivity. The neighbors were delighted to have them around and kept checking on their well-being daily. Baba James Mlotshwa said he had so many rats in his yard that he wished they could circle over his house every night catching them.

Kids at an owl talk at a Thembeni

We would like to extend gratitude to N3TC, Owl Box Project, Predatory Bird project and Raptor Rescue, this would not have been possible without them. We hope the pair breeds and more generations carry on the rodent eating legacy.


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


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.


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:

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


Sharing Challenges and Successes with the Sweetwaters Community

Last month, teachers, care givers and community members from the Sweetwaters area of Pietermaritzburg visited Mpophomeni for a little gardening inspiration.    Lunga Dlungwane, iThemba Project Manager, has long been impressed with the efforts of Ntombenhle Mtambo and requested that she host a group.

“I like to practice ubuntu,” Ntombenhle told them, “sharing knowledge and ideas and helping others.  It is good to have visitors from other places, we can discuss the problems we all face and hear different solutions.”  Njabulo, from iThemba is also trained in permaculture, so was able to share her passion for sustainable food gardening.


Their tour began at Qhamukile School garden – which was flourishing last year when MCG was employed full time to maintain the garden, but is not doing that well now.  The back bone of the garden is still strong – the well-designed beds with trees, shrubs and herbs – so with a little effort it can be revived.  Participants were intrigued by the paraffin bush, which could be set alight!  Challenges were discussed – Why are school gardens so often in a bad shape?  Many reasons, including lack of buy in from teachers and especially the principal, poor fencing, vandalism by learners, the impression that vegetable gardening is for old people.  Some solutions? A good plan and strong bond with the school principal, taking time to listen to the community and find out what their needs are and commitment from volunteers (ideally parents) to maintain the garden.  Ntombenhle:  “Knowledge and skills can be learnt in workshops, but you cannot teach the passion. If people are doing a project for the money, then you must know that it might fail when the money is finished. Best work with those who want to work, who have the passion to help their community.”

13239106_234109456965818_2590937610578163256_nAfter demonstrating efficient planting methods and explaining the basic principles of Permaculture, the group proceeded to Sifisesihle School – another garden that had been destroyed after the fences were cut and goats had access. Here Mr Jacob asked why there were so many flowers in the garden. “To attract insects that are beneficial to your veggies” explained Ntobenhle.  She used the opportunity to explain companion planting and the ethics of Permaculture which include Planet Care, and “why we do things for the sake of people and all living things”.  She encouraged everyone not to give up on school gardens as it was really important to teach the youth and to provide fresh, green food to keep them healthy. “The best thing is to have a group to discuss problems with. Share your ideas and ask for advice. Work with those who want to work.”  Hard work pays off!  This was illustrated by Nobanda School in Sweetwaters who shared that they had recently won tools, a nursery and cash to improve their garden.  Clearly, this garden was created with the passion mentioned earlier.

mpop july 2015 red cabbageNext stop was to Baba Ngobese’s beautiful home garden. He acknowledged the help that MCG had given him – knowledge, skills and inspiration – to start a garden. Now he had established his own organisation Obaba bendawo encouraging the men in the community to create their own gardens. Even in winter there was plenty to harvest in this small plot. Ntombenhle and Njabulo urged everyone to plant during all seasons, not just in summer.

13239951_234109646965799_5753300502577079999_nLast stop was the incredible community garden that Ntombenhle and a team of volunteers had created on an old dumping site just a few years ago.  “Don’t give up” pleaded Ntombenhle, “I am still standing, still working, still teaching, still following my dreams. I am proud of what I have achieved and want to help everyone I can to follow their dreams too. Pay attention to your needs and wants – there are many things we can live a good life without.  Love what you do and your garden will flourish.”

13244883_234109703632460_9057621864831019595_nLunga Dlungwana found the day both inspiring and informative. “Our volunteers had not seen a permaculture set up at the level in which Ntombenhle’s garden is, before. The stories we heard inspired everyone. The garden information gave some really good ideas as about five of them have started implementing the knowledge they got in Mpophomeni. Most participants said afterwards that permaculture made more sense to them now that they had seen in action. It confirmed most of the techniques we teach our volunteers.”

Mpophomeni Garden Tour costs R500 for a morning. Book with or call 063 410 4697




Mpophomeni Film, The Making

On this day last week MCG got the wonderful opportunity to make a film on all the magic that is going on in Mpophomeni. The film crew from N3TC Toll Concession Pty Ltd was taken on tour around our one year old but splendid garden by Nomfundo Myeni deemed Garden Queen for the day and were highly impressed by the wonderful work that has taken place in the short space of twelve months. “The aim is to help everyone in the community to make better decisions regarding sourcing food, clothes, energy and building materials with great emphasis placed on the benefits of using local.”

r one year old garden august 2015

The garden looked amazing for the cameras after the little bit of rain that we received last week. Nomfundo explained our permaculture gardening principles, the importance of companion planting to make the garden pest free. Penz Malinga shared some of her salad recipes that require the use of calendula flowers and shared a bit about Muthi (medicine) plants found in the garden.

Hleziphe and Nelly were there to demonstrate how to use iSitofu and the Wonderbag, products that MCG are agents to sell to people in and around the township. Hleziphe the Seedling Queen was more than happy to share what goes on during her daily routine with the volunteers and to demonstrate the propagation of seedlings in our creative nursery.

hleziphe in nursery

Lindiwe Mkhize shared her passion for the Kids Club the value of teaching children good environment practises and inspiring children to love the environment they live in. “MCG believes that learning from members of one’s own community, who really care about the wellbeing of the community, has a great impact. Mpop Kidz Club meets on Saturday mornings to explore Mpophomeni, monitor the streams, grassland and forest and create useful items from waste.”

penz lindz vicky

Penz the Water Queen shared her knowledge about the conservation of water and dreams of drinking from the streams in twenty years’ time. This will be possible only if education continues throughout the community and everyone adopts their little piece of the stream to keep free of solid waste. “In collaboration with the DUCT Mpophomeni Sanitation Education Project Enviro Champs we encourage residents to take responsibility for reporting overflowing sewers and monitoring the condition of the streams near their homes.MiniSASS is a very useful tool to measure water quality because it simple, cheap, efficient and anyone can do it. MCG continuously teach the community to do MiniSASS tests to empower everyone to contribute by adopting part of a river.”

Penz also mentioned the Owl Box Project that is in the pipeline, to combat the rat infestation that prohibits many people from maintaining productive gardens.

penz mhlanga stream

The film crew also visited Sifisesihle Primary School, one of the nine schools in Mpophomeni that MCG works with. One of our champion teachers Ms Ausy Mdladla, who is very passionate about environmental issues and gardening brought her whole class along to demonstrate their mulching techniques and show how much they really loved their garden, while Zamile Mtambo took the crew around the wonderful school garden while work was in progress.

zamile sifisesihle

MCG was very proud to show off the work they do in the community and their passion for the garden, environment and their hopes to build a better community. “We absolutely cannot wait to see the final product of the Mpophomeni Film. Mpophomeni Conservation Group is reaching such great heights in such a short space of time. Proof that hard work does pay off. “declared Nomfundo Myeni.

mcg n3tc garden

Winter Veggies are Wonderful

Many people don’t realise that one can grow vegetables all year round. Beds often sit empty waiting for spring, which is a great pity. In an effort to inspire local gardeners, MCG organised a Winter’s Best Produce Competition, inviting gardeners to bring along their home grown, homemade produce and stand a chance of winning a prize.

r winter produce gatheringOver 40 people carrying carrots, cabbages and giant bunches of kale converged on the Community Garden on Sunday afternoon.

r Nyasa Makena produce and prizes

Lucia Buthelezi, who had won a prize in the pumpkin competition in May brought along some sugar cane which she had grown. Lucia is involved in the Silungisele Project in Mpophomeni. She also knows a fair amount about environmental sustainability, conservation and gardening and was able to share her knowledge with the rest of the group.

r lady with sugar cane

MCG volunteers were on hand to show everyone around the garden and explain the permaculture way of growing food. “Let’s roll up our sleeves, get our hands dirty and work. That will lead us to a joyful, healthy and better life for everyone under the sun.” said Ntombenhle Mtambo of MCG.

r zamile picking salad

Learners from Mpophomeni High and Nhlanhleni Primary harvested veggies from the gardens that the MCT/ACT teams have created at their schools and were very excited to win bags of organic fertilizer donated by TWK and open pollinated seeds from Rebel Seeds.  Nonhlanhla Dlamini, Principal of Nhlanhleni, was really grateful. Tutu Zuma of MCG, who manages seven school gardens, believes that this has inspired the teachers to get more involved in the gardens now.

r kids and seeds

Mr Khoza, Mr Ngobese and Mr Mtambo were the first to taste the herb tea made in the sunstove. They were astonished at how hot it was!

r mr mtambo feels the heat

Volunteers had been cooking garden produce in the sunstove and on the isitofu for lunch.  Noxolo Dladla and MaMpinga cooked butternut stew.  Brightness Dlamini made a mnyankobe with fresh mielies and beans, Tholakele Zuma made ijece.

r butternut stew in the sunstove

MaNgobese’s delicious combination of carrots, spinach and peas, served with stiff pap was a favourite.  Zamile Mtambo picked lettuce and herbs.  Sam Rose helped chop red cabbage for a salad.

r IMG_0272

Ntombenhle had baked her famous bread, which everyone loved – so much better than commercial loaves filled with preservatives and other additives.

r ntombenhle's bread

Ntombehle used the opportunity to encourage everyone to pay attention to what they eat. “This food is your doctor. Borage will make your stronger, nasturtiums are full of iron. Vegetables are good for everyone.”

r flower salad

All the winners in the fresh produce and delicious food received lovely prizes donated by Hopewells Supplies, TWK, Rebel Seeds and Renen Energy Solutions. Bystanders were disappointed that they hadn’t entered. They won’t miss out next time!

r winter produce winners

Tholakele explained to everyone how the Wonderbag and isitofu works and invited them to come and visit them in the garden to learn more next week. MCG is an agent for these energy saving cooking solutions.

r tholakele wonderbagJPG

Afterwards, all the produce was donated to deserving organisations. Thandi Shelembe of Swelihle Creche said, “Now I can add fresh carrots, onions and spinach to the children’s mealiemeal. Thank you.”  Olga Maseko of Sizanani who cares for many orphans, was also pleased “Blessed is the hand that gives,” she said “God has seen what you have done for the children. They really enjoyed the veggies.”

r winter produce

Sam Rose and her family came out from Howick for the celebration, it was her first vist to the garden and she was very impressed. “So much was growing in the garden in the middle of winter, I enjoyed the marigold flowers that brightened up the street corner. The garden is so big, well-functioning and with well laid out bed and swales.  I was surprised that so much was growing because it is such a mission to water the garden by hand, the team’s dedication to carrying heavy buckets of water from the little stream to water even the far reaches of the garden, is very impressive.

I was so happy, after not having a garden of my own for about 8 months, to be able to pick my own food again.  Since our visit we have been eating salads with our usual favourites – rocket, borage, and fennel – things I cannot find in any store in Howick but that were plentiful in my garden back home and which are plentiful in Mphophomeni.  I’ve put in a standing order of garden produce for whenever my partner, Shine, goes to Mpophomeni to work.”

r IMG_0253

Nomfundo Myeni of MCG concludes “Members of the community members could not praise and thank MCG enough for the lovely work that they are doing in and around the community and for the innovations and knowledge that they share so happily with everyone they meet.  Everybody kept on saying how much fun they were having and how they wish there were events like these more often so as to be able to socialise while learning and sharing knowledge.”

r IMG_0222

In November MCG plan a Garden Competition and in January a Summer Greens and Imifino Cooking competition.  Whatever the season, there is always a reason to celebrate good food in Mpophomeni.

The Socialist Gardener – Ben Tsuro

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.

Ben Tsuro with Mazwi Ngubane and Vusi Danisa
Ben Tsuro with Mazwi Ngubane and Vusi Danisa

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.”

harrismith 124Ben 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.

harrismith 127Ben 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.

Shine Ben!

harrismith 131


Pea Pyramids, Podocarpus and Plenty of Salad

The Mpophomeni Conservation Group arranged a visit for supporters to the Khula Shanti Sanctuary and Food Garden in Boston recently. Thanks to the Global Green Grants Fund and N3TC for sponsoring the inspiring day.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 077 - Copy

Carol Segal reports: We were given the most glorious sunshine day to enjoy the splendour of Khula Shanti Sanctuary. A group of 15 beautiful beings arrived at the Pickle Pot Café. We introduced our staff and our dogs.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 098 - Copy

We refreshed ourselves with fresh spring water, infused with lavender flowers, mint and orange slices and munched on just baked carrot and banana bread.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 082 - Copy

All systems charged, walking shoes on and time to explore the forest. The forest walk was an enlightening success, the feedback at the end of the day revealed that this was a first time experience for many of our visitors.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 158

We had the opportunity to observe and talk about biodiversity, planting in guilds, forest mulch, eco-systems, habitats and conservation. The abundance of Podacarpus trees in the Khula Shanti Forest sparked discussions on national trees, animals and flowers. The idea of a national tree was new knowledge for some visitors, and many took to spotting all the Podacarpus along the walk.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 124 - Copy

Deep in the heart of the forest is a solid, cool rock face – time to touch energy as well as observe example of the use of rocks in nature and how we can integrate them into food garden design. The moss and lichen growing on these rocks provided classic photographic material and also more discussions around habitat and biodiversity. As well as the unanswerable question. “how do trees grow out of rocks?”

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 162 - Copy

Our precious finds for the day were some fresh samples of duiker droppings, porcupine droppings, as well as a magnificent feather which we are almost certain belonged to an owl.

Ntombenhle shared some valuable insights on bugweed removal and the problems of alien invaders in our natural forests. Carol comments “she bubbles energy and optimism which was contagious for the group.” Tutu loved learning about the importance of rocks in the garden and left inspired to rehabilitate the eMashingeni forest at the top of the Mpophomeni valley.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 172 - Copy

We took the walk slowly and allowed individuals to absorb and receive what was required from nature as it was apparent that for many the experience was fresh and new. Moses said “I grew up in Jozi, so today, walking in a forest was a whole new experience for me. I have never done that before. Walk and listen and look at the forest. It was good. This is a new era for me, I am blessed to have met MCG.”

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 191 - Copy

The forest walk is a fairly steep incline for some, so many were pleased to see the cheerful welcome of the bright and happy floral food forest garden. We spent the first 10 minutes of our time in the garden, walking around silently, observing feeling the Khula Shanti Food Gardens.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 275 - CopyWe then opened discussions around what new knowledge could be taken from the food gardens. The cucumber and pea pyramid, the chicken tractor, rock pathways, circular beds, companion planting, Vermiculture, compost making, comfrey tinctures, mulch and tea trees are only a few of the discussions we shared.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 237 - Copy

“It is important to have a place to sit in your garden. To enjoy the work you do, and to watch the work of little things.“ said Ntombenhle

phone pics 079

Skhumbuso dug his hands into the compost heap and filled them with rich moist compost teaming with red wriggler worms. Everyone was pleased to hear that goat and horse manure is fantastic for the compost heap.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 225 - Copy

Nqobile was most impressed by the idea of worm wee. “I still don’t believe what I saw. The chicken tractor, the indigenous forest. This is the first time I have seen these things and it is wonderful.” The Khula Shanti Chicken tractors were the source of much curiosity and questioning. “I’m going to try this at home” she said.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 254 - Copy

It was encouraging to observe the contagious enthusiasm and tangible inspiration while people were browsing, grazing, sniffing and tasting the sensory explosion of the food garden. Questions around seed saving, seed-plug propagation, succession planting were answered. Gertrude liked the idea of using old cans to grow plants in “Tomorrow I am going to collect all the scrap around my place to use.” she said.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 265 - Copy

The day still in full bloom, we sat down and chatted about marketing strategies for food gardens, how and where to sell organic veg. Carol demonstrated her food box scheme and shared ideas, obstacles and visions her experience. Ntombenhle made some notes about Marketing their produce:

  • Tell people what you have to sell
  • They will order what they need
  • Wash the veg and pack nicely in a box
  • Pack different things together
  • Make a name tag for that person, make it pretty
  • Make sure you add R20 so you can make some money
  • Start small
  • Sell to weddings, tuck shops, neighbours, schools

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 341 - Copy

We divided ourselves into two groups to pack 2 food box orders – went back up to the garden to select, pick, wash and prepare the orders. This was a fun and hands on activity which could be further expanded in the future. For many visitors new learnings were – variety of vegetables and herbs, presentation of vegetables before selling them, pricing and packing, where to sell and who to sell to.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 337 - Copy

When discussing the possibilities of starting a food box scheme, Carol shared the obstacles she has faced and also reminded the group of the importance of co-operatives as well as the danger of over-promising and under-delivering. We shared ideas around how to successfully start a business and start small rather than big to ensure a steady supply as well as to be reliable in quality as well as quantity of produce. The food box packing demonstration was well received, everyone participated and much was learnt, including how to pick and eat peas before packing them.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 328

Finally, time to feast. We shared briefly about nutrition and the importance of eating foods from our gardens and raw food first.

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 372 - Copy

The idea of salads and salad sandwiches, for lunch was not received with glee by all visitors. Carol did overhear the request “Is there any peanut butter and bread to eat?”

phone pics 082

However, the majority of participants tucked into the lunch with gusto and enjoyed the harvest from the garden. Kwenza commented “That kind of juice food we ate was delicious and healthy. Now we know about organic gardening.” Stembile added “I really enjoyed eating the lunch; my taste-buds are still dancing”

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 383 - Copy

We closed our day with a feedback session on what new learnings had been received and where people would like to go to from here. Some comments made in the feedback session were:

“I never thought you could plant flowers in a vegetable garden”

“I am so surprised how clean this place is, I have never been to a place like this, where there is no litter”

r Mpop khula shanti climate Sept 397 - Copy

Ntombenhle was delighted ”This workshop helped the group to know and understand what we are trying to do on the community garden site. They now have a good picture of what is going on. I am glad that we are not alone anymore.”

Inspiration for All

A group of aspiring gardeners living in Pietermaritzburg visited Mpophomeni Conservation Group recently to see how they go about food gardening in the township. Ntombenhle Mtambo and Tutu Zuma showed them around the Sifisesihle School garden and discussed their work in the outdoor classroom under the tree.Ntombenhle inspires aspiring gardeners at Sifisesihle outdor classroomThe group were interested in who benefits from the gardens and whether there is support from the community for what MCG are trying to teach. Samke said afterwards “You inspired me with the way you teach kids about gardening. I am going to teach others your song “keep the garden gate closed.” Then they visited three home gardens – starting with Mamsy Khumalo – they liked the idea that one should just plant veggies between the flowers as she has done because she has so little space.r mpop mumsy 3

Nelisiwe Khumalo told them her story about losing her job because she had TB, realising she needed good food to get strong and started a new life of growing food. They were amazed at how much food one can produce in such a small area in Ntombenhle’s garden.  Ntombenhle said afterwards “I think Nelisiwe’s story gave them hope for new beginnings. Now we need to show them now how to cook their food so that it is healthy and how they can be vegetarians eating very tasty food.”nelly's harvest

“We had a great visit with a combination of women who haven’t done much gardening and some who know how to garden, but in central African conditions. This was good encouragement for the cassava garden they are starting in Bisley.” concluded Kendelle Fawcett, facilitator for Mennonite Ministries who work with refugees, micro-finance groups, and bring women from different communities together to promote peace.


To book a garden tour or hire MCG to give advice in your garden call Tutu 083 730 8193 or Ntombenhle 071 916 2550

Food Forest

Tutu Zuma’s Garden in Madala Section is a colourful food forest.

tutu's  summer garden - Copy

Tutu says: “It is a great pleasure to invite young and old people to visit my garden. To teach them how to conserve and take care of our environment by doing a small piece of garden.”

tutu sihle umngeni river 025

“Sharing old history, reading stories and teaching them new things like saving seed for the future. I think this will really help the young ones not to do the wrong things. With the elders, we keep them active by doing exercises.”

tutu sihle umngeni river 011

“I am very proud of my food forest and medicinal plant garden. It keeps me strong and healthy and I have never been hungry – I eat green food throughout winter.”

tutu sihle umngeni river 031

“It also works as an exercise strategy and creates income. My neighbours, orphans, old people and those who are sick benefit from my garden – they get fresh food and also learn skills.”

tutu sihle umngeni river 010

Neighbour Aunti Nani says “Girl you are a super star around our area. We are proud of you.”

tutu sihle umngeni river 014

Tutu’s Garden is always a great spot to hold meetings. Read a related story at:

r mpophomeni girls meeting