Food Hero – Ntombenhle Mtambo

Food Hero – Ntombenhle Mtambo

Ntombenhle Mtambo. Photo : Leon Coetzer

Ntombenhle Mtambo. Photo : Leon Coetzer

“The Government had a plan like this, but it failed,” Ntombenhle tells me. “One Home, One Garden won’t fail in Mpophomeni,” she adds determinedly. It certainly won’t if Ntombenhle has anything to do with it! “The reason it didn’t work before was that the Government didn’t listen to the people, talk to them about what they needed. They just handed out tools and seeds and didn’t offer advice and assistance.”

It has long been her dream to turn Mpophomeni into a food forest. For eight years she persisted, asking the Municipality for permission to turn a dump site into a garden. In August 2014, Ntombenhle and a band of volunteers began clearing the piles of plastic, glass and builders rubble on the corner of Mhlongo and Stadium Road. She believed that if she could create a flourishing food garden on this bit of unloved ground, she would be able to inspire others to do the same in their backyards. Within a couple of months the garden was producing food and attracting a lot of attention.

“Permaculture gardens can do many things to uplift the community. I would like to address the issues the community face in a practical and sustainable way – show them how to recycle, save water, eat healthily, make money and improve the environment,” she says. The idea of keeping the ground mulched is new to many, but now that the dry period is here, gardeners are observing how it helps keep the soil moist. Plenty of people think you can only grow crops in summer, but the abundant community garden is setting a great example of year round production.

Ntombenhle’s heart sings when she is making a difference in someone’s life. 76 year old Mrs Magoza, comments, “Since this Angel came into my life, I am back where I used to be – growing food using umquba. Ntombenhle told me what to plant and to mix the flowers in– it is so beautiful. I am very proud of who I have become in my old age. I used to think it was all over, I was just waiting to die.”

Joyful production and learning epitomise Ntombenhle’s way of doing things. “It is exciting that now people are wearing new glasses and can see everything that we have promised. We are here to do magic. I am humbled and very excited. My dream is coming true.” concludes Ntombenhle.

See pictures of Mpophomeni gardens at: www.mpophomeniconservationgroup.wordpress.comI
“No one will starve. Let’s roll up our sleeves, get our hands dirty and work. That will lead us to a joyful, healthy and better life for everyone under the sun.” Ntombenhle, following their Winter Produce Competition on the 16th of August.

Ntombenhle in the community garden.

Ntombenhle in the community garden.