Impact Stories from Mtubatuba

UMkhumbi ka Nowa and Silindelokuhle are Self Help Groups in rural communities of Mtubatuba municipality, uMkhanyakude district, KwaZulu-Natal province. These two Self Help Groups are some of the many that have benefited from GAGA (Goodwill & Growth for Africa UK) funding for Zimele’s Self Help Group and Agriculture programmes. Below are their stories:

UMkhumbi ka Nowa

UMkhumbi ka Nowa Self Help Group was formed in May 2013 and has 12 members. Through the Self Help Group programme, the members of UMkhumbi ka Nowa grew to understand the importance of maximising their resources, talents and skills to promote their social and economic development. As they have farming skills, nine members of UMkhumbi ka Nowa decided to get a plot of land from the traditional leaders to start a garden project. However, this attempt to improve their lives and economic well-being was met with challenges such as water shortages and stray livestock destroying crops, a common problem for small-holding farmers in rural areas of South Africa.

The northern region of KwaZulu-Natal experiences frequent water shortages, with communities such as Mtubatuba going for days without running water and having to rely solely on mobile water tanks. Access to drinking water is limited, let alone water for agricultural purposes. Although access to water was a problem for the UMkhumbi ka Nowa farmers, the stray livestock issue was a greater one. The group became proactive, determined to do something to at least try to deter and distract troublesome livestock: they fenced their fields with tree branches. This however was not a secure enough barrier: it left the group’s crops vulnerable once again to damage from stray livestock and the threat of veld fires during the winter months.

In 2014 the UMkhumbi ka Nowa farmers joined the Zimele Agriculture programme and were among the first beneficiaries of the infrastructure development programme. Through the help of Zimele, the group has been able to securely fence off their garden. This has been an extra boost for an already motivated and dedicated group, as evident from the group’s effort to make a contribution towards the cost of the infrastructure.

The group’s production has greatly increased through diversification, with both vegetable and field crops being grown. Apart from this, the group has benefited from a number of training sessions provided by the Zimele Agriculture programme on agro ecological practices and principles. This has not only enhanced the group’s agricultural knowledge but has also helped them improve their production through the implementation of practices such as mulching, composting and integrated methods of pest control.

The UMkhumbi ka Nowa farmers’ group is now one of the five groups in Mtubatuba to be awarded a tender to supply schools with vegetables under the government nutrition programme. The schools are no longer allowed to buy vegetables from supermarkets but are to buy from local women farmers as a way to contribute and support them.

At the moment, UMkhumbi ka Nowa is planning to dig a rainwater harvesting dam close to their garden to harvest the run-off water that runs past their garden from the nearby road. The Zimele Agriculture programme staff working with the Mahlathini Organics staff will conduct a transect walk with the UMkhumbi ka Nowa group to inspect the area and advise on how the dam should be built.


Silindelokuhle, loosely translated as ‘expecting good’ is a Self Help Group from the Sukhumasakhe Cluster Level Association of Mfekayi community in Mtubatuba. This Self Help Group was formed in July 2013. The group is a mix of many characters, all vibrant and hardworking. Through their weekly meetings and the training facilitated by the Zimele Self Help Group programme, the members decided to start a garden project along the banks of the Nyalazi River.

In order to increase their knowledge, skills and support, the group joined the Zimele Agriculture programme. This motivated the group but still they felt lacking as they saw the solution to their problems as a far and distant dream. With a perennial river running less than 100m from their garden one would think that they at least do not have to worry about limited access to water, but their challenge is that they have to get past dangerous crocodiles, hippos and other wildlife in order to access this water. This group was almost one of the best in the Zimele Agriculture programme yet they had the usual challenges of getting water and also of stray livestock, because even though they accessed the water and were able to irrigate their plants they were disheartened by the sight of their damaged crops from the invasion of cattle.

The Zimele Agriculture staff sought to find a solution to these problems. One idea was to assist them fence off their garden. The second was to help them get a water pump with which they would safely pump water from the river through pipes and into their garden. The pump came as a donation from the store in which fencing supplies were bought for all 9 gardens fenced in Mtubatuba to date.

This intervention was set to be the wind beneath the wings of this group as they performed exceptionally well in the past year, considering the fact that they only started producing towards midyear. Each member averaged an R1800.00 income generated from sales of their crops which included cabbages, beetroot and potatoes. The estimated total income generated by the garden is at just above R16 000.00.

The Silindelokuhle group is a typical example of how hard work pays off. Seeing the rewards of their efforts has made the members aspire to do even better than they did last year. “We now want sprinklers, so that our crops can be irrigated even when we are not there, this pipe is too heavy for us to carry throughout the garden,” said Mrs Tholakele Gazide, jokingly referring to the fact that even though they now have a pump, they still need a basic irrigation system to help them water their plants easily. Working with Zimele, the group is looking forward to the planned irrigation system being installed. A five thousand litre water tank will be installed on the higher ground and water will be pumped to it, then through gravity, water will flow to the taps put in closer to the women’s plots. Quotations and cost are being determined, with the group prepared to invest money and labour in the project.

The market development for the Silindelokuhle group is that one of their members, Mrs Sibongile Gina, approached a local supermarket in Mtubatuba, Boxer, to try to sell their vegetables. The group now has an agreement to supply Boxer Supermarket with spinach and green pepper. Their garden is not big enough to supply the full order needed by the supermarket, so they have encouraged other Self Help Groups within their Cluster Level Association to contribute their vegetables to meet the demand.
Agriculture 2Agriculture 1
Above L-R: Silindelokuhle Group’s agricultural garden & a member of the UMkhumbi ka Nowa group picking spinach

Report by: Michael Malinga


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