Nokuhle Ndlovu’s story is not a lot different to many other widows’ stories in our community. She and her husband left Zimbabwe for South Africa some years ago when Zimbabwe was going through its first economic meltdown and the job market became over-saturated with desperate people. As she tells her story, it seems they were able to find work in South Africa, but still struggled for enough money to send home to the family who were looking after their children here in Zimbabwe. Her husband became infected with AIDS and then passed it onto her and their one child, born while in South Africa, was also infected. When her husband became too sick to work, they returned to their home in our community, where her husband was one of many brothers. They picked up their lives as best they could, scraping by with a few chickens and a small garden. The relatives were in a similar financial situation, so there was little help other than the odd bunch of spinach and a few sweet potatoes that could be spared for this little struggling family. Nokuhle’s husband then passed away leaving her to cope on her own.
Nokthula is in the Orange Spur Shirt on the left
I first met her a few years ago when she brought me a few small crocheted items in the hope I would buy them. I was able to encourage her to try other items that would be more popular to sell but her progress was slow, until we discovered one item that she has been able to make that we are able to sell in our small craft shop.
However this was a drop in the ocean for her needs, i.e. school fees for two children, food, uniforms, etc.
Enter AFCA (American Foundation for Children with Aids), who have partnered with us on a goat project. Although Nokuhle has been able to keep a few goats she has not been able to expand her herd for various reasons. When we visited her earlier this year she had two goats who had lost their babies in the severe rainy season we experienced earlier in the year. Her small shelter was not adequate and the mother goats had broken out to find better shelter in the rocks behind her home, leaving the babies to fend for themselves, which sadly had ended in their deaths. We included Nokuhle in the goat programme and she is now learning how best to ensure her herd grows. The AFCA programme also requires garden training for goat recipients.
Nokuhle is a gentle soul who has a quiet desperation about her. On our first visit she was trying to protect and dig a small area where she could grow vegetables. As her fences are insecure the neighbours donkeys and cattle can easily find access into her fields, so she is trying to isolate a small area that she can more easily secure. Even with her failing health she is busy making an effort to improve her and her family’s lives.
When Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, from Marietta and Southbridge Community Church, from Statesboro, Georgia, visited us recently, we spent a couple of days with her and some of her neighbours, teaching and helping build a ‘wicking bed’ for her vegetables, securing and protecting the bed from animal invaders. We were also able to help her with a shelter for her chickens and make a start on improving her goat shelter.
The beginnings of a wicking vegetable garden
Our aim was not to come in with all the materials but to look around her home for what could be used and improvised for the structures. In her homestead she had the remains of an old car and a canopy of an old truck. By combining the two of them we were able to make the chicken shelter she needed. With old metal pipes from discarded machinery, we were able to help secure fences and the goat pen.
We brought old sacks that we sewed together to cover the fence around her vegetable bed to block her chickens from getting through. It was good to see the group of ladies see the possibilities of discarded items being used constructively and not considered trash.
We were able to leave a ‘Hippo Roller’ with the group, so the community could collect water more easily. But that is another story – watch this space……………………..