Tough times fertile ground for growing our own vegetables

Mabila Mathebula

Mabila Mathebula

Published Apr 5, 2024


Mabila Mathebula and Aifheli Manwatha

It is notable that there is a proliferation of political parties that will be contesting the May elections. At some stage, the mantle of every organisation will be tested in one way or the other after its inception.

For example, after the ANC was formed in 1912, it had to deal with the horrendous Native Land Act of 1913. That was an acid test for the newly formed organisation and its leadership.

By then, there was no democratic process or stakeholder engagement to involve the citizens in decision making – decisions were imposed on people on a whim. Most parties are in a fever of impatience; they are dying to be the next ruling party but they do not know the challenges that lie ahead.

The antecedence of urban mobility in South Africa was the promulgation of the Native Land Act. The act limited African land ownership to 7% and, later, 13% through the 1936 Native Trust Land Act. The act is to share the blame for carving out a society that creates job seekers as opposed to job providers. We mark the inertia in farming with the introduction of the Land Act. People were hobbled with chains to make industrialisation work at their own expense.

As an added benefit, our South African soil, as well as the soil in neighbouring countries is well suited for agriculture. Before urban mobility, people never relied on social grants or handouts from the government for survival but fed themselves through working the land. The land was an asset upon which families made their livelihood.

Even though there were no measurements in terms of hectares or square meters, our forebears were able to produce enough food for all seasons. Food security is an area of acute need. Our population is growing at a significant rate and, as a nation, we must address the question of food security urgently. Food security, is like charity, it should begin at home.

People must be encouraged to tend their vegetable gardens where they live. The cost of living is high and it is time people grew their own vegetables. Often, we are surprised when we see people from Mozambique who are going home, buying vegetable and fruit from South Africa. What happened to agriculture in their country? We cannot blame the behaviour on colonisation but on sheer laziness.

In places such as Soweto, Tshikota, Elim, Gugulethu, Mdantsane and Mabopane, people own stands with a minimum measurement of 300m² and the size of house they occupy is around 50m². With this in mind, we could produce vegetables for all seasons.

Let us illustrate this over a familiar ground. If a community collectively owns 500 stands and each individual could donate 20x10m² to plant onion, they would produce 1 000 000 onions (a total of seven to 12 tons, packed into 10kg bags, at a minimum of R250 a bag), the residents could improve their livelihood and venture into new farming projects.

This is what we call proactivity, where people do not wait for the government to give them jobs and social grants but proactively club together to create jobs for the common good.

In a seminal speech, former US president Barack Obama said: “Yes, we can.” We could change the trajectory of our residential areas by destroying poverty, unemployment and inequality. We could all bequeath the skills of working a tiny piece of land to our children and grandchildren. It is time we stopped being passive and become active citizens.

When communities start to work themselves, crime will decrease but where people idle, crime will increase. God created us to work with our hands and not be idle. The Native Land Act was paved with negative intentions but we cannot fight procedural justice through complaining. Let us get back to work and uplift our communities.

We can no longer kill the farmer who feeds the nation; we need to kill the spirit of idleness. By killing the farmer, we are killing the nation. The new slogan should be: Save our farmers and kill idleness. Judges should hand down heavy sentences to farm killers.

The Star