Mngcunube has the experience to see very clearly that rural needs and problems occur at several levels. So while we place great weight on livestock in communal areas and the small businesses to sustain these, we realise that while improvements in livestock can mean more income and more food for poor households, not all have livestock and decisions about livestock usually rest with males.

In some cases there is an overall disaster occurring in in the making and where possible we engage at that level. But for those households who are trapped we work the household level to develop skills and knowledge on how to develop and then to get the most out of a small garden. This involves building skills and knowledge on production factors and techniques on keyhole gardens, trench gardens and food preservation. As with livestock work this is hands on support by experienced and caring people and is provided over time – learning is based on relationships and a process over time – not on a quick fix.

Working on this basis we have developed 1 981 homestead gardeners in the Elundini and Alfred Nzo areas of the Eastern Cape (and as per our information on Disaster Management experience on this site many thousand more in that context). As is the case with inputs used under the livestock work we do in communal areas the participating households pay for the seeds and other inputs they chose to use in their gardens.

A typical example of community response to the gardens projects is as follows:

  Actual %
Number of households surveyed 186 100%
At least one grant recipient in the home 184 99%
Female headed 91 49%
Single parent headed 97 52%
Orphan/ child headed 0 0
Number of orphans in care 37 6% of all children
Head of house: less than 35 years 52 28%
Head of house: 36-55 years 57 41%
Head of house: more than 56 years 77 41%
Adult in the home 382 38%
Children in the home 611 62%
Total household population 993
Average people per household 5.3

The homestead gardens projects have been distributed as follows:



Ward 7 Elundini 188
CHDM 662
Phase 1 Nzo 611
Phase 2 Nzo 520
TOTAL 1981

Family gardens in Lower Mjika and Upper Mjika Villages of Mhlontlo Local Municipality (near Mthatha) in the Eastern Cape.

These 25 gardens differed from the normal approach of Mngcunube of working at homestead level because the design was predetermined and we were asked to see to implementation.

The average size of the gardens was a 32x32m garden (1024 square metres) with full 2.1 metre high hex fencing to prevent cattle from getting into the gardens. They were also provided with a tool shed with hand held tools, a wheelbarrow.

All the beneficiaries received a 5000L of water tank and water collection and storage systems (from the roof of the shed) so that they could fill buckets for watering plants.

16 square metres of vegetable seedlings beds were created. The method of doing the trenches was through organic compositing whereby layers of tins, grass, cow manure were put into the trench and covered with top soil. This system enables nutrients to be generated within the garden and has a water conservation potential. The rest of the garden (about 1000 square metres) was be dedicated to the potholing method for the seedlings, fruit trees and crops such as maize.

Three years after completion over 90% of these gardens were still in daily production.