Siphathisiwe Ncube (47) of Bhekimpilo garden in Matobo district has encountered and endured a lot during her 23 year old marriage. She got married at a tender age of 18 years and is now a proud mother of five children, a boy and 4 girls. Although her marriage was filled with love, the newlyweds always had constant squabbles over food and cash income. The family hardly had enough food and cash for survival. Because of this, the family became the talk of the community. All fingers pointed at Siphathisiwe accusing her of being lazy and failing to fend for the family.

 “It was difficult. My in-laws pointed fingers at me and asked what kind of woman lets her family reel in poverty. Everyone thought I was not doing enough to improve the family condition”, said Siphathisiwe.

 Things got worse for the family such that her husband opted to go to South Africa in the year 2000 in search of better economic prospects. Although her husband sent monthly food and cash remittances from South Africa, they were hardly adequate for the family.

 Still, other women thought she had a dependency syndrome and challenged her to work for the family. Nonetheless, she was determined to work hard to break the mantle of poverty. She started a brushwood garden along the Shashane River bed to supplement household income and food. However, the brushwood garden project did not bring an end to her worries.

“The vegetables that I produced from the brushwood garden were not enough for my small family of five, let alone for sale. Fencing and watering were the most difficult to do. Brushwood fencing brought us into a lot of conflict with the local village head for cutting down trees and for ploughing in prohibited land. As if it was not enough, livestock would always find their way into the garden and consume everything we worked for”, she recalls with a smile.

 For Siphathisiwe, life began to change for the better in 2006 when she together with other determined women pioneered the establishment of the Bhekimpilo community garden with support from Dabane.

 One of the changes that she has witnessed by being a member of the community garden is increased knowledge and life skills. As a member of the community garden she has benefited from Dabane’s training and capacity building workshops. She has gained various skills in fence knitting, leadership, community based management, Gender, HIV/AIDS, Environmental Management, Practical Gardening, Business Management and Pump service and maintenance. The improved knowledge and life skills have translated in her selection into the Ward AIDS Action Committee and into Matobo District Child Protection Unit.

Another change that has occurred in Siphathisiwe life as a result of her enrolment in the community garden is that her family now has access to a diversity of fresh nutritious vegetables from the garden.

 “My family can now eat a diversity of fresh and nutritious vegetables such as beetroots, carrots, spinach and peas from the garden. These are good for the nutritional growth of my family‟, she said.

 The most significant change that has occurred in her life is the independence and control of her life that she has regained as a result of increased household income from vegetable sales.

 “On a good month, I earn around R300 and R175 when sales are low. Through the income earned, I have been able to purchase household items, pay fees towards my children’s education, and supplement household income‟, she said trying to suppress a smile.

 Using income from the garden she has managed to purchase household items and send her last born child to school. With the surplus income from the vegetable sales, Siphathisiwe has joined a local burial society which is comprised of members from Bhekimpilo garden group. The burial society functions as a support group for those living positively with HIV and AIDS. The burial society has built and strengthened relations in the garden group as they work together as a close knit family.