The Teaching Farm is an invaluable practical learning space for our Key-Hole Gardens project and our Community Gardens initiatives. It is a place where fieldworker Tsotang Monyane can demonstrate his efficient farming techniques to our community members and then let them practice under his watchful eye.
Cultivating crops is the lifeblood of our people. We not only want everyone to have enough to eat, but to have enough to sell to generate an income. At the Teaching Farm we teach people how to amplify their efforts and increase their yields to achieve that goal.
We are also able to teach Conservation Farming techniques to community members. Soil erosion is our land’s major environmental problem, so farming techniques that combat erosion are critical.
The garden is tended full-time by our gardener Mathunya Mahale. The vegetables we produce here are sold to the Malealea Lodge and to people in our village. Proceeds are used to purchase the seeds that we sell to our Key-Hole Farmers and members of the Tsingawe Community Garden. These seeds are sold at a subsidy and allow those participants to increase their yields and generate an income.
The Teaching Farm is a collaborative effort supported by Africa’s Gift.
The MDT constructed the Malealea Community Center in 2006 and continues to maintain the facilities, which include a large, multi-purpose hall, a small conference space, office, storage space, toilets, soccer fields. In 2016 we added a beautiful playground for our children. It is a hub of activity for our villages and an essential meeting place for a plethora of functions.
When schools are closed, Computer Training classes are held here
The Children’s Library is located here and is open and staffed by MDT workers for two hours in the afternoon twice a week, even when schools are closed
The MDT hosts Children’s Day each month here, an educational, empowering, and fun event for all of our children
The MDT hosts the Christmas Party for the village’s orphaned children each year at the hall
The HIV/AIDs Support Group meets here each month
The Young Women’s Support Group meets here twice a month and their sewing machines and materials are stored in the office
On World AIDs Day, health professionals from the local clinic have come to provide HIV status testing and counseling to members of our community
We host Key-Hole Gardens workshops here once a month, helping the elderly and our physically vulnerable community members to feed themselves and potentially grow enough to sell
During large national or international events, community members can gather in the hall and watch the broadcast together on our satellite TV
Other concerts and cultural events are held here throughout the year
Water is the great limiting factor in Malealea. The questions, “How much water do you have access to?” and “How long does it take to get there?” will entirely define your life. For the people of the village of Tsingawe, the answers were “Not very much” and “A very long time.” The tap that services the entire village of Tsingawe is hundreds of meters outside of the village, far beyond where anyone lives. To grow plots right outside their homes required a herculean effort, and many people just were not able to grow enough food to stay healthy, let alone grow enough to make an income.
The Tsingawe Community Garden is a communal piece of land with numerous garden plots and an orchard. The MDT constructed a reservoir within the garden, and this reservoir pipes to two water tanks in the orchard. Villagers can grow vegetables in their garden plots using water from the reservoir while the tanks make maintaining the orchard a cinch.
plots under sun-netting at the beginning of growing season
the fruit orchard
The MDT also provides subsidized seeds to members of this community, as well as lessons at the MDT’s Teaching Farm about how to increase yields by protecting soil from the sun using netting or mulching, from bugs by using a cocktail of bitter and sour herbs called Tea Pest, and from soil degradation by alternating tap-root and fibrous-root plants within a plot.
All of this assistance and leadership helps the people of Tsingawe grow enough to eat while freeing up more time for productivity in other sectors. The goal is always for people to be able to move above a subsistence life to a life earning income.
In late 2014, Motaoane Chaka had an idea. It was so simple, so brilliant, he couldn’t believe no one else was doing it yet.
Aloe grows like a weed in Malealea. It is rampant. Omnipresent. Green leaves thick as thighs reach up into the sky as far as the eye can see.
Tourists are almost as common, and tourists tend to burn when they visit.
Motaoane’s idea was to make a healing aloe balm and sell it to these tourists.
He quickly discovered that the reason no one else was doing it was because even though the aloe was abundant and cheap, the other materials required for the execution of this idea were not. He and his craft collective Lehlaahlela would not be deterred, however. They found a supplier and got reasonable quotes, and then they applied for a microloan from the MDT.
In early 2015, the MDT sourced all of their materials for their initial rounds of production. Tourists visited. Tourists got sunburned on their hikes. Sales were great.
By 2016, Lehlaahlela had repaid its loan in full to the MDT. They have since independently expanded their range of products, using their profits to acquire different materials and experiment with new lotion formulations. They sell the range in the Handicraft store just down the hill from the tourist-haven The Malealea Lodge, and the store is a regular stop on the Lodge’s Village Tours.
The MDT is a micro-finance resource for members of our community with ideas. It is important to support innovative entrepreneurs on a path to sustainability and self-sufficiency. The ultimate goal is for these entrepreneurs is for them to be able to successfully run a fully functioning and independent business that can only help to bolster our community. We provide monitored monetary support, as well as advising and assistance.
We frequently support the construction of agricultural irrigation systems. Projects like these drastically increase crop yields, while freeing up time spent fetching and distributing water for other productive activities. The increased yields boost sales revenue, and farmers are able to repay their loans.
We are currently working on a project to construct a sheep dipping tank for the entire village. Mohair and wool exports are important to our economy, and dipping tanks remove parasites and scabs from sheep, greatly increasing the value of our herdsmen’s wool. The community is collectively covering half of the cost while we fund the other half.
In America they call it Girl Scouts. In the UK it’s the Girl Guides.
In Malealea, it’s the Young Women’s Support Group.
None of these groups are related, but they are all united by the same goals: celebrating womanhood and fostering an empowering community amongst girls through skill building, discussion, and fun.
In Malealea, these girls build their self-esteem while sewing reusable sanitary pads, rather than by selling cookies. The principle remains the same.
The group began as a collaboration with Africa’s Gift in 2011 with the hope that it would be a positive force against the rising social problem of sexual assault and abuse within families. There are about 25 girls, aged between 7 and 17, and they meet twice a month at the Community Center. The MDT purchases the materials (sewing machines, scissors, fabric, thread, etc…) and Africa’s Gift purchases the sewn sanitary pads and tablemats. The girls receive all proceeds.
MDT Administrator Manthabiseng Mokala runs the group. She teaches the girls how to sew while conducting discussions about confidence, self-worth, and HIV prevention. Sewing the sanitary pads was a deliberate decision to embrace the natural functions of the female body and reduce any stigma or embarrassment. These pads are also green, as they last for over a year and drastically reduce waste and cost.
Under a relentless sun in the middle of a dirt road connecting one remote village to another, six men sit with their pickaxes abandoned beside them. They are breathing heavily and dabbing at their brows, but all of them are listening intently as one of their number speaks.
“We all agree that you need good health to work, and we all agree that if you are a man you must work. So why, then, are men so unlikely to go to the clinic for help when something is wrong?” he asks, and the rest of them scratch their heads in thought.
One suggests that it is because men are stubborn. When men have problems, they swallow them inside. Another suggests it could be the fear of knowing.
“But what is the consequence of not knowing?” a listening MDT staff member asks.
In unison, they all answer simply, “Death.”
The conversation advances to HIV, and later, to the abuse of women.
These men are herd boys, meaning they spend a good part of every day tending to their animals. Each left school at a very young age, as most herd boys must, and each also married extremely young after accidental pregnancies. While their flocks are grazing, they are working together on an anti-erosion project for the soil, and during their breaks, MDT staff members Tsoteng and James lead discussions with them about gender roles and life skills, supplementing the education they were never afforded.
The stakes for these conversations are high. Men are dying when they avoid the clinic out of pride. HIV is spread and severe emotional trauma is inflicted every time a man sexually assaults a woman. And men are suffering emotionally as well, when they swallow their problems and turn them into secrets.
This Men’s Group encapsulates our holistic community development philosophy. We support projects that increase the productivity of our people, while also developing their emotional and critical thinking capabilities and encouraging openness of ideas.
This group is relatively new, but progressing quickly. One of the men, Maroke Sekoboto, says that he feels as though the men of Malealea are living in the dark. They fear knowing the truth. He longs for men to break down the binds of stubbornness. But he has hope now that they will soon come out of this darkness if they continue to work together to learn more about themselves and their world.
As the sun continues to shine and they pick up their pick-axes to continue their work conserving Malealea’s land for all, hope feels like the most important thing in the world.