Story by Claire Hawkridge | Fundraising, Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator | Heifer South Africa
Photo by Tilly Sibiya | Heifer South Africa
"It has changed a lot!" exclaims 49-year-old Bulelani Elizabeth Ndlovu, describing the change in her family since she joined Heifer International's Thusanang Dairy Project. "It is now a normal household; my husband and I were going to get divorced but now we are dedicated to working with Heifer and our business is growing."
Bulelani, like so many poor, rural women, struggled to keep her family together in the face of poverty, hunger and unemployment. Now she is able to produce her own vegetables and sell them to earn money, as well as provide healthy food for her family every day.
Bulelani joined the Thusanang Dairy Project in Hebron Village, near the town of Matatiele, in the Eastern Cape Province, at the beginning of 2013. In just six months, she has seen many changes. The project began by training Bulelani and other project members on vegetable gardening. Bulelani immediately went home and set up her own garden.
"In terms of vegetables, we did not know about organic farming," Bulelani said. "We used chemicals in our gardens, not knowing that we were endangering our health; but now I am able to use organic methods to fertilize my soil and control pests." Because she did not have enough space to grow all the vegetables she wanted, Bulelani also created two tower gardens—a special type of garden that allows you to grow different kinds of vegetables in a small space. A tower garden is also a great way to conserve water.
Planting a garden was just the start for Bulelani. Her involvement in the project gave her confidence and soon she started her own business selling vegetables and chickens. Now Bulelani earns her own income of 1800 South African Rand, or about $200, per month. The family also saves money because they eat vegetables from their garden instead of buying them.
Since joining the project, Bulelani has worked hard to improve her family's life by improving their home. "I have bought cement and started to build a new house. And since I joined the project I have even bought saucepans," she shared with enthusiasm.
Through Bulelani's hard work with the project, her children's lives are also beginning to change. Her 17-year-old daughter is in the eleventh grade. "After joining Heifer, my daughter Ntombizonke gained interest in farming and now she wants to pursue a career in agriculture," Bulelani said.
Her 26-year-old son Mongezi said, "Since I started attending trainings, I have learned so much. The Cornerstones [12 Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development] worked wonders in my life. Also, for vegetable farming, I did not know about the planting season, but through trainings that Heifer provides I know so much more than I did before. I am not currently working, but I believe that this project is a great opportunity for me. I will work hard and my future plan is to have my own farm one day."
Bulelani's family is growing stronger and closer together every day thanks to her hard work and the skills and support she received from Heifer South Africa. "I am very happy that Heifer came into our community, you have taught us so very much," she said. "Especially the Cornerstones, they are able to change a person—they changed me; now we care for each other and love one another."