Urban Farming in Soweto with Maserame Mohlathudi

Last year in November I was lucky to spend an amazing morning with Maserame Mohlathudi, an urban farmer from Tladi Soweto.

I was introduced to Maserame by Calvin Makgaila of the nearby Sibahle Community Garden.

Maserame grows food with 11 other people in a co-op style food garden at the Setlakalane Molepo Adult Centre.

Food is grown for use at home and the surplus is sold to local residents.

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Like most small-scale urban farmers, Maserame saves her own seeds

She started at the garden in 2012 after being retrenched from a retail company. She says the early days in the garden were tough.

“It was hard work setting up the garden, it was so overgrown, you couldn’t even see the roof of the building,” she says.

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Wild garlic growing Maserame Mohlathudi’s food garden in Tladi, Soweto

 

Maserame learnt to grow food from her grandparents when she was growing up in Putfontein in the former Bophuthatswana.

“Looking at things from a distance, farmers didn’t struggle because most people in the villages used to survive through farming.”

“To eat, to go to school, your family must be farming and that’s how we survived,” she says.

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Lemon Verbena grown in tyres. Maserame says this is a great, water-efficient way to grow herbs

Maserame, a 50-year-old grandmother moved to Johannesburg in 1986. She says when she has met with other small-scale urban farmers they have discussed how they though it would be easier to access land for farming.

She says many farmers now are used to the convenience of life in the city and afraid to move back to the rural areas and face the challenges alone.

“We are not prepared to go there because we want to get things easier, but we don’t’ want to face challenges,” she says.

Maserame says growing food in the city is easier as she has a lot of customers and she knows exactly what they want – spinach.

“Even if I grow a whole yard of spinach I will be able to sell it.”

However, she says ultimately she’d like to return to rural areas of North West province to grow food on a larger scale.

“I think maybe city life is fine when you are young, but when you grow older and you’re unemployed, you realise city life is not everything.”

Her advice for new small-scale farmers is don’t wait for handouts.

“If you only you rely on government its not easy to get things, done. You need to rely only on what you can do for yourself.”

Maserame and the other farmers at the co-op need some rainwater tanks and irrigation system equipment. If you would like to visit the food garden and support their work call Maserame on 083 420 9343.

 

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