Single mom’s mission to make a difference

Graduate seeks farming solutions

A SINGLE mother of one who aims to make a difference for the people of the underdeveloped Mount Frere area will graduate with a master of technology (MTech) degree in agriculture today.

Fezeka Majiki, 29, said she hoped – armed with her qualification – to improve farming in the area and look at ways to combat the ill-fated government- funded commercial farming projects that had left many farmers destitute.

“I decided to study agriculture as subsistence farming is a way of life in Mount Frere – that’s what I grew up doing,” she said. Many residents and village folk in the area would deem getting a master’s degree out of their reach, she said.

“I may have come from the dusty streets of Mount Frere, with many villages having no electricity or running water, but I know I can do anything or be anything . . . It doesn’t matter where you come from.”

She hoped her NMMU degree would inspire her son, Elam, 9, to go on to achieve even more than she had, she said. Majiki’s work focused on the government-funded crop production projects initiated in Mount Frere and other parts of Transkei to assist with food security.

Working with the Department of Agriculture, Majiki was given a list of all the projects in the Mount Frere area and chose to work with 18 projects, one in each village.

“About 17 of these villages have no electricity or running water,” she said. Her aim was to determine why these projects were not thriving and identify possible solutions.

Her findings showed that people who had been surviving as subsistence farmers their entire lives – farming maize, beans and pumpkins – used natural seeds, organic fertilisers and indigenous methods.

They were suddenly expected to farm only maize through the large-scale crop production projects, intend - ed to enable subsistence farmers to start selling their produce. Majiki’s treatise found that farmers had paid large sums of money to participate in the projects.

Many could not afford it and did not understand the hi-tech machinery which contractors brought to plant the seeds each year. They also did not understand the new planting techniques, or the chemical fertilisers and treated seeds they were given.

This resulted in unsuccessful crops, with some farmers losing livestock due to contaminated fields from over-fertilising. Majiki said the government should train and empower people in the Mount Frere area.

She said the youth, who perceived farming as backward, “need to be made aware that agriculture is a way of life”. Her findings suggest t h e re should be an integration of modern and indigenous methods.

“I’d like to be part of the solution,”Majiki said.