From a small vegetable patch to a self-sustaining business, Anna Kgaretswe is making a living out of her garden in Majakaneng.
Anna Kgaretswe is part of Sibanye-Stillwater Marikana Renewal initiative, implemented by SocioTech and Umsizi. Through her participation in SocioTech’s Broad-Based Livelihoods (BBL) strategies to stimulate personal economic activity, Anna has acquired agricultural skills and applies this knowledge to create a successful food gardening business. She has conscientiously saved in order to finance agricultural equipment. She has a clear, comprehensive plan for future business growth and is already reaping rewards through her work.
“I was first introduced to SocioTech in 2017. Through them I learnt about developing my soil and growing God’s way – organically, without chemicals. I have found this method to be very successful. I don’t often get pests but if I do I get rid of them using aloe juice and Sunlight soap. I grow the aloes at the end of each row of vegetables so I am always prepared but the only problem I have at the moment is with Red Spider. Once my SocioTech tunnel went up there was no stopping me. The garden has gone from strength to strength. I started with that one tunnel and then last year I won a SocioTech award and the prize was more netting so I used it to put up a second tunnel,” she says.
“I love my work but I don’t want to sound as if I am only interested in myself because that is not the case. I am part of a community that supports each other. One of the things I like about SocioTech is that it teaches us to think and act together as a community. Through the Phinda Phinda programme I have helped to train 16 people. It is satisfying to see their growth. I was taught to budget and save. This JoJo tank that you see here in my garden and the borehole are both the result of that saving. The borehole cost R27 000 and I saved for it. If you budget, anything is possible. It is not only the JoJo and the borehole. My child is in grade 11 at a school in Mahikeng and all his books and uniform have come from those savings. I have taught him that if you have no job you must make one for yourself. He says that he wants to farm when he leaves school. Not here. His dream is to have much more space than would be possible here. I am planning to extend with chickens and also to develop the land on the other side of the road but his plans are much more extensive than that. I tell him to think of this place as the beginning. Growth starts here and can spread outward.”
She says her garden is seasonal. “At the moment I have lettuce, strawberries, tomatoes, green peppers, chilis and spinach. When I first started I used to hustle and go door to door with my vegetables but people know me now and they come to me. Business is good. They come because my prices are good and my quality is high. I charge R5 for a lettuce which is much less that in the supermarkets. The cost of living is so high right now and the people in this area are poor so you have to keep your prices competitive. My vegetables don’t taste like the ones in Shoprite and they last long – even if you don’t have a fridge they keep fresh for a long time. I think it is because I don’t use chemicals. I believe that farming God’s way makes crops healthier. People want that now especially since COVID. I am interested in the medicinal power of plants. I am experimenting with growing ginger and garlic. If they grow well my plan is to teas and ointments with the juice. There are so many people with skin problems in Majakaneng – growths, boils and sores – that I think people would buy those treatments to help them heal.”
Once you have a garden cooking becomes a pleasure. “I grow thyme and put it into my tomato and onion gravy with a little green pepper. That is so delicious. I love my beetroot chakalaka too. At the moment the beetroots are few and mostly buried under the green peppers but later in the year it will be there turn to be the star of the show. I make a strawberry and banana juice using fruit from my beds and the banana tree. People come from all over Majakaneng to buy that juice. I am always planning for the future but sometimes it is important to stop for a moment and reflect. If I look back, I almost can’t believe that it is only four years since I started with SocioTech. I used to struggle to put food on the table now everything is just wow!”