Maverick Citizen


Phahamang Basadi Food Garden: Women uplifting themselves and their community

Phahamang Basadi Food Garden: Women uplifting themselves and their community
Miriam Mokgatla runs the Phahamang Basadi food garden in Phuthanang, Free State. (Photo: Chris Collingridge)

Shoprite has been working with more than 300 community projects in an endeavour to mitigate hunger through food gardens and to provide early childhood development services to poor communities. Maverick Citizen interviewed five of the women leading these community projects and is running their stories over the week.

Merriam Mokgatla started and runs the Phahamang Basadi (seSotho for “women, rise up”) Food Garden in Tumahole in the Free State. Flanked by her team of gardeners, she has a sparkle in her eye and a wide smile as she proudly welcomes us to her community food garden initiative.

Mokgatla’s parents could only afford to pay for her education as far as matric, so she became a domestic worker to earn an income. Her husband is a mechanic and they have three children, the oldest of whom is at university studying towards a teaching degree.

In 2008, Mokgatla left her job and moved home to help her younger sister take care of their ill mother. When Mokgatla’s mother died in 2017, she and her sister were unemployed and they decided to start a vegetable garden to sustain themselves, drawing on the experience they had growing up in the village of Vaal-Eden. She recalls that her parents had always encouraged their children to garden so they could provide for themselves.

Recognising that others in the Tumahole community were similarly unemployed and would often go hungry, she, along with five other women, decided to expand the food garden and looked for a bigger piece of land. 

Produce from Phahamang Basadi food garden in Phuthanang, Free State. (Photo: Chris Collingridge)

They scoured the area, and eventually the Boitlamo Secondary School agreed to allocate them a piece of the school grounds for the food garden, which they would have to prepare for planting themselves.

The land was overgrown and unkempt, “but we cleared all the weeds and bushes ourselves and levelled the land using our home gardening tools”, says Mokgatla. After struggling to secure the land and clear it they were determined to make the food garden work.

In 2019 a friend of Mokgatla told them about Shoprite’s initiative to help community projects build and sustain gardens. They made a successful application to be recipients of the Food and Trees for Africa Initiative. They received seedlings, tools and training on how to run a productive food garden.

Phahamang Basadi now grows enough food to share with the school, and those in the community unable to buy food for themselves. They also sell food to those in the community who can afford to buy it. Mokgatla is now trying to get a tractor, to expand the garden further and add more crops.

Miriam Mogatla at work with the women of the Phahamang Basadi food garden. (Photo: Chris Collingridge)

The women work the garden four days a week.

The impressive-looking garden boasts cabbage, spinach, three types of onions, green peppers, carrots, eggplant, pumpkin, broccoli, strawberries and watermelon to mention but a few. All the produce is organic, as are the natural pesticides they use to keep insects and birds away.

The women use the herbs in the garden to make herbal remedies when they have ailments. They love tending the garden and draw strength from it as it is a good stress reliever, says Mokgatla.

The women of Phahamang Basadi are now able to earn a small income to supplement their households, doing their bit to uplift themselves as well as members of their community. DM/MC

This is part of a series featuring women making meaningful contributions in their communities, appearing in Maverick Citizen during the week. You can read the other articles here, here and here.


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