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Cacadu
Tourism News
Rags to riches through veggies
17 January 2011
 

 
AN unemployed Port Alfred man who started a backyard vegetable garden five years ago to feed his family has set his sights on becoming a commercial fat liter.
From humble beginnings, Elliot Msougelwa has grown its organic vegetable patch into a profitable little business that supplies fresh produce to an ever growing list of regular customers eager to eat pesticide-free food.
With the Sunshine Coast still feeling the effects of the drought, the only thing preventing the father of two, aged 52, from further growing his business is the exorbitant cost of municipal water.
"I pray for rain every day because municipal water is so expensive. I cannot afford to water my vegetables every morning," he explained.
Instead of throwing in the towel, Msongelwa has learnt to plant certain produce at different times of the year to make the most of fluctuating rainfall levels and seasonal climate changes.
"I also try to plant veggies that do not need much water," he said.
Helped by his son Nqaba -and a few unemployed neighbours - Msongelwa has turned his suburban plot into a Garden of Eden, growing everything from mealies to spinach, beetroot, carrots and other produce.
"I used to grow vegetables as a child growing up in Peddie, but stopped when I moved to Port Alfred township because of the quality of the soil." But that all changed when Elliot and his teacher wife, Lulama, moved into a suburban RDP house in town - and he discovered the quality of the soil.
"1 cleared some of the plot and saw the soil was perfect to grow food for my family. "
"When the neighbours saw the vegetables they wanted to buy ... very soon cars were stopping outside and asking if I had fresh vegetables to sell to them, too."Eager to learn more about vegetable farming, Msongelwa spent hours in the local library learning more about farming without pesticides. "I do not use any machines or chemicals . . . all the farming is done by hand."
Depending on the time of the year, he loads up wheelbarrow full of vegetables at least once a week and trundles down to town -often stopping at houses along the way to sell the "freshest vegetables" around.
"It has helped put food on the table and to pay my children's school fees." Mealies sell for R2 each and vegetables like carrots, spinach and beetroot are sorted into R5 bunches.

 

 
 
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