Motivated by the passion to bring change to her community, Rirhandzu Patience Myenze has grown a small food patch into the large front yard garden it is today in just 11 years. Not only does it feed her family, relatives and neighbours, it brings her income as well as she sells some of the food that she grows.
“I wanted my family to eat healthier and also wanted to help members of my community and get them to eat healthy food as well. My children are a lot healthier since we started eating the food we grow here at home. They eat green and that is good. I also like growing vegetables to sell, like spinach,” says Myenze.
“My primary responsibility is to take care of my community, particularly children under five and pregnant women, but I believe that is not where my responsibility ends. I want to help my community outside of work and that is one of the reasons I started this food
garden,” she says.
The care she takes when tending to her plants shows that Myenze truly enjoys gardening. Although she grew up poor, her late parents were hardworking and that was passed down to her.
“My father was a farmworker and my mother sold various things, such as clothes which she would get from Durban as well as chickens and fruits. My parents put me through school, but I was unable to further my studies. I then realised that I would have to find a job. That is when I started working as a CHW.”
Some of her neighbours have food gardens as well, but hers is bigger than many others in Dzumeri, where she lives, and she still feels that it could be larger. She hopes to turn her food garden into a large farming project one day.
“It’s not big enough. I want to make it bigger. I would like to find a bigger patch somewhere and farm on it. I’m hoping to get donations from people or the Department of Agriculture. Hopefully, I can get some money or seeds. I also want to approach the Dzumeri traditional leadership or councillors so I can make a farming scheme out of what I’ve already started here. That will really help our community.”
Although the scarcity of water in her community can make gardening difficult, Myenze says that some plants can still survive and thrive in the heat of Dzumeri. There are also planting methods that can help people grow food without a lot of water, she says.
“I grow many things but the easiest for me to grow are morogo, tomatoes, guxe, green
pepper and carrots. They do not need a lot of water, but tomatoes can quickly rot if it rains too much.”
Other plants one can find in Myenze’s garden include chillies, papaya and beetroot.
“I often advise my neighbours on how to plant successfully, especially if they do not have a lot of water in their yard like me. I advise them on how to use the little water they have sparingly. For example, I teach them about the two-line method of planting, where one can plant spinach and carrots, for example, in two parallel lines. This method doesn’t require a lot of water.”
Myenze has some words of encouragement for those that are too afraid to start their own gardens: “You don’t need anything to start your own garden. All it needs is you to use your hands. God gave us two hands and two legs, so we should use them. It is nice to know that you will have a bit of spinach or some other food, especially when you don’t have money. As long as you have your own food garden, you’ll never go hungry.”
According to Myenze, starting small and regularly taking care of your garden can lead to success, regardless of the resources you have.
“Maintaining your garden does not need a lot of work. You can start growing food on a small patch of land. After a while you’ll be able to grow it and help your community, or even sell the food. The most important thing when it comes to maintaining your garden is fertilising it.
“I use manure because you don’t even need to buy it; you can collect cattle or chicken dung that you find and use it, especially when you start planting. Whatever you plant will be fresh. You don’t need a lot of tools either: you will be fine if you have gloves, a spade and a garden fork,” she says.
Myenze wants to see the health of her community, especially its children, improve. She would like to see a Dzumeri where no child is stunted and her efforts will go a long way in ensuring that this is achieved.
*This article is from the third issue of our 2019 edition of our On The Field CHW magazine.