Mar 30th, 2012 10:32 AM UTC
By Nozipho Ndebele
Last week, ONE’s Africa Communications Manager, Wangui Muchiri and I had the opportunity to trek down to rural KwaZulu Natal (KZN), the province that has Durban as a favorite holiday destination for many. Our assignment took us deep into the midlands and hills of KZN, landing in Pietermaritzburg then a three hour drive to eMsinga, Pomeroy. We arrived, promptly dumped our bags and immediately got on the road to talking to our first villager before the sun set and lost natural light good enough to film.
To our surprise and amusement, we arrived at one of the homesteads to find Mr. Ngidi who had a field of pomegranates growing naturally in his backyard! The trees dotted across his field, were laden heavy with the hard, big, red fruit, some already cracked open with chickens continuous pecking as they flew up to get a snack. The pomegranates apparently grow naturally in this particular area, even the chickens have pomegranate rubies for a mid afternoon snack! Gives a new meaning to free range grain fed chickens! The intriguing thing was that Mr. Ngidi did not realize the value of the pomegranates and had never thought of even selling them to the local food store or neighboring villagers. He was pleased to hear he was sitting on a little nest egg!
Mr. Ngidi was very animated as he talked about the importance of farming for him and his family and that if the government could provide him assistance with fencing his homestead to keep away the goats and cattle from eating his crop, there would be no need to have a formal job as he and his family would be self sufficient. In his words, “we would grow what we eat and eat what we grow; we’d be healthy and happy”. Mr. Ngidi was sure that farming would erase poverty from his backyard, his children and generations after them would never need to rush to the city looking for jobs.
Next up, we spoke to the village headman, who had the same sentiments as Ngidi. He spoke of how people were now eager to go back to farming as they had realized the importance of farming in the fight against hunger. He mentioned that people often spoke to him about getting assistance with water and fencing. By this time evening shades had set in and we called it a wrap for the day.
Day two saw us making an early start headed to eNyokeni, the Royal Palace of HRH King Goodwill Zwelithini, where we were met by the brightly dressed Zulu matriarchs dancing and ululating, and Zulu men in full traditional garb praise singing and chanting “Bayede!”, in that great Zulu oral tradition, as they ushered King Zwelithini in.
In the deliberations that ensued, King Zwelithini impressed upon his amakhosi (chiefs) and traditional leaders he had gathered there, to return to farming as the means of fighting poverty. With all the land available to the community, he encouraged everyone to deal directly with poverty by farming for sustenance as well as for commercial purposes. He told amakhosi that the kingdom had to unite in the war against poverty and hunger and asked for their assistance as he couldn’t do it on his own.
Of particular interest, was that King Zwelithini presides over a board called the Ingonyama Trust Board. The Board is the landowner-in-law of some 2,700,000 hectares of land spread throughout KwaZulu Natal. The mission of the Ingonyama Trust Board is to” improve the quality of life of the people living on Ingonyama Trust land by ensuring that land usage is to their benefit and in accordance with the laws of the land.” About 4, 500.000 people live on the Trust land and 250 Traditional Councils have jurisdiction over it. The Board owns land in all District Municipal areas within the Province. The Ingonyama Trust legislation also requires that formal consent of the relevant Traditional Council be obtained before a mining tenure rights application can be processed.
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi (Traditional Prime Minister of the Zulu nation) continued from where the king had left off and spoke about the government needing to commit to assisting the community to ensure that even small subsistence farmers are able to get the best out of farming and to lift themselves out of poverty. Finally, the premier of KwaZulu Natal, Mr. Zweli Mkhize rounded the morning session up by going into the facts and figures of the potential output that could come out of the land if utilized optimally. It would be enough to keep the province self sustained and even go into major exports.
Wangui had the opportunity to have one to one Q & A sessions with King Zwelithini, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, and the chief of Zondi. The short documentary is currently in production to be launched on April 10.
On day three we had the opportunity to have a conversation with a local woman who grows corn, sugar cane, groundnuts, pumpkin and beans in her homestead. With the corn she grows, she makes corn meal, corn bread and basically sustains herself and her family with the homegrown produce. She also sells the excess to enable her to send her children to school. For her the importance of farming lay in the fact that she could provide food for her family.
Finally, we paid a visit to a local cooperative, where farmers get together to assist each other with farming commercially. These farmers have clubbed together to grow a range of produce to supply the local supermarkets and vegetable markets. They have received assistance with farming implements like tractors, a water pump to access water from the nearby river and training on agriculture and crop growing. They are currently looking into farming pomegranates commercially.
This marked the end of a very informative and eye opening trip that gave some great insight and opportunity to hear from the traditional leaders’ point of view.
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