Busisiwe Mgangxela

Busisiwe Mgangxela

Age at interview: 56

KwaMathole, South Africa

It is a hot day, and among the ordinary small homes of the kwaMathole village, there is a large, brick-faced rondavel,[1] the home of Busisiwe, or Busi. The homestead is fenced off and beautifully landscaped with a row of small trees along the fence. An older gentleman, who turns out to be Busi’s husband, comes to open the gate for us. In another part of the garden, a lone figure, dressed in a brown and gray patterned dress with a matching headscarf, is working in the garden. Busi shouts for us to join her. As we draw closer, it is hard to figure out how, apart from a little mud on her hand and feet, the rest of her looks spotless. The garden is a vibrant mix of colours, with small plants, fruit trees, raised garden beds, and stacks of old car tyres that have Moringa trees growing out of them. Busi’s home is like no other in the area. The farming practice here does not appear accidental. Everything seems to be purposefully placed. Upon talking to Busi, it becomes very clear that this homestead and its farming practice are one smoothly oiled machine.

I was born in East London, South Africa, in 1961. My parents are both from the Eastern Cape. My mother is from the Mtyholo village, just on the other side of King William’s Town, and my father is from East London. After they got married, they moved to another village which is known as Peelton. Both of them were firstborns in their respective families, and I am also their firstborn.

My mother was a nurse who trained at Mount Cork Hospital, and when she passed away, she was at Cecilia Makiwane Hospital, working there as a senior state nurse. As for my father, he was not a professional; he kept changing jobs, mostly in the private sector, working for bus companies, haulage truck companies, and so forth. Both of my parents passed on.

I had to take care of the others

As a firstborn in a family of two boys and two girls, I had to take care of the others. We grew up in a family that had strong values. We were raised to be churchgoers who emphasised the importance of not just the nuclear, but the extended family as well. Even though we had an extended family, we were not dependent on them a lot since our parents were both working and could provide for us.

All my siblings went to school. The one that comes after me, Mpendulo, went as far as standard ten (twelfth grade) in his education. Now he is working as an administrative officer at a hardware store. The third child in our family, Nomfuneko, was a teacher, but she passed away in 2005. And then the last-born, my baby brother Wandisile, is a lawyer. He studied at Fort Hare university, and he's working for the government. I sent him to school and paid his university fees because our mother passed away when he was in standard seven [ninth grade].

My mother raised us very well. She was a Sunday school teacher, and so for the whole day on Sunday, we would be at church. I hated going to church because we would spend literally the whole day there. Now, I see the purpose of that upbringing, because I can endure anything. Now I'm strong because of that.

The land I grew up on

I still remember the family activities that we did when I was growing up, like herding my father’s huge herd of cattle and my mother’s sheep, because both my parents were farmers. My father was a maize farmer, and even though he worked for other people, he would take holidays to come and till his lands and prepare his fields for planting maize and beans.

The land I grew up on as a child is land that my grandfather acquired during the times of forced evictions by the apartheid government.[2] During the forced evictions period, fertile land was being sold, and my grandfather, who was a businessman, was able to buy some land. My grandfather just got tired of the township life and moved to live on this land, that he had bought in Peelton, leaving his East London home to my father and his siblings. When the forced evictions then took place in East London, my father and his siblings were forced to leave East London and were moved to Mdantsane.

My mother, being a nurse, was passionate in teaching us about good nutrition, so we planted vegetables in our garden. Earlier on in life, I hated being in the garden because I took it as something that we were forced into. As children, before we went to school in the mornings, we would go into the garden to water the plants, even if it was during the cold winter, so I didn’t like it at all. In winter you would go to the garden and after you'd have freezing fingers and toes with chilblains.[3] As a child I would be crying and thought that it was cruelty.

But now as I am grown, passion for growing food keeps me in the garden. We never had to go to the store to buy vegetables because we would just pick them from our garden, and I am sure that is why I am now fond of gardening.

An adult at an early age

In 1976 my parents separated, and my father began to live elsewhere following the separation. I assumed the role of head of the family when my mother died in 1985, because we were living only with my mother. At the time of my mother’s death, I was still training to be a nurse. I was in my third year as a student nurse, and fortunately, we were getting paid, even if the wages were not much. My mother had been a nurse, and so we benefited from her pension as well. The real challenge when my mother died was not money — we never went hungry — but having to become the parent in the home was a huge challenge and responsibility. Having to look after my three siblings, including sending them all to school, made me an adult at an early age.

Before I had children of my own, I had already been a parent because of having to raise my younger siblings . It was not easy because my younger siblings did not behave as they would have behaved if Mom was there. They did not fear or respect me in the same way. They knew I was their sister; they knew I was not their parent. Despite this, I had to perform the role of a parent because I had to educate them and look after our home. By the time I had my kids, I was already up to my head with the problems of being a parent.

I didn't want to have many children

In 2007 I met my husband, Peter, a fearless man. I was doing consultancy work in school nutrition, and he was doing similar work. Peter married me, but I'm still using my maiden name until today. I did not change my surname, to take on my husband’s family name. I am a woman who fights for the freedom of women, a feminist in other words.

I thought I would only have one child — because as a firstborn in a family of three and growing up in a family that was very strict, when you wanted something, the response was always, “I've got other kids that also have to have something.” So, as I was growing up, I used to regret having siblings because I thought if they were not there, I would be getting what I wanted. For that reason, I didn't want to have many children. That is why I took so long before deciding to have a second child, whom I had eight years after the first one.

I have two daughters. I had my first child when I was 27, an age considered old in my isiXhosa culture, a time when people would start worrying that you might not have a child at all. The first one was born in 1988. Her name is Akhulule Sizibule. “Akulule” means “we have been freed.” She is an information technology analyst and works in Cape Town. She has a five-year-old child, my one and only grandchild, called Alu. I love Alu deeply.

My second child is Chumile Zizo. She's really the apple of my eye. Chumile was born in 1996. When I had my second girl, I decided on the name “Chumile” because it means “an abundance of girls.” I love her so much. She's so tiny. She just graduated in 2017; she was studying psychology and politics.

My husband has three sons from the first wife. They are adults now and they are working. Two of his sons are working in Johannesburg. The third one is working in East London doing government contracts, like building houses and so forth.

Grooming the nurses of tomorrow

I trained initially as a general nurse. I started my three-year diploma in general nursing in 1982 and I completed training in February 1985. A month later, in March of 1985, I started my one-year diploma in midwifery and I graduated in 1987. After that, in that same year, I went to work in Mthatha as a nurse, where I also studied further. In 1995, while still in Mthatha, I graduated with honours in orthopaedic nursing, majoring in nursing education and nursing administration.[4]

Between 1990 and about 1996 there was a massive brain drain in South Africa, largely to the United Kingdom. During this time the South African rand got weaker and the economy was on the decline. With the high demand for skilled health workers in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and other countries, the health sector in South Africa was the hardest hit. Suddenly, it was as though every nurse was leaving South Africa to work in these other countries

In 1997 I began working as a nurse educator, lecturing student nurses in Mthatha, and I did this work until 2003. Instead of nursing, I was grooming the nurses of tomorrow. However, looking at the calibre of nurses that we were training, it was not up to standard. I felt that we were not doing justice by training people who seemed to care very little for patients and were enrolling into nursing school only for a salary.

Between the exhaustion of feeling like I was not making a difference in people’s lives and the frustration of watching a degenerating health system, I said, “Okay, let me just leave.” In 2003, I went to Saudi Arabia, and I worked there in charge of a surgical ward for two years.

Then my sister got sick. She was sick for about two years, and whilst I was in Saudi Arabia in 2005, she passed on. I needed to come back to bury my sister, especially because I was the most senior member of our family.

I still had a passion for good health

I finished my contract and moved back to South Africa in 2005, but I didn’t want to go back to nursing. I had been a nurse for 14 years, and the conditions of the hospitals were degenerating in South Africa. With so many nurses leaving South Africa in the 1990s, there was massive brain drain and a resultant shortage of nurses. Nurses who stayed were forced to work under difficult conditions, and this compromised the standard of care patients would receive.

I was not prepared to return to being a nurse in South Africa, but I still had a passion for good health. At this time, I moved to Port Elizabeth, where I had left my children with a relative when I went to Saudi Arabia. I did some consultancy work there for a few years.

Having been a nurse and being passionate about child health and good nutrition, I firmly believe that prevention is better than cure. So, when I left nursing, I just ventured into farming and decided to practise agroecology, because, in a way, I would be continuing to follow my calling, even though I am no longer employed by the government as a nurse.

Now I produce food that is healthy and nutritious for people so that I can continue preaching the same education that I was teaching my students: that the health of a person has a huge impact on the quality of their life, so we need to keep people in good health.

I often get my former students asking me on social media what I am doing, and when I say, “Agriculture,” they ask why I left nursing . My response is always the same. I tell them that I didn’t leave nursing and care work. I'm working to safeguard the health of people by producing healthy, organic food. I'm caring for the soil so that the soil can take care of plants and the plants can take care of us. This way, we stay healthy and avoid hospitals.

How we started farming

My husband has access to land that was left by his father, so we decided to move to that rural area and start farming. That is how we started farming. It is about two hectares in size, and the title deed for that land is under my late father-in-law's name.

In 2011 we bought a tractor and a trailer and we started farming. But we hired people because we were still living in Port Elizabeth at the time. We would hire people to look after our fields, and our pigs, because we were not here. In 2013 we decided that my husband would move and be hands-on with farming whilst I was still in Port Elizabeth. I think I came home to join him around 2014 to be permanently based here. Between 2011 and 2014, we farmed part time.

We knew that even if the government did not give us the farms we applied for as part of the land reform process, we’d have that small piece of land that we can call ours. Though many people who stay in the rural areas have to get land from the chief, the land my husband inherited does not belong to the community. I don't know how my father-in-law obtained the title deeds, but I am glad that this land is here and available for us to use. Nobody can say anything about it to my husband because the land belongs to his father. It is only my husband’s family that could object to how we use this land, which is highly unlikely. At the moment we have not had any issues, and so it is just my husband and me using the land.

We can live our full farming dream

There's currently a government policy for land redistribution. If a farmer wants land, you look for land that is for sale and you apply for it at the department of land reform. The land reform department then assesses the land and the value. If you cannot afford it, the government can purchase it and lease it out to you. We put in an application in 2014 and have gone through the different stages of being assessed, which involve being interviewed and sharing a proposed project on what we plan on doing with the land.

We had recently gotten the news that there were four farmers which were selected to receive a farm. We are now the proud owners of a 48 hectare [118 acre] farm, given by the land reform department.

The farm is in Cambridge, in East London. Now we can live our full farming dream. For years we have not been able to sustain a piggery project because we did not have adequate land to grow food for the pigs.

That means we will be leaving this home and moving to East London. I am considering giving a permaculture student from Fort Hare this land. But even if it doesn’t go to the student, it will go to a person who is passionate about growing food in organic ways.

I get the result that I want

When I was working as a nurse, I was not satisfied when things did not go my way. You have many people above you who expect you to do what they like. I enjoy farming because I can do whatever I want to, whenever I want to do it, and the way I want to do it.

As a nurse I was earning a lot of money, which is different … now that I am in agriculture. There are times when I have to go without some of the things that I am used to. I stopped going to the salons for manicures and pedicures because they are just useless. What use is my manicure or pedicure when I am in the garden planting or grappling with the worms in my vermiculture compost?[5] Despite not having a salary I feel it is worthwhile to be in agriculture, though.

Even without a salary at the end of the month, I find joy when I go into the garden and I see my work. If you plant a seed and you water it, it will germinate into a seedling. And if you feed it, it will grow, and you can watch it be what you want it to be.

It is unlike when I was teaching students: you take material from the syllabus, you prepare for the lesson, and you demonstrate to them the things that they will do when they are nursing patients in the wards. But then, with those students, you cannot force them to learn, and you cannot make them study. If they don’t want to do something, they do not want to do it, so even with the additional efforts that you put in, you sometimes do not get the results that you would like.

But now if I put in the effort, I get the result that I want, so that makes me a very happy person. It is the freedom that I have — waking up in the morning knowing that what I will be doing will be for myself. And if it fails, I will not be blaming anyone but myself.

I could taste the difference

I decided that organic agriculture is what I needed to focus my energy on. There is no doubt in my mind that if we have proper food, and enough of it, a lot of diseases would be prevented.

The personal value for me of being able to produce my own naturally grown food is that we are consuming the same vegetables that we are producing — and if there is surplus, we sell. We are able to get income from the very same vegetables that we eat, and we are still able to look after the environment.

It’s also important to know where my food is coming from, because now, out there, there is a lot of contamination with genetically modified products, which also contributes greatly to making people sick. For that reason, it is important to me that I make my own food. In the village where I live, I also encourage people to follow suit, and as a result, we have requested them to join organisations that advocate for agroecology, that are active in seed saving, and things like that.

As I mentioned before, my family upheld traditional family values. My grandmother from my father's side grew vegetables and they were using cow manure. My father grew maize, which was of the open-pollinated variety,[6] also using cow manure to fertilise the soil. He would bank his own seeds for the next planting season from his yield and not from purchasing seed.

When I started working as a young person, I started buying vegetables from the supermarkets, and I could taste the difference. There was no taste in the food, and then I remember thinking, “This food doesn't taste like my grandmother’s food or like my mother’s vegetables.” I figured something had to be wrong with it. Now, as a person who was dealing with health, I have come to know that they are putting chemicals in the food we buy in the supermarkets. I did my research and found that there are chemicals like glyphosate that cause cancer and that are killing the soil and the environment.

The land was calling me back to it

When I was in Mthatha, I was living in a block of flats, and I would hear people in my community talking about global warming. At that time, I was living in a flat and had the urge to plant but I didn't have land. So some people in the flats were advising me on different ways to grow food with no land. Like taking an old bathtub and putting it on your veranda full of soil, so you can grow things like beetroot and spinach.

The desire to grow food intensified for me after gaining this knowledge and experience in Mthatha and after remembering what it was like to grow food as I was growing. The land was calling me back to it, albeit gradually. When I eventually started with agriculture, I did a lot of Googling and checking on the internet, and I found out in the village here that there were people that belonged to a non-governmental organisation called Zingisa Educational Project.[7]

In 2015 when I joined Zingisa, the people told me that I belonged there with them and had found a home there, because they were talking of agroecology. They were talking of mitigating climate change and ways of planting during a drought, amongst a lot of other things. They told us about the principles of agroecology: the intercropping, the crop rotation, the mulching, and the saving of water. All these things made sense to me and excited me.

It was at this time that I learnt how to do things like conserve rainwater and … use gray water.[8] Using grey water is another way of saving water, whereby when you wash your fruit or your vegetables, you use that water to irrigate your plants.

I also found out that they had seed banks and so I joined without hesitation.[9] In agroecology, as a farming practice, we encourage people to save their seed. Whenever you have your crops, you don't harvest all of them. You leave some so that then you can get seed. In the communities there are people that are passionate about saving seed, and we call them “seed warriors.” I am proud to call myself a seed warrior.

My roots in agroecology were deepening

I received my training for five days in agroecology, with the help of a Cape Town organisation that Zingisa was part of called Trust for Community Outreach and Education. This is the process that reconnected me with what my grandparents and my parents had been doing. I realised that the Indigenous knowledge practised by my grandparents, the seed banking and the organic manure, was all agroecological practice.

One day in 2016, I was listening to Umhlobo Wenene FM, which is a national radio programme, and they were talking about agriculture and listeners were phoning in. There was a lady who phoned and talked about “Blue Death,” a pesticide that she was using for her plants, and so I phoned in to the radio show and explained the harm of using the pesticide.

After that, I developed a relationship with the radio show. They would phone me, and I would give agroecological farming advice on the show. My roots in agroecology were deepening, and I was enthusiastic to share the information and knowledge I had.

Through Zingisa, I met with a network of institutions that were working on agroecology, including Rhodes University, University of Fort Hare, Fort Cox agricultural college, and others. We have agricultural training institutes that also work in partnership with Fort Hare and Rhodes University. This is funded by the Water Research Commission, which supports the work of Fort Hare and Rhodes universities. The network of institutions I mentioned is still active and meets once every three months and includes these NGOs that I'm talking about — such as Zingisa and the agricultural colleges.

Joy in the garden

Working with the land requires hard work, love, and respect for the land, as well as patience. Even now my children still say, “Mom, why don’t you go back to work?” because they see how much I work in the garden. I find joy in the garden.

If I go to the garden in the morning before eating, I often don’t eat all day because I don't want somebody to disturb me when I am there. I don't even want my stomach to be disturbing me by wanting food. I work in the garden the whole day, the people from the village often shout as they pass by, “Get out of the garden! The sun is dangerous.” And I respond, “Mind your own business.” I really find joy in my garden. I find that I am at my happiest when I'm working the soil.

Sometimes I even take my shoes off and I just go barefoot, because I want to feel the soil, I want to feel the earth, the soil touching my feet.

I don't even worry

The Land is my mother. The land is my everything. If you talk of land, you're talking food. You're talking water. You're talking minerals. If you talk of land, you're talking of freedom. If you talk of land, you're talking abundance and wealth.

If you've got land, you've got everything. If you own land, you can see beyond certain temporary environmental limitations, like drought. You don't dwell on stumbling blocks if you've got land. You want to use it to your satisfaction.

My youngest daughter, Chumile, doesn't want to go to the garden and work, but surprisingly, when we want to buy food, she says, “We should buy from the store that sells organic food.” She's conscious about that even when she doesn't want anything to do with agriculture. When I talk of [it], she is not interested. But when it comes to her food, when it comes to her herbs, when it comes to her skin, she wants to use only organic produce or products. So I don't even worry, because I know that at a later stage, she is going to come back, because this is how I was as well.

We do not want chemicals in our lands

In the rural areas, it is the practice that whenever people grow their food, they don’t use chemical fertilisers. You’ll find that even when the government has a programme where they give out chemical fertilisers and genetically modified seed, the community members refuse to take them because they know that it will be messing up their soil and their fields.

In my village, nobody keeps seed from the government. I don’t know where people in my village got this information from about the harm of fertilisers and genetically modified seeds. There was an agricultural extension officer[10] who brought the programme of mono-cropping that the department of agriculture is trying to encourage. The government was giving out seed, fertilisers, and pesticides that are made of chemicals, and so the villagers just said, “No, we do not want chemicals in our lands because we know they are dangerous.”

I know that trainers at Zingisa are encouraging organic farming, but the member of the community who raised the alarm about the harm of taking the industrial seeds and chemical fertilisers from the department of agriculture was not even a member of Zingisa. He is a relative of my husband, and at some point, he loaned us a small piece of land so that we could produce maize on it for our pigs. He instructed us that he did not want chemical fertiliser in that field, so I don’t know who warned him and the other community members of the dangers. But they are just adamant that they only need to use organic manure. Members of this village use cow manure and chicken manure, and they farm in the old ways, the traditional ways. So it is not a new thing when Zingisa and Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda[11] talk about agroecology.

Let's say sorry to nature

What fascinates [community members] are teachings about climate change and global warming, which they feel but could not put a name to. They sense that things have changed because they are aware that the seasons for planting are no longer the same and that winter and summer are no longer what they used to know. The first summer rains do not come early in October; now you get those in January and February. So they are aware that there is something happening.

Zingisa and Ntinga are just reinforcing the fact that they need to continue practising agroecology and diversify their farming. They need to plant herbs so that then they can see it is also okay to use herbs as medicine, rather than rushing to the clinic for minor ailments. Instead they could prevent illnesses by treating themselves using herbs and plants. For instance, when you have a minor cough, you can use the athenosia ramroot and something like lemongrass to help. So we encourage them to plant herbs, which are also going to help them with pest control and things like that.

I oftentimes wish for people in the villages and the world at large to glance back in time — that we all stop and look at the environment. If communities cared for and looked after each other and the environment, we would not be contending with hunger and poverty in this way. We would not be contending with crime, disease, alcohol, and drug abuse. If I could stand on a mountain and shout, I would say, “Go back to Mother Earth! Let's say sorry to Mother Earth. Let's correct the wrongs that we have done.”

You can achieve a lot with a small piece of land

The practice of agroecology means that you plant using an ecological system in synergy with the garden and the life around it. This means waste from the home feeds the soil and feeds animals, and the food from the soil and the animals feed the household. The cycle keeps going without wasting.

I practise water conservation by harvesting rainwater. I use herbs that repel unwanted insects from my garden and attract those that are beneficial. I also have flowers and special plants, such as … lavender that attracts bees, which will in turn help with the pollination.

When I plant, I practise companion farming. I ensure I have enough to cover my plants. l have something, like spinach, that will give nitrogen to my plants. I have a climber. I have a fruit tree. So that is how my agroecology goes.

The beauty of agroecology is that you can practise mixed farming, crop rotation, and intercropping. At the moment I've got fruit, vegetables, grain, and livestock, and yet, this land is less than a hectare. With agroecology, there's a lot that you can achieve with a small piece of land.

I will prove the sceptics wrong

I also use my garden as a learning site where the villagers can come to school to learn how agroecology is done and how a permaculture garden is formed, so that when they go back home they can practise and try for themselves what they have seen.

With my village, we have 13 other smaller villages that are under one chief. Members of Zingisa are scattered in all 13 of those villages. They join the community farmers’ association and … then they gain by having information on organic farming practices.

I used to be a member of the farmers’ association committee in my village, until I was elected into the higher committee that stands for our entire area. The different village committees feed into a Service Centre in the department of Agriculture. Each village cluster varies in size. In the case of mine, we have about 30 families, and we make it a point that there is one person from each family who becomes a member of the village committee.

I will prove wrong the sceptics that say permaculture and agroecology are for household gardens only. I've done my research; there's a lot that can be done. Even if you've got 50 hectares, you can grow your food using agroecology.

I have absolutely no doubts that it is certainly possible that anyone can revive their garden using organic farming and re-establish organic farming practices and sustain themselves. Sometimes people just need to be shown how, and that is why learning sites are useful for teaching and encouraging others. There are people that are now successfully growing food. Some are even moving back to the villages from cities and learning afresh how to value the land and how to do food production.

A vicious cycle that started with apartheid

If I look back to apartheid, industrialisation damaged a lot of people's minds. Many of the men [were required] to go into the cities to work. What used to be forced has now become the ambition of most men. The land was left to the women who remained in the villages, and from there, people were trapped in a system of dependence on a capitalist economy.

Agriculture began to suffer because of this. People were using cattle to plough their fields, and yet the apartheid system insisted that they had to reduce the number of their cattle. At the same time, people’s land was also reduced. In that way, people were no longer able to adequately sustain themselves, so money was needed to buy supplementary food and commodities. This meant that the salaries of the men in the cities were not providing additional value to families, because the funds had to go to buying things for basic survival.

If anything, industrialisation threatened the survival of many families, especially those families in which the men moved to the cities to find work. Tractors were introduced, which had to be hired, and people didn't have money. When apartheid ended in 1994 the lives of farmers, especially the lives of smallholder peasant farmers did not improve, as agriculture did not seem to be a priority for the new government.

The change of regime in South Africa didn’t bring agricultural support. Instead people just became dependent on social grants. At the same time, as apartheid ended, mines were closing down, people who had been working for the mines came home, but they didn't want to go and work on the land. Their relationship to land had been transformed in a very negative way. They no longer saw land as a source of life and nourishment.

The generation of our children is even more affected, they see working with land as punishment. Even beyond land, they feel they are being abused if you say they need to work. The ethic of hard work, even in difficult times, has really suffered. Now we have hungry people in our society because we are no longer producing food. It's been a vicious cycle that was birthed by apartheid.

I don’t think that all is lost

I don’t think that all is lost, though. It is possible to bring back the old values and revive Indigenous practices, because now when people look at my garden, they are inspired to do the same. There is an uncle who didn’t have a garden, but after seeing what my husband and I are doing on this land, he was motivated to try. He now has his own garden and he doesn't buy vegetables. He is using most of the methods I am using but has opted out of some of them, like bed designs and the mulching, which he says are too labour intensive. He is even using cow manure and his garden is doing very well.

Agroecology is not only about food security. We're looking at food sovereignty in agroecology, which is a person’s ability to choose the type of food that they want to produce, and the food that they want to eat and that they feel is culturally appropriate. You see, with food security, culture is not even looked at. You just go and buy what is there. You don't know how it was made, where it comes from, how long it has been there, or what journey it has travelled.

Seed sharing is also an important practice to revive. Our traditional African seed was stolen by the system, by the capitalists, by the Monsantos and Syngentas. And now we don't have traditional seed. We don't have as many of those seeds that were passed on from generation to generation. We rarely find those. Seed sharing might enable us to multiply our traditional seed, our open-pollinated varieties. We need resilient seed that we do not have to spend large sums of money acquiring, and seed sharing and banking will go a long way in this respect.

Those of you that have chosen to grow food, need to have land. You need to know your seed. You need to choose what you want to plant. You need to be able to control the food that you are producing, and you need to control its distribution.

We know what we need to do. The path is clear. We just need to be willing to walk that path.

  1. A rondavel (from the Afrikaans word “rondawel”) is a Westernised version of an African-style hut.
  2. Forced removals refer to the moving of people from their homes against their will. This may not always involve physical threat or force. Sometimes coercion or other tactics, against which the evictees are not in a position to challenge, are employed. South Africa has experienced a long history of forcible removal of people as the result of racist legislation. This has been extensively documented by the Surplus People Project (South Africa). See “Forced Removals in South Africa: Volume 1-5 of the Surplus People Project Report,” Pietermaritzburg: Surplus People Project, 1983.
  3. Chilblains are the painful inflammation of small blood vessels in the skin that occur in response to repeated exposure to cold, but not freezing, air.
  4. Mthatha is the main town of the King Sabata Dalindyebo Local Municipality in Eastern Cape province of South Africa and the capital of OR Tambo District Municipality. It takes more than 3.5 hours to drive from Mthatha to Amathole, where Busisiwe currently lives.
  5. Vermiculture is the cultivation of earthworms, especially for use in converting organic waste into fertiliser.
  6. “Open-pollinated” is a horticultural term meaning that the plant will produce seeds naturally. When these seeds are planted, they will reliably reproduce the same plant as the parent.
  7. “Zingisa Educational Project is a…organisation that supports people’s organisations to lobby and advocate for pro-poor land, agrarian policies and to develop alternative models of land access and land use in favour of the rural poor, emerging farmers and the landless” For more see: https://search.info4africa.org.za/Organisation?Id=92311 (accessed November 10, 2018).
  8. Gray water, or sullage, is all wastewater generated in households or office buildings from streams without faecal contamination.
  9. A seed bank stores seeds to preserve genetic diversity. It is a type of gene bank. Most seed banks are publicly funded, and seeds are usually available for research that benefits the public.
  10. Agricultural extension officers are responsible for communication between the agricultural development support services department and communities at district level. They also provide training and other support.
  11. A rural community movement, Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda mobilises for rights, democracy, land reform, and sustainable rural development. It is located in Keiskammahoek, Eastern Cape, South Africa. Started in 2002, Ntinga Ntaba kaNdoda was formed by community members to help propel the work and vision of the community.