Our Slow Food Community

Since it’s inception in 2012,  Mpophomeni Conservation Group has supported the ideals of the international Slow Food movement.

We have celebrated Terra Madre Days, swopped seeds, hosted gardening workshops, visited permaculture gardens, held harvest produce competitions, participated in Siyabuyisela ulwazi hosted by Biowatch and helped people in the community to start gardens of their own. Many of these events are recorded in our blog.  You may particularly enjoy reading Terra Madre Day 2013Terra Madre Day 2015 ,  Pickle Pot Pea Pyramids  Pumpkin Time in Pops, Enaleni Open Day

In 2016, Ntombenhle Mtambo attended the Slow Food Terra Madre Salone del Gusto in Turin, Italy.  A foodie adventure!

In November of 2018, we hosted a Seed Sharing Day

We were delighted to have Delwyn Pillay of Slow Food Durban and Thokozani Kubeka all the way from Van Reenen, join our community.

r thokozani and jamie seeds

It was a great morning of sharing seeds, meeting fellow gardeners and farmers, swapping food knowledge and general merriment. Passionate people all keen to support food security, seed resilience and climate-friendly agricultural practices gathered in Ntombenhle’s Permaculture Garden.crowd

There were dozens of types of bean seeds, plenty of pumpkins, lots of heritage maize, sorghum, millet, cucumbers, zinnias, nasturtium, marigold, African daisy, chillies, fennel, sunflower, carrots., parsnips and more. Thousands of seeds spreading across the province to grow delicious resilience.

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Everyone got to taste Pha Mabaso’s delicious iced tea made with Athrixia phylicoides and Ntombenhle Mtambo’s famous vetkoek with fresh garden salad while they explored the garden and made new friends.  Bridget Rindgdahl commented “Splendid day with splendid peeps sharing and saving seeds in splendid Mpophomeni!”  Veteran seed saver Eidin Griffin added “What a marvellous morning meeting of Seed Warriors! Thank you to everyone who came, brought seed, shared information, cooked and turned up from as far afield as Durban and Van Reenen’s Pass. You are all lovely.  Happy growing to the hundreds if not thousands of heirloom and open pollinated seeds shared today. Viva Seed Freedom Viva!”

This year, in May, Ntombenhle Mtambo, Spa Mabaso, Penz Malinga, Lindiwe Phikwane, Nhlaka Nzimande gathered in Ntombenhle’s garden to officially create Mpophomeni Slow Food.

slow food picnic

Over a picnic of local food we discussed what Slow Food meant. Ntombenhle “it is about community, love and sharing, seeing the value in other people’s food cultures and sharing stories about food and culture. Food is the source of everything.”

Spha Mabaso agreed, adding  “Conversations about food and community can create a healthy social structure through nutrition. The one thing people are willing to do together – that is to eat, drink and laugh.”

Passionate farmer Nhlakanipho Nzimande expressed his disappointment that those with more money think it is better to shop at the supermarket than support local food “They want to be seen pushing the trolley. These people may be rich, but they are not wealthy. Wealth comes from land, food security and community.  We can learn a lot from elders who are growing. What we call butternut, they have many different names for – they don’t even know ‘butternut’.”

r slow food community MPOPHOMENI

Lindiwe  Phikwane related her own experience of suddenly finding herself unemployed, starting a garden in her small yard. “Eating well does not have to be expensive. With a garden you can be healthy and rich. There is much unemployment –  we will not be getting jobs, we need to look after ourselves.”

Local activist Penz Malinga was adamant “Freely available, flavourful food should be for everyone without causing harm to birds, bees or trees.  SF allows us to participate in ensuring that food diversity and all cultures and regions are sustained for generations to come.”

slow food picnic jars

Together, we decided on our objective:

To support small scale organic farming in the greater Mpophomeni area, to improve food security, to prevent the loss of traditional food culture and to inspire residents to live healthier lives.

Committing to:

  • Promote organic, regenerative cultivation
  • Work together in the African tradition of ilima
  • Organise one seed sharing event each year
  • Celebrate Terra Madre Day in our community
  • Develop unique products using indigenous or invasive plants
  • Support small producers to access local markets

We also decided to work towards having one or more products in the Ark of Taste.  Starting with the development of Spha Mabaso’s indigenous tea. We will promote traditional foods, by teaching others how to prepare these foods and promote the use of wild greens as a nutrient-dense, free food source and assist others to identify these plants.

Ive got the power SLow Food

The local Reko Ring in Howick was a good place to start selling the produce of small scale farmers in the Mpophomeni and Mashingeni area.  Reko is a Finnish term meaning fair consumption – which fits perfectly with Mpophomeni SF objectives.  The main aims of REKO are:

  • Local, ethical and organic production
  • Direct relationship between producer and consumer
  • Transparent prices, orders and comments
  • You may ONLY sell what you yourself have produced or direct by-products of your raw materials – no reselling.
  • The producer must make production methods transparent and ingredients clear to the customer.
  • Collection is at a set time and place, for a set duration.
  • Reduced packaging, and as far as possible no plastic.

Spha sold out of his new-season organic sugar beans on his first visit!  Lindiwe Phikwane has become a regular trader selling the oyster mushrooms and cabbages produced by her church and spring onions and lettuce from her own garden.  “Reko is great. It helps us small producers to earn some money. The best part is we only harvest what has been ordered, so there is no wastage.”

Lindiwe with lettuce at REKO

As bread is such a staple of most township diets, we decided to learn how to make our own healthier version.

We spent a day with Carol Addis in Lion’s River learning all about artisan bread.  Carol was a patient teacher, who explained everything carefully. More than anything, learning how to feel the dough to ensure the correct level of moisture was emphasised. Everyone loved getting their hands into the soft mixture – stretching and folding gently – definitely, no strenuous kneading required. Spha particularly enjoyed the technical aspects, learning practically hands-on rather than from a recipe. Sphindile had never done anything like this before. “This was so interesting, I will definitely be baking my own bread now,” she said.

r mpoppies bread

Carol talked about why commercial bread is bad for us and shared her passion for healthy, local, seasonal food. For lunch, we enjoyed a veggie curry with some of our freshly baked loaves. Penz said she was always a bit afraid of bread before, but after learning about the processes that make bread digestible and nutritious she would be enjoying real bread more often. Lindiwe was delighted with all the info she received today and was already making plans to get her hands on some good local flour and start baking. She was surprised to work out that this good bread doesn’t even cost more to than cheap bread is to buy. Ntombenhle agreed with Carol that food made with love tasted the best.

r making bread

In July, Mpophomeni Slow Food spokesperson, Spha Mabaso headed to Johannesburg to connect with Slow Foodies there and learn more about the movement.  This is his account of the adventure.

With Caroline McCann (the Slow Food International Councillor for South Africa) and Dr Naude Malan of iZindaba Zigudla, I visited Cheese Gourmet in Linden run by Brian Dick. Brian Dick has for many years been the leader of Slow Food in Gauteng. I was amazed by the great variety of cheese produced in South Africa.

Next, we went to Orange Farm to meet Slow Food member Tim Abaa who is running a great organic farming community project.  We explored his place and I learnt a lot about making the best use of small township spaces.

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For lunch we headed to Eziko Resturant in Mid-Rand. Eziko means ‘hearth’ or ‘fireplace where one cooks’. Here we ate sheep’s head with vegetables and steamed bread. I learnt that traditional food can be served to tourists if it is well presented.  As I am keen to open a restaurant in Mpophomeni I was pleased to chat with chef Andile Somdaka – he invited me to visit again for some training.

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On Sunday morning we visited Victoria Yards – a complex of small art, food and design businesses created in a reclaimed industrial space. It was a great place to visit. At the regular Inner City Farmers Market,  I met a lady that was processing her vegetables and fruits to make smoothies to sell. This was great to see because I have a similar idea for Mpophomeni.

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What a wonderful trip – I got to meet a lot of people who believe in Slow Food and expanded my network within the food and gardening sector.  Caroline McCann was thrilled to meet Spha. “It was wonderful to have spent time with you. I am incredibly moved by your passion and knowledge. Thank you for sharing with us and know we are your ‘home away from home’ fans.  I reiterate that not only because I am the International Councillor but because I believe in you, I want to hear about the stuff you do.”

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Brian Dick, and his wife Jo, were down in KZN this past week so popped in to visit the Mpophomeni Slow Food Community on Sunday 20 July and share some of his knowledge on the organisation.

We began by showing our guests around Emphare Organics small scale farm in the heart of the township on Mtholampilo Street.  Spha introduced his cows who provide the manure to make the garden flourish.  Jo was very interested to taste mustard greens for the first time.

mustard spinach

After the tour we shared lunch prepared by the Slow Food community of Mpophomeni – rainbow salad, ijece, artisan bread, pumpkin soup. A few local artists and community members joined us for lunch and we had a great discussion about what slow food is and what it is trying to archive for communities.

After lunch we visited Ntombenhle’s garden as Brian and Jo had heard so much about it.  “What a lovely day,” said Brianafterwards, “I was so impressed by the energy and enthusiasm.  I am certain that Slow Food will grow in the area.”

ntombenhle's garden

What’s next?   During August, we will be attending the Biowatch Agro-Ecology course in Durban.  In early September we will be learning to make cheese on Wana Farm.   Watch the Slow Foodies of Mpophomeni be the change they want to see in the world!

Are you interested in joining our Slow Food Community?  email Spha Mabaso: slowfoodmpophomeni@cowfriend.co.za  or call 071 454 0323.   Slow Food activities are funded by sales of Mnandi – a taste of Mpophomeni. 

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Digital Entrepreneurs

Budding entrepreneurs from Mpophomeni Township recently attended a digital entrepreneurship workshop which aimed to empower them with solutions to make their businesses more visible online.

Thembalethu Zakwe compiled this article.

Digital expert Anthea ‘Bun’ Forder who is the owner of AppCity gave an insightful presentation on the factors that currently influence digital marketing. These include an exponential increase in pollution,  change in the skills that are in high demand in the workplace, international trade and advancements in technology.  According to Anthea, these things are opportunities and it has never been easier in the history of mankind to be a successful entrepreneur.

a Bun

Video has steadily become the most popular form of media on the internet, making up 86% of content that is consumed online. Products and services have been found to have more than 70% chance of being sold if they are advertised using videos.

While most people have not warmed up to the idea of creating video content, Anthea quickly showed the group in attendance that the task isn’t as daunting as one would imagine.

a group

Through using the free Wi-Fi that is available at Mpophomeni Library (thanks to MCG) the group learned to create concise, high-quality videos using two highly recommended apps, Quik and Splice. Both apps are available for free download on both Android and IOS devices.

Facebook is still the most used social media platform amongst South Africans between the ages of 18-65 years old making it a popular choice for businesses that want to reach their target market. However, Anthea introduced the group to a relatively unknown function on Facebook, www.business.facebook.com

The function offers various effective tools that assist business owners of any size to reach their ideal customer. The importance of understanding how the Facebook algorithm works was re-emphasized.

a hand

Other recommended apps for those that want to perfect their writing skills include upwork.com; wordnik.com, grammarly.com.  Unsplash offers a great collection of suitable, licensed images that content creators may use. Canva is an easy to use graphic design tool. Anthea demonstrated how to use Canva, by quickly creating a cover image for Mlungisi Ndlovu’s Facebook page advertising his house painting business.

Sabelo Xaba who runs Mpophomeni Horseback Tours was delighted to have attended the informative workshop. “It has given me lots of ideas about how I can improve my marketing. It was really great.”

a confusing

Ndumiso Dladla who was one of the attendees was inspired to forge ahead with starting a small scale retail business. “I am so grateful for this workshop. I now know the most effective ways to sell my products using social media. I especially look forward to creating videos that will show what I specialize in,” he said.

Animal lover and activist Penz Malinga learned new ways to popularize the walks she organizes in her community. “What an occasion indeed. I am enjoying trying all the wonderful apps shared and am working on an advertisement for my monthly Mpop Hills Walk” she said.

Graphic designer and writer Thembelani Mkhize who is in the process of selling some of his work overseas is excited to apply what he learned to his business. “This has been a great workshop indeed. I was excited to not only learn but to share some ideas and platforms that also work for me” he said. Artist Musi Ndlela was very pleased with the new information which will help him increase sales of his work.

a anthea and group

For more quick tips and tricks about digital entrepreneurship be sure to follow Anthea Forder on Instagram @bun.appcity or Facebook or Youtube.  To demonstrate how easy it is to make a quick video, she created this:

 

This workshop was sponsored by sales of Mnandi – a taste of Mpophomeni. 

 

 

 

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.

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.

cattle eating turnip

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.

livestock maintenance

“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.”

spha in veggie garden

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.

guavas

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.

athrixia phylicoides

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.”

cow at fence

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

 

 

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.”

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

 

 

Menstrual Health Day – Today 28 May

Did you know that you may use 14 000 menstrual pads or tampons during your lifetime?

Multiply this by the thousands of women living in Mpophomeni and it is no wonder that the local sewage system is often blocked and the landfill sites are overflowing.  We hear stories of young women losing out on education because they are not able to afford menstrual products – some say that 30% of South African girls miss school when they are menstruating.

Emily Burnett is trying to make a difference to the situation in Mpophomeni, in partnership with local organisations, and shares the story of how she began this journey.

Before I moved to Africa (from America), I don’t remember giving a thought to how other women around the world manage their menstrual cycles. Buying tampons and pads was a basic necessity for me, a non-negotiable and never given a second thought. I hadn’t the slightest idea that, for millions of women and girl, sanitary products are literally inaccessible or an unaffordable luxury.

But my worldview began to change when I turned twenty-one and moved from Wisconsin to a rural village in Cote d’Ivoire. I settled into an Ivorian host family and shared a room with five host sisters between ages seventeen and twenty-two. They became my companions and cultural guides and taught me the way of life for young, unmarried women in their context and culture.

Ivorian Host Family
It did not take me long to notice their struggle with menstrual management. Disposable pads were available at little wood-frames shops along the dirt paths, but they were expensive and most girls could not afford them. The only alternatives were old rags, mattress foam, leaves, or straw. Of course these materials led to infections and were not effective in absorbing heavy flow. My sisters sometimes skipped school in order to avoid an embarrassing leak. Their school, like most in rural areas, did not have clean bathroom facilities or running water, making it doubly difficult to maintain good hygiene during menstruation.

After eight months in my host family, I traveled to a handful of other countries in West Africa and heard the same story again and again. It was humbling and frustrating to accept that my personal experience of managing menstruation, one that did not interrupt daily life or cause serious health issues, was unimaginable for so many women and girls. I decided not to ignore this reality.

Project Dignity Activation

I now live in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and I have connected with three local organizations that exist to break down the taboo around menstruation and bring sustainable solutions to adolescent girls. I am certainly not the only one passionate about seeing girls unhindered from pursuing their dreams and fulfilling their valuable role in society. The following organization provide hygienic, effective menstrual care products to girls and are worth knowing about:
Project Dignity: Founded by Sue Barnes, this organization distributes packs of washable, 100% cotton panties and pads to high school girls in rural communities. This product is designed to last for five years. Project Dignity hopes to end school absenteeism due to menstruation and lower school drop-out rates.

Dignity Campaign: This organization’s goal is to empower girls with knowledge about their innate value and worth, while providing them with menstrual health education. Dignity Campaign facilitators host workshops for groups of girls, creating a safe place for discussion about femininity, relationships, menstruation, sex, social pressures, and a variety of other topics. Every girl leaves the workshop with a set of washable cloth pads or silicone menstrual cup. Dignity Campaign aims for a deep cultural change by weeding out lies and speaking truth with one girl at a time.

Pink: Launched in October 2017 in the KZN midlands area, this organization seeks to supply earth-friendly menstrual management products and education to women and girls. It also creates jobs through a network of community agents and ambassadors. They supply beautiful, budget-friendly cloth pads, silicone menstrual cups, and degradable disposable pads made out of natural fibres.

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I have partnered with Steph Bridle and a few other young women to run the Cherish Dignity Program (developed by the Dignity Campaign) in Mphophomeni.

We are currently facilitating the twelve-week program with twenty girls from the community, and our hope is to see more women trained as facilitators in order to reach a wider number of girls every term.

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Midlands Pink representatives, Kimberley Kunene and Wendy Mkwanaza attended the Dignity Campaign facilitators training in Johannesburg from 23-29 April 2018.  Kim reports: “We were equipped to train individuals and groups to increase their capacity in addressing issues that women and girls face in our communities. The program focuses on issues such as healthy menstrual management, education, and making informed choices about which menstrual products to use.  We love that the program covers topics like Identity, Purpose, Belonging, Sisterhood, HIV/AIDS, Human Trafficking, Relationships, Puberty, and of course, Menstrual Management.”

Emily, Kim, Steph, Wendy
Emily Burnett, Kim Kunene, Steph Bridle, Wendy Mkwanaza

​Today May 28th is Menstrual Hygiene Day. According to this website, Menstrual Hygiene Day “will help to break the silence and build awareness about the fundamental role that good menstrual hygiene management (MHM) plays in enabling women and girls to reach their full potential.” If you want to be part, here are a few ideas for you!

​Keep learning about the realities faced by real girls and women around the world and develop a sense of compassion that will motivate you to act.

Start Conversations with your friends and family about some of the stigmas around menstruation in your own community. Discuss ways that you can help change negative ideas and turn shame into appreciation and celebration of the natural, beautiful cycle our bodies go through.

Partner with people and organizations that are helping girls and women find their innate value, dignity, and purpose. If you live in KwaZulu Natal, start with one of the organizations listed above!
​Someday, Emily hopes to go back to Cote d’Ivoire and bring some sustainable solutions to girls in the village she lived in for eight months. “It is hard to know that my host sisters probably still do not have good options to manage their periods, and menstruation is likely still a taboo topic in their community. But I am grateful for what they taught me about life as a young woman in rural Africa. Those lessons will continue to spur me on to love the women and girls around me so that they will know their beautiful place in this world.” she concludes.

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Contact Emily on 076 355 5070

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.”

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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

Being an Owl Mother

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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