Maverick Citizen


By hook or by cook — nothing stops Nwabisa Wophula from feeding hundreds of people daily

By hook or by cook — nothing stops Nwabisa Wophula from feeding hundreds of people daily
Nwabisa Wophula cooks a nutritious stew at her home in Lusikisiki. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

Nwabisa Wophula makes it look easy to cater for hungry residents in her Eastern Cape district.

There is only one rule in Nwabisa Wophula’s house: The cooking must continue. Recently, she and her husband Odwa celebrated their 19th wedding anniversary by serving 500 meals to children and the elderly in Flagstaff, a small town in the Eastern Cape.

Wophula lives in Lusikisiki, about 40km from Flagstaff, where she is a member of the NGO, Harvest SA. Five hundred is her magic number.

“That is my daily goal. Look here, I thought the other day, let us save some money on the takeaway containers because people are hungry; they don’t want to wait to eat. So now I am cutting the containers in half to serve more meals.”

Odwa said: “This is very important to my wife. I help where I can.”

Wophula used to serve meals from the Post Office in Lusikisiki to people waiting for social grants, but when it burnt down she decided to travel to Flagstaff instead.

hungry Eastern Cape SA Harvest

The team from SA Harvest dice, slice and cook for hungry residents of Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

When temperatures at home soared to 45°C, she moved herself and the team from SA Harvest to her front garden to continue dicing, slicing and cooking despite howling winds. “I have turned my entrance into a receiving room for our produce,” she said, showing bags of carrots, sweet potatoes and butternuts stacked as you enter through the front door of her modern home.

“We usually cook in the kitchen and here on the back stoep, but it is too hot today, so we are on the front stoep,” she added.

Read more in Daily Maverick: SA Harvest and Lusikisiki celebrate R1.4m in donations from Daily Maverick readers

Wophula’s front stoep is packed with the young people from the SA Harvest team, helping her cook and prepare meals.

“When you see all those people who have nothing, you can’t not cook for them,” she said. “I have to do this.”

The menu for the day is rice and samp and a stew of chicken giblets, carrots, sweet potatoes and potatoes.

Apart from cooking for the area’s destitute, Wophula also runs an events company and is known for the big wedding day she holds once a year, when she organises and sponsors a wedding for five couples.

SA Harvest CEO Ozzy Nel says the team members helping Wophula are all formerly unemployed graduates from the area. They had recently graduated from their training in food production.

SA Harvest delivers produce to organisations across South Africa that feed those in need, such as Nwabisa Wophula’s soup kitchen in Lusikisiki. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

Hard at work at Nwabisa Wophula’s soup kitchen in Lusikisiki. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

Nel explains that the produce for soup kitchens like this one is sourced through the One Farm Share scheme which empowers upcoming small-scale female black farmers to supply commercial markets.

Since their produce is not ready for commercial markets yet because it might not conform to strict standards of size and colour, SA Harvest redirects it to the NGO’s beneficiary organisations such as Wophula’s soup kitchen.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘I have never seen gratitude like this’ — readers’ donations bring cheer to Eastern Cape families

So far, the partnership between One Farm Share and SA Harvest has successfully redirected 7,800 tonnes of fresh produce to community organisations.

A resident receives a meal at Nwabisa Wophula’s soup kitchen in Lusikisiki. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

SA Harvest delivers produce to organisations across South Africa that feed those in need, such as Nwabisa Wophula’s soup kitchen in Lusikisiki. Photo: Deon Ferreira

Children are fed at Nwabisa Wophula’s soup kitchen. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

SA Harvest

The cooking never stops at Nwabisa Wophula’s soup kitchen. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

In a recent response to the Eastern Cape legislature, Bukiwe Fanta, the MEC for social development, indicated that the OR Tambo district, where Wophula works, is one of the places worst affected by hunger in the province. In the 2022/23 financial year, she said, 857 cases of severe acute malnutrition were diagnosed in the district in children under five years old.

In November 2023, the South African Human Rights Commission said Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane should declare child hunger a provincial disaster.

This has not yet been done, but Mabuyane said in his State of the Province Address that R60-million would be allocated in 2024 to address malnutrition among children.

In his recent budget speech, finance MEC Mlungisi Mvoko said the provincial government would, over the medium term, intensify its household food security programme, with a special focus on providing food production inputs to women, young people, people with disabilities and military veterans. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

    Heartening stuff I wish our politicians are taking notes.

  • Elethu Duna says:

    What a beautiful thing to see people uplifting their communities.

    It would be nice to read such stories everyday because they do exist but are buried under the cloud of negative news that seem to be more popular. For example, the comment section is very quiet on this positive story but very active on negative stories.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


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