Langa Farmer Profile: Sindiswa Lugulwana

  • Name: Sindiswa Lugulwana
  • Age: 71
  • Location: Zone 10 Garden
  • Farming since: 2004

Can you please introduce yourself? Tell us a little bit about your personal and professional background.

My name is Sindiswa, I live in Langa, Zone 10. I didn’t grow up in Cape Town, that’s why I like farming. When I started this garden, I used to see carrots. I used to peel potatoes, peel pumpkins, put them in the ground, and then they grew. But carrots never did. That’s when I started to say, I want to see how carrots grow. Because when I take off the peels of carrots, they don’t grow like potatoes and other things. That’s when I started this garden.

But I was struggling to get a space and I went through many training sessions. The main training I did was by Soil for Life in Constantia. I think it was three months of training. From then on, every training I had, I was there. After that, I went to [the Provincial Government agricultural training academy at] Elsenburg and did the training there. And then, when I came back, I said, now it’s my time. I went to the city and I saw the ground here. It was a dumping space, this space. There was a lot of nonsense, rubble and all those things. I went to the City of Cape Town and the City of Cape Town gave me this ground. It was just an open space. Then one time, I went to a meeting in town, it was a women’s league. I saw a lady there who was the minister of agriculture. I said to myself, thank you God, as my garden didn’t have a fence. I went straight to her and I told her everything. She gave me an address for agriculture in Bellville, at the Sanlam building. You know the Sanlam building? It’s far from Bellville station. I walked there and I said, I want this. That’s how I started this garden. I was all the way out doing the training. In 2004 I started this garden.

I started with ten women, two men. Even my children didn’t like what I was doing. They used to say to me, “Why do you choose a dirty job like gardening?”. I told them that I grew up getting my hands dirty from planting [large] fields at home. Not this small thing [garden] here. So that’s how I started this. We were ten and then other gardeners used to come and train here. Most of the gardeners here were trained by Soil for Life. Why is this important? Soil for Life was supporting us with everything.

And then, one day I went to speak to the counsellor, who owns this place here. We needed water. I also went to the City of Cape Town’s office. That man there was playing hard to get. So I went to Fezeka in Gugulethu.

But one time, a white man came here, with whom I went to the office again. The man there said to me, “Oh Sindiswa it’s you who reported me to the big boss?”. He didn’t even look at me before. The boss said, “Did you go to the counsellor?”. I said, “I did go to the counsellor and the counsellor didn’t even ask me where the garden is or what he can do for the garden”. And then, the water was brought by them. The counsellor came to put the fence up. I said, we need toilets because I have people working here. He got us these toilets as well.

Farmers tending row crops at the Zone 10 garden

And what challenges do you face in the garden today?

As you can see the garden now, it looks like the beginning. It was like this when we started and now again it looks like this since Covid started. This was the number one garden here in Western Cape. But now I don’t know what this is anymore.

My other challenge is this rubble from the garden. We used to put it outside and asked the City Council, when they were collecting the other rubble. But they told me, this is private property, they cannot collect this for me. So now I don’t know what to do with it. I don’t know. I’ve got a problem with this rubble. If somebody can just help me with this.

What do you do with your harvest and how does the community benefit from it?

I give the harvest to early learning centres, I give it to old people. They’ve got centres, like [the one] my mother [is in]. The old age homes just got involved during these Covid times. We give them some food, some veggies. And the small businesses that are along the road, they come and buy something here like peppers and chilis. They come and buy it here. As well as the people around for weddings or initiations, when the boys come from the forest they come and buy spinach, potatoes and all those things here in the garden. Otherwise, we sell it, so we can buy other things again.

So do you get support from the local community?

A lot because I’m not staying [in a house] here. I am staying on the other side [of Langa]. So I went door to door to the people around us, I said to them, “this is your garden. Whatever happens here, I am gonna ask you, you gonna tell me what is going on”. They are so friendly. They are so helpful.

Can you also tell us, do the people who currently work here get paid?

Yes, they get paid [a stipend] by the Department of Public Works.

So I just saw that you grow herbs here. Why do you have herbs in your garden and how do you use them?

You know, people here know what they can do with herbs. They come here and they just take it and they say it is for this and that. Because I got to know agriculture, that’s how I also know herbs now.

But I grew up with Wormwood (Umhlonyane). My grandfather really liked Wormwood. He would even put it in his nose. He did like Wormwood very much. We have a lot of trees at my place. Especially against the flu, Wormwood is very good.

Thank you so much, do you want to say anything else at the end?

You know, when I have a conversation like this, I use to say at the end, let’s not just talk, let’s do something!

Interview: Sandra Heming and Chuma Mgcoyi

Photography: Nina Zizzamia

This profile is part of a series of stories of inspiring individuals in our urban farmer network, a local group of urban farmers co-creating and operating food gardens in the community of Langa, Cape Town, South Africa. Farmers receive support from the Langa Agrihub, a project of the SA Urban Food and Farming Trust that is generously supported by the JDC

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