What motivated you to apply to be a Master Trainer?

I found the technologies useful. The DIVAGRI researchers suggested we practice intercropping with different crops like cow-pea and beans. They also took us to Pretoria to show us all the other technologies. I found the Self Regulating Energy Saving Clay-based Irrigation (SLECI) system very interesting because I realized it would save us from spending money on diesel to pump water from the river.

What aspects of the project have been most challenging?

We are really excited about the SLECI, Biochar Kiln and Mushroom Refinery. However, we are not so sure about the Biogas Digester. It sounds like the amount of gas will not be sufficient, also that more training in gas making is required. However, they (researchers) are busy adapting the technology to make it better suited to our circumstances in kwaNdaba.

Thuleleni Mkhumbuzi
How do you plan to apply the lessons learned at the Take Charge of Your Life Workshop at home and at work?

I am going to expand the types of crops I grow as a way of showing others. I want to do a Strength Weakness Opportunity and Threat (SWOT) analysis on maize, dry beans and potatoes.

I see myself in five years becoming an agro-processor and owning a shop where I am selling some of the crops I have processed. Agro-processing brings in more money than just growing and selling fresh produce. I will dry some of the crops I have grown and sell them like that. I will study how to do agro-processing on You Tube as well as request help from our local agriculture office.

Meanwhile in the next 6 to 8 months I am going to learn all I can about all the different biotechnologies.

What strategies are you going to use to implement your goals?

I have realized on this TCYL course that I must take some time to think about myself first. I must have my plans written down. This is something new for us in kwaNdaba where women are constantly doing domestic work and don’t plan ahead.

Now, I realize that I need to think clearly, identify gaps and come up with practical strategies. I need to trouble shoot and think of the problems that might emerge. I will post the papers of my plans on my wall so I can see them as reminders and where I need to make revisions be able to do that as things change in time.

How is the DIVAGRI project helping you achieve your goals?

The Agricultural Research Council researchers who are working on the DIVAGRI project come to our village twice a month to advise us. This trip to Stellenbosch has shown me the bigger picture of what you can do with the DIVAGRI technologies.

How can the bio-based technologies used by DIVAGRI in agriculture impact more positively on the environment?

We are putting fertiliser in our field. I have learned on the DIVAGRI project that putting lots of chemicals in the soil is not healthy over the long term. After seeing the biochar we can produce, I will used less inorganic fertiliser. Biochar can be used to make the soil better. This means I will save money and keep the soil healthier. Currently we are using flood irrigation and it is consuming a lot of fuel which is expensive and lots of water is wasted. Getting the SLECI is going to be our biggest money saver in terms of fuel and water used.

What key information will you be sharing with the Community Trainers when you train them?

I will explain to them we must farm in a way that will save our environment so that our kids can use the same soil we do in the future.

This is important because we have good natural resources in kwaNdaba and we are full time farmers. If we destroy our natural resources, we won’t be able to grow our families for the future.

How do you plan to share your insights with the other farmers?

I will call a meeting of the farmers who joined us on the trip to Pretoria and explain to them all the different things I learned about SWOT, record keeping, setting goals and putting plans in writing. I will go over the worksheets and explain to them all we learned. After discussing the material, I will ask them what their goals are. From there, we can formulate a group strategy about how we are going to tell the bigger community. I will then request a meeting with the bigger group.

The farmers in kwaNdaba have goals but we never put things in writing. It is so important that they record their input and output costs to monitor their progress. They should also ask: “Where do I see myself in five years or 10 years time”.  I want to inspire the other farmers to do this.

In the meantime, we will also meet with the Agricultural Research Council to discuss how we are going to start implementing the three technologies we are interested in: the SLECI, the Biochar Kiln and the Mushroom Refinery.