The story of an inspiring farm at Joppie Village (Hleketani Community Garden)

In 1992, a group of mothers and grandmothers at Joppie Village under N’wamitwa Traditional Authority outside Tzaneen came together to make a community garden.

In the face of a mounting food crisis, the women asked their traditional leader for a land to make a garden. The farm occupies six hectares and provides a vital supply of fresh vegetables for the women’s families, for local people living with HIV/AIDS and for sale in nearby Villages. Equally important, the garden provides community, resilience and autonomy for the farmers.

Hleketani Community Garden (“Thinking Community Garden”) was founded following a severe drought in the Southern Parts of Africa and in the midst of widespread hunger. More than twenty years later, this women’s farm is still going strong, supplying the farmers’ household, AIDS-affected community members and the wide community with local nutritious food; providing local livelihoods (e.g. vegetable sales); and nurturing resilience.

When the farm was founded, the country (SA) was in the midst of the tumultuous transition from apartheid to non-racial democracy. Under apartheid, rural areas had long been impoverished and treated mainly as a source of labour for industries and the Cities. Even today, the project to build food security and prosperity in rural areas is in its infancy. This community enterprise is making a major contribution.

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More than twenty years later, Hleketani Community Garden (“Thinking Community Garden”) is still going strong. In good times, the farm is self-supporting: all proceeds from vegetable sales are ploughed back into manure, electricity, drip irrigation and repairs. Once a year, in December, the farmers share whatever is left after all expenses. The operation runs very close to the bone. The women buy kraal manure from local farmers and hire a tractor when funds permit.

In 2013, thieves stripped the farm of its water-conserving drip irrigation. For now, the farmers rely on flood irrigation until they can replace the drip system. A donation from university students in Canada enabled the farmers to hire night-time security guards, putting an end to the theft.

South Africa faces a growing water crisis due to drought and crumbling infrastructure. More than half the people of the region are not formally employed, and unemployment rates for those under 30 hover near 70%.

South Africa’s post-apartheid system of social grants has become the mainstay of many households. Once a month, villagers gather at their local pay-point to collect their pensions and child-support grants. The farmers do many other kinds of work to support their households.

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At N’wamitwa Times & BGMP Media Group, we would like to take this time and thank all people out there who are making a difference in their communities. Thank you “Hleketani Community Garden” at Joppie Village.

Please be advised that this article was compiled from different sources like BGMP Media Mag, Women’s Farm, Elizabeth Vibert, Christine Welsh and Godlive Masinge.

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