“I am called to be a creator”
As a 12 year old school boy, Zephania used to get up at 2am in the morning to work the fields with his family and at 5am would return home to get ready for school. His grandfather was a commercial farmer growing cotton, sugar beans, and maize. His mother grew food for the family on their own plot. These family times together is where a passion for farming began in Zephania’s life.
Even with a hectic work schedule in the fields every morning before school, and most of the day on Saturdays, Zephania was able to pass Matric and pursue some training in project management. He used those management skills to invest in the programs of Orphan Care an NGO in Ingwavuma.
In 2010, the director of Orphan Care decided to return to his home country and that left Zephania with some new adventures ahead. He decided to attend the Durban Institute of Technology to upgrade his skills. He needed an affordable place to live and so was drawn to the rolling hills of Bhekulwandle in which he negotiated a lease on a small piece of land. Zephania was well aware of the fact that Bhekulwandle as a community did not have a good reputation. A gang of thugs terrorized the community members on a regular basis and the crime rate was high. Despite this reputation Zephania felt drawn to Bhekulwandle because the hills reminded him of Ingwavuma. “I feel called to be a creator,” he says, ” and so I am not going to be demotivated by theft or violence.”
On December 11, 2010 the local induna (Chief) came and marked out Zephania’s property giving him full rights to his land. He started small with a square vegetable plot that has now grown to 52m by 17m and 33 beds. The garden takes up almost all of his available land with just a small postage stamp left for his family home. He grows: spinach, carrots, peppers, onions, butternut, eggplant, beetroot, banana, okra, sugar cane, and sunflowers.
At first Zephania was using conventional methods of vegetable farming, that is until he attended a Farming God’s Way training at Seed of Hope in the latter half of 2012. In that training, Zephania saw the benefits of the conservation farming methods and immediately went home and began to apply what he had learnt. Now if you walk through his garden, you can see that each bed is rich in compost and covered with organic mulch. His yields have increased and his neighbours are now purchasing produce from him. Zephania hopes to install a rain barrel and irrigation system this year. When asked what his one wish for 2014 is, he replied, “I wish for 2 or 3 people to be willing to start farming in these methods so that I can show them what a difference it will make to their lives. I want to teach them what I have learned from Seed of Hope. I hope that everyone in this community will have enough food and will become prosperous.”