Project activities

Food Sovereignty Event: Working with Rural Community towards Food Security

The Farmer Support Group (FSG) and local community woman hosted yet another successful event, “Sustainable Agriculture for Food Sovereignty”, on the 11th and 12th of March 2014, at Fabeni, Msinga. The FSG and members from the community have been engaged in various projects in the Msinga district since 2004. The FSG provides smallholder farmers with training, advice and project support, which ranges from organic and indigenous gardening to manufacturing building blocks. Msinga’s land is covered with aloes and rock, no green grass or pastures. One can’t help but wonder how these people manage to farm, let alone crop. Goats and cattle roam the area in search of a little green grass or leaves that they might find. Thus, FSG aims to assist these smallholder farmers and other land-users to actively manage their natural and related cultural resources in a sustainable manner in order to improve their livelihoods and quality of life.

In this regard, FSG hosted a Food sovereignty indaba in Bergville, Okhahlamba Local Municipality (OLM) on 14-15 October 2013. As a sequel to the event, FSG hosted another event titled: Sustainable Agriculture for Food Sovereignty. The event allowed farmers to share what they learnt during the previous event and discuss issues related to sustainable agriculture. In addition, to enhance farmer-farmer engagement; farmers / rural people from OLM attended the two-day event.

Day one started off with a brief overview of the event and its logistics, group allocation for site visit to the community gardens within Msinga. These events are a highlight of the year for most of these farmers, and it clearly showed as the woman started to sing and dance as they walked to the mini busses. The sites visited by groups focused on specific themes: Bee-keeping, planting systems, water harvesting techniques, flood irrigation, savings, marketing, and brick making project.


Site visit 1 – Machunwini
On arrival at the Sizathina group’s farm the clouds seemed to open up, but not even the rain could dampen the spirits of these people. They proudly showed off their crops and shared their experiences and knowledge with the rest of the visitors. The famers work in groups or individually, depending on availability of land and other resources. The Sizathina group consists of 21 women, each having an equal share of work on the same piece of land. They have a joint bank account where the proceeds are kept to sustain their agricultural activities.  Each individual also has her own vegetable garden which she may implement to suit her own needs. This enables her to feed her family or sell to the local community. This group also produces their own seeds and has their own nursery. Institute of Natural Resources (INR) in collaboration with postgraduate students from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), are currently conducting a research project in the garden related to soil erosion, water harvesting and irrigation. Similar research projects in association with UKZN are also currently running in other areas of the Msinga Municipality.

Site visit 2 – Gudwini and Mkhuphula
Two community group gardens were visited. The first garden was in Gudwini, which consist of 29 women in the group. Discussions centered on the group coherence and management to ensure every member has equal work load. Thereafter group discussed their plating methods and conservation practices. They also discussed their saving scheme in order to buy agricultural inputs and how it has worked thus far for them. Visitors were also interested in seed saving; one group member showcased her saved spinach seeds.

In Mkhuphula, group members discussed there group management and planting technique, such as intercropping with chilies. They explained the production of Garlic for market. In addition, they explained being able to divert water from big furrow. They also showcased they bee-keeping site whereby they harvest honey for market. 

Day two focused on a plenary discussion which allowed farmers and stakeholders to share outcomes and recommendations of previous day site visits, as well as, discussions centered on other agricultural related issues. The traditional leaders were represented by Mr. Shelembe and Mr Zulu, while Councilor Ngobe from Ward 10 represented the municipality. Cllr. Ngobe gave a very inspiring speech and asked the people to keep up with the hard work.  Her message was clear: “Our work is in our soil”.  Dr Maxwell Mudhara, Director of FSG from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, gave closure remarks by outlining the importance of understanding food sovereignty; he praised them for their co-operation with these projects. He then concluded by thanking the funders, Foundation for Human Rights (FHR) and Tshintsha Amakhaya. Not all projects have success stories and people from various communities have wasted opportunities to overcome poverty. Dr. Mudhara has been working closely with all the communities in Msinga and he is also involved with a research project at the Tugela River, not far from the Fabeni area.

The function ended with a lovely lunch prepared by the Fabeni women. The ingredients included some of their own livestock and garden vegetables. As per tradition the women were singing and dancing whilst preparing this feast in traditional pots on wooden fires.

The FSG also has similar projects in other areas, including Bergville, situated in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains. Farmers in the rural areas often struggle with the same daily obstacles and functions like “Sustainable Agriculture for Food Sovereignty” not only educates them, but reminds them that this is a group project.