Langa Farmer Profile: Yonela Mnyombolo

  • Name: Yonela Mnyombolo
  • Age: 33
  • Location: Leap School, Zone 17, Langa, Cape Town
  • Farming since: 2019

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at your food garden?

Hi, I’m Yonela. I am working here as a gardener. I started this garden around November 2019. We were five people then, two ladies and two guys. Their contracts were coming from the Mhani Gingi [NPO]. But now we are only two because the other contracts ended in March last year. Now, we are both two ladies working together since last March.

Tell us a little bit more. Where do you get your seedlings?

I get the seedlings from a lady called Lilian from Mhani Gingi, she is the founder of this project. So she is giving us the seedlings.

And what do you do with your harvest?

So we harvest when the plants are ready and use them to cook. We also have a soup kitchen here and our boss Colleen uses some of her connections to sell the veggies.

How does the community benefit from the garden and the soup kitchen?

They do benefit because when we are not cooking and we have things left, we just give the harvest away, so the people can cook in their houses.

Vertical hydroponic growing systems being installed and planted

What are your challenges in the garden ever since you started and currently?

Ever since we started we have had the challenge of the birds eating the plants. So we planted plants that are protecting the other plants helping them to grow. Other than that we don’t have any other problems, only the sun [burning the plants]. The plants can die but we don’t have too many problems.

So how did you learn about farming? Just learning by doing or did you do courses?

I didn’t know anything about farming but I started to learn by working here. Other than that I didn’t know a lot.

Do you have other people supporting the garden with resources or tools besides Mhani Gingi?

So there is a guy from Franschhoek who gives us the compost. And also Chuma, who is from the Oranjezicht City Farm. Otherwise, we get everything from that lady [Lilian]. But sometimes, if they don’t have seedlings, Colleen is buying the seedlings for us.

So do you want to carry on gardening for the next few years?

Yes, we don’t want to stop that even if our contracts are going to end in March. But we won’t let it die. We just come and continue what we are doing. They usually say it’s gonna end in March but when it ends we will stay and continue and then they call us again. We won’t stop coming here. We just come and do whatever is usual. Because we don’t want it to end. We love our garden.

And do you get paid for your work?

Yes, we get paid. It is a stipend, that’s what they call it. We are getting paid by the Department of Agriculture but through Mhani Gingi.

Photography: Nina Zizzamia

Interviews: Sandra Heming and Chuma Mgcoyi

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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