Brussels, BELGIUM, 29 September 2020 – Story: Theophilus van Rensburg Lindzter, Translation from Tswana by Olebogeng Bengo
Agracademy’s partnership with Frankfurt International School expanded our young students’ horizons when they visited seven subsistence farmers in Loopeng, a small village in the Moshaweng Valley in the Kalahari Desert in South Africa.
Two visits, November 2019 and March 2020, added to those expanded experiences as part of the Academy’s goal of orienting young people to the career opportunities in Agriculture. This was accomplished by introducing them to the different climates in South Africa and connect them to the brave, mostly women, who patiently grow produce in the often unforgiving extremities of the Kalahari desert.
Mama Gloria Disipi is one such brave woman.
At age 58 she is clear in her heart and mind about the importance of agriculture, not only to meet her own needs, but for the needs and education of others as well. This was abundantly clear from our conversation with her today. With translation provided by Olebogeng Ronaldo Bengo, she spent time in conversation with us from her home in Loopeng talking about her garden, the need for more resources and the joy of giving.
We were first introduced to Mama Gloria upon our first visit to Loopeng in November 2019. Her garden was one of seven we visited on that hot summer day. Ingenious farming solutions were evident in every garden pointing toward a passion for agriculture and a tenacity to toil until the work is done. Interacting with these adults inspired our young people who reflected with deep admiration for those who do so much with so little. Like every other farmer encountered during that first visit, Mama Gloria gets up every morning and tends to the carrots, tomatoes, spinach, green peppers, onions and beetroot. Today was no different.
A Mother’s Concern
Mother of two adult sons in their mid-30s, Mama Gloria shared her concern with us about the lack of interest in Agriculture amongst the young people. “They need patience”, she says, adding that education is important. She laments the notion that everything must be done quickly and that young people ask for results without realizing just how much time the good things in life take. “South Africa needs leaders in Agriculture”, she continued. “It is the one thing that I hope for in our country – that we will have more leaders in Agriculture.”
Profitability and Generosity
Mama Gloria is convinced that, In order for her garden to be feasible, she must apply the same patience she expects from the young people. Nothing is easy and patience is often tested and viability challenged as limited resources threaten to curb her commitment. But viability and profitability are not the main priorities for her. To the question of access to markets of her produce, she made it abundantly clear: “This may be the only source of income for me but there are some who have none whatsoever. When I harvest I make sure that I can find someone in the community to whom I can give of what I have reaped.” She was adamant that “…doing good to the poorest of the poor,” must be our highest duty.
This may be the only source of income for me but there are some who have none whatsoever. Mama Gloria
Teaching and Learning
Irrigation is on top of Mama Gloria’s list of knowledge priorities for her own garden. “I would like to know how to do this better,” she contended. There is always a problem with water in the desert, of course, and South Africa had been dealt a monumental blow through the rampaging drought over the last few years. Undeterred by adversity, though, Mama Gloria desires to learn more and at the age of 58 she is going to be a shining example in the valley. Moreover, she is deeply aware of her own abilities to teach as well. “I think I can teach the younger generation how to cook good food”, she responded confidently about asked about what she would teach, if given the opportunity. South Africa’s rural communities and the knowledge within those communities are goldmines of knowledge and skills necessary to integrate into modern farming practices. That goldmine, as Mama Gloria continued to expand, must stand next to early interventions in education where, in her view, “The Primary School children must already begin to do practical and not just theoretical agriculture”.
In a clear message on eating healthy as equal to eating enough, Mama Gloria expressed the reason for her love of farming: “What comes from my garden is fresh and healthy.” She’s personally struggled with some health burdens related to allergies. She cautioned against unhealthy eating habits and expressed her own desire to stay healthy as long as possible. “I am not getting younger and I want to eat healthy and stay fit,” she continued. Her own view is that the farmers in Loopeng also need to have some regular physical training activity to add to healthy eating habits. “I would like to exercise with other elders in farming so that this experience can be exciting”, Mama Gloria added.
The impact of Covid-19 on life entered our dialogue – an unwanted guest that shook us all cold and brought the grim reminder of death as the inconvenient yet common, looming appointment for everyone. Mama Gloria understood the difficulties that especially rural communities faced as a consequence of the pandemic, how the fragility of food systems were so cruelly exposed and yet now, she is even more determined to look for a bright future. Her boys are independent but unemployed – a cruel reality that dent hope for 70% of young people in rural South Africa.
Maybe, Mama Gloria Disipi‘s determined drive to stay fit, her love for farming and cooking and her broad smile could all become the needed sparks to bring an awakening to the beauty and promise of every garden in the desert – it could ignite a village.
Pictures: ©Olebogeng Bengo