Thankful for Hard Work
Kealeboga [kay-ah-lay-bō-ha] Natshane, whose first name literally means “thank you” in Setswana, might just be the happiest person you’d ever meet. She is always eager to help and you can count on her to have a smile on her face while she does. She first got involved in farming when her local church, located in the village of Molelwane, implemented Orchard: Africa’s Agriculture Programs several years ago. She had no prior knowledge of gardening and farming back then, but soon she saw
farming as something more than just a source of food. Kealeboga learned the trade and now works as our Food & Agriculture Manager for the entire North West Province. We interviewed her to discover the importance of having Agricultures programs in local churches and why she is so thankful to be teaching others how to farm.
The first thing you should know about farming is that it takes work, and that’s a really good thing.
The North West Province of South Africa, which is located to the west of Johannesburg on the Botswana border, is a gold mine. Literally. In fact, mining for precious minerals is the mainstay for the entire province, making up over half of its GDP and providing a quarter of all its jobs. This is a problem. Mining isn’t an entrepreneurial industry — it requires immense startup capital, heavy machinery, and a lot of “know-how” to start and run a mine.
This, in part, is why the North West, home to almost 4 million people, has a 43% unemployment rate, demonstrating just how hard it is to find work if you don’t live in an existing mining town or have an adequate education. It’s also why Kealeboga believes “the importance of [Orchard: Africa’s] Agriculture Program, which teaches Churches and communities the hard work of farming, is to create job opportunities”.
Since work helps provide an internal sense of worth, it is important that everyone gets a chance to work. And if nobody is hiring, then it is of utmost importance that individuals are equipped to take the initiative to work for themselves. Teaching someone how to farm does just that.
Farming is a great reminder that God’s provision is always with us.
When someone is living in the midst of a life-long unemployment crisis, it can be very hard to believe provision will one day come. Hope becomes fragile when you’re not sure who or what to hope in. This, according to Kealeboga, is why it’s so important to put your beliefs and hope in one who always has, and always will provide for His people:
“God has already given us the land, the sunlight and rain water freely. It’s up to us to learn and to do the work He has made available so that we can eat.”
This is also why Orchard: Africa runs all of our Agriculture Programs through a local church. Why Kealeboga spends her days training and equipping pastors and church leaders, allowing them in turn to train and equip their communities with both work and hope. Hope that is rooted in Christ.
Finding open space in the North West Province to plant crops isn’t hard, finding shade and water is.
In addition to the unemployment crisis, the North West is also in the midst of a serious drought. And for a region that typically averages only 14 inches of rainfall in a year, accessing water was already a challenge. This means to have a successful farm, you have to work both hard and smart.
“Too much direct sun and dried out soil are big challenges when water is scarce” says Kealeboga. Many communities have land to farm on, but with few trees and little shade, you must have lots of water to counteract evaporation.
The solution: grow up, not just out. By implementing vertical farming techniques, you can leverage the shade available in or next to your house to prevent excessive evaporation. You can pack more plants into a greenhouse kept small by limited greenhouse supplies. You can successfully grow more crops by using far less water than traditional flat bed farming. This is why vertical farming and ongoing training & development are meaningful parts of our Agriculture Programs. This is also why we created the Farm-in-a-Bag: a turnkey vertical farming solution developed for rapid deployment and lasting success in harsh growing conditions.
Getting to enjoy your healthy foods more often is highly motivating and rewarding.
According to Kealeboga, there are three staples to the average diet in the North West: pap (a stiff, fluffy porridge of cornmeal), meat (typically goat or sheep), and spinach (a variety that’s sturdy and has a peppery flavor). Meat and spinach, being the most prized and costly, are hard to come by for those struggling to find employment and income because the only place they know where to get them is a grocery store. So when the villages see their Church successfully growing spinach and other vegetables, the reactions don’t disappoint:
“[They are] very happy to see that even in [their] poor community [they] can produce and eat good crops… Happy because they know they will eat healthy food since they know they will have a harvest.”
Now that families can save money on buying produce, they can afford to buy meat and other proteins more often. And a healthy diet goes from a reach to a reality.
Communities are also shocked, but not just by food growing where it normally doesn’t.
“They are shocked. Shocked because many of them still think farming is a man’s job,” says Kealeboga when recounting the other prominent reaction to seeing her build successful farms for churches and families. The reality is, many women in the rural communities who may have lost their husbands to AIDS, or whose husbands left the province to go search for work in a major city and haven’t returned, have never been told that they have what it takes to raise crops to provide for their family. Many young orphaned girls believe the only way they can provide for their siblings is to sell their bodies.
Kealeboga finds great joy in teaching these women to farm. In showing them that they too have great worth and potential. In showing them that God, through the Church, has provision for them. Provision that goes beyond a handout or temporary assistance. Provision that creates empowerment.