PE Eastern Cape

Mud on My Boots In The Eastern Cape

Never in my life could I have I imagined myself walking through knee-high floodwaters. Such things don’t feature at my Gauteng home on high ground. Yet there I was in the Eastern Cape, soaking wet, boots around neck, being led through flooded fields to higher ground by Mr. Luyanda Williams of the Booysen's development forum who wanted me to help his community out of Desmond Tutu’s metaphorical ‘river’ of failure.

As a reminder, Desmond Tutu famously said, “There comes a point when we need to stop pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.” He didn’t mean this in the context of flooding on the scale that climate change has inflicted upon South Africa. He wasn’t asking for expensive Commissions of Inquiry that could produce neat reports to be discussed by academics and filed away with countless others. He wanted logical and scientific action to uplift his people in practical ways. His vision was a ‘Rainbow Nation’ that could overcome adverse social and climatic conditions and become income earners and providers for their families and communities. From an agricultural activator’s point of view, I believe he was asking for a scientific and analytic approach that would enable successful farming. That was why I was wading over unfamiliar terrain, soil testing gear slung over my shoulder in uncomfortable pursuit of ground that was suitable for profiling and testing. Discomfort is just a price that has to be paid for eventual success!

I admire community farmers who keep trying and trying despite adversity. They remind me of Nelson Mandela (1918 – 2013) saying, “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” His words reflected the dogged determination of a keen boxer who regarded every fight as winnable.

I have seen this fighting spirit many times in community agricultural projects ranging from a village near Polokwane in Limpopo Province all the way down-country to Zwede in the Eastern Cape. My work always starts with one of Ranyaka’s provincial coordinators Mr Sim Umthombohr being in contact with community development forums that recognise the need to call on corporate funding to provide them with resources and expertise in food production.

In this case I left home comforts on my birthday to keep an engagement with Mr. Luyanda Williams of  Lingomso Development Forum in Booysen Park. The trip’s purpose was to meet with Mr. Luyanda Williams regarding their Food Garden Network project. I was to do soil profiling and soil fertility testing and use that as a basis to advise on the implementation thereof so that they could work productively with Shoprite and the Mandela University.

Ranyaka and Nedbank’s Food Network have been successful with developing sustainable school vegetable gardens in Mamelodi and Kanyamazane, so I also visited Booysen Park High, Booysen Park Primary, Booysen Park Clinic and Cedarberg Primary to see how they could be helped. In general, the majority of school premises are likely to be devoid of topsoil that was scraped off during school construction. We have therefore helped schools to improve the soil or taught staff how to construct shade greenhouses to shelter plants grown in containers. In this area of the Eastern Cape, I found green-yellow clay soil; weeds; indigenous growth being used as medicinal or edible plants; snails damaging fruit trees and an assortment of previously gardened soils.

The next step is scientific laboratory soil analysis that will be mapped for development purposes. More importantly, that data will be used to help Lingomso Development Forum to prepare and utilise their community ground for successful food production. Well worth muddy boots!