Vegetable garden grows into cash

Members of the Modimo O Teng Cooperative in Marlboro Gardens make a surplus of produce after feeding their families. / Veli Nhlapo
Members of the Modimo O Teng Cooperative in Marlboro Gardens make a surplus of produce after feeding their families. / Veli Nhlapo

A group of residents in Alexandra, northern Johannesburg, have turned an illegal dump site into a flourishing vegetable business.

The group of five women and a man who came together to create an urban vegetable farm to feed their families, orphanages, old-age homes and to supply street vendors are now aiming for the stars.

The Modimo O Teng Cooperative led by 60-year-old Nora Moselakgomo will today sell their produce in a trial partnership with retailer Checkers Hyper in Edenvale.

The vegetable farm was first created in 2012 by the unemployed group. It took them a week to transform an old illegal dump site in Marlboro into a sustainable urban vegetable farm. "We had no jobs and we could not let our children starve," Moselakgomo said.

"Many of us are elderly. We have to get up early in the morning to toil the land which leaves us tired and in pain, sometimes we don't even eat."

She said the idea of the cooperative came about because of the hardships of poverty but it only recently started to grow into a business. Many of the women worked odd jobs as domestic workers but could not find full time employment.

They grow organic vegetables such as cabbage, spring onions, carrots and herbs.

Lekau Nkoko, 48, one of the women, said: "We were fortunate that the municipality donated to us this land in Marlboro. Before we came here we were renting in Alexandra for R3420 a month which we sometimes did not have."

Their farm, however, has been targeted by thieves. "Our tools are not safe and our vegetables and water pipes have been stolen before," Nkoko said.

She urged South Africans to support local farmers.

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