Permaculture improving livelihoods

Sbulelo working in her garden 

By Lynn Kota

Sbulelo Gamedze is full of smiles as she opens the gate and welcomes us into her beautiful garden. She has never been involved in any form of farming, before she became interested after attending trainings conducted by LUSLM (Lower Usuthu  Sustainable Land Management -GEF) Sustainable Agriculture coordinator Mr NormanMavuso on Permaculture gardening. She started attending the trainings which took place at Madlenya area, beginning in July 2012 and two months down the line she has her own beautiful permaculture garden which has already started to help her feed a family of 6 people.   So far from her garden she has harvested spinach and lettuce which takes a much shorter time to be ready for consumption. Her garden has other vegetables such as beetroot, carrots, garlic, onions and cabbages. Through attending the training she was motivated her to start a garden and what motivated her even more was the thought of saving money because if she had a garden then she won’t have to spend money buying vegetables from the markets.

 “Madlenya area is  faced with a serious issue of  shortage of water so this is the perfect way of growing vegetables because you only water the garden twice a week and your produce is very good and healthy’’ she notes. “The water that we are encouraged to use is ‘grey water’, which is water that we have already used for other purposes in the household, like washing dishes and bathing. We are then taught how to purify this water for re-use in our gardens”, she adds.

All was not smooth as she faced some challenges in establishing her garden ”I didn't have all the necessary garden tools to start and maintain a garden but during the trainings we were encouraged to use any available tools around the house, I didn't have a fork so I used a hoe instead, I also didn't have a watering can so I used a bucket to water my garden.  For preparing liquid manure, I used an old drum, which had been lying around in the yard”.
She continues to explain more of her challenges to us. When starting her garden she didn't put enough mulch when making the seedbed and this has resulted on her garden having too much weed.  As she lifts one of the leaves of the spinach you notice some whitish powdery stuff which she says appeared after the heavy rains we had a few weeks ago, Mr  Vusi Dlamini who is one of the LUSLM technical coordinators suspected that the spinach is infected with blight or mildew. He then encouraged her to use pesticides spray which she can actually make on her own with the aid of notes she received during the trainings.  These are natural pesticides made from a variety of plants that are known to repel pests.

She also shares with us that she recently attended a food processing training which was  facilitated by Mr Mavuso from LUSLIM )LUSIP-GEF) and the home economics officer, Mrs Nonhlanhla Shabalala from the Ministry of Agriculture. At this workshop, she learnt a lot about different healthy ways of cooking her produce. From the training she picked a few new recipes which her family enjoys a lot. Through the training she also learnt how to preserve the food through bottling, for use at a later time when the particular vegetable is not available.

Gamedze has great plans for the future of her garden. She hopes to extend it to a larger scale for commercialization. She says this won’t be too difficult for her since she won’t be spending too much money because she will use already available resources to start and maintain her garden. She dreams of supplying stores with her good organic produce one day.  “I would encourage every member of my community  to try this kind of gardening they will not regret it just like me, I now have something to keep me busy all day when my family is out some working and some at school. Most importantly I now save a lot of money and hopefully I will make some money in the future through this practice” are her parting words.