The evergreen hills and valleys of Limpopo roll for what seems like an eternity. Its beauty catches the eye, captures the soul and remains forever etched in the minds of anyone who lays eyes on it. Try as you might, it’s hard to look away. Harder still is imagining a more exquisite place to call home.
Amid this splendour lies the town of Thohoyandou, with a village called Itsani nestled nearby. Itsani is a quiet village where, along the banks of the river Dzindi running through it, you will find a man called Marvin Mavhunga.
Marvin Mavhunga is not only lucky enough to call among the most enchanting places in the world his home, but here he also gets to do what he loves most: farming.
Life, for Marvin, however, wasn’t always this picturesque.
“My mother was a domestic worker who raised three children on R750 per month. From Grade 8 to Grade 12 I worked as a gardener on different properties in Limpopo.”
Sadly, this remains a reality for many of our country’s children who often are forced to put their still tender bodies to hard labour under the whip of poverty.
According to a report by Statistics South Africa released in 2017, there are over 577 000 child labourers in the country. A truly chilling statistic.
Most striking about Marvin’s story, though, is that despite having worked up to four hours a day after school for as little as R50 a month, he not only managed to attain his matric certificate, but also landed an ‘A’ for Agricultural Studies. This grade would afford him a much-needed passport out of the poverty he lived in.
This was the beginning of an arduous journey towards self-sustainability. He packed his belongings and travelled from the relative simplicity of rural life in Venda to the big-city complexities of Pretoria. Here he would pursue a BTech Diploma from The University of South Africa (UNISA).
Moving to Pretoria, says Marvin, “was like sending a domesticated cat into a wild jungle. The only language I knew at the time was TshiVenda”.
Given the communication barriers he faced, the big city was somewhat of a nightmare for him. But with every intention of returning home having made a success of himself, he adapted and stuck it out. Five years later he emerged on the other side of his troubles with his hard-earned qualification.
“Then the job-hunting started,” he says. He counts this as among the cruellest periods of his life. Application after application was either ignored or rejected. In total, he went for ten interviews.
That’s ten interviews. Ten rejections. Ten reasons to give up.
Still, his never-say-die spirit persisted and he was finally able to land a few internship positions in Pretoria. None of these opportunities led to permanent employment. He was, however, able to raise the money to return home to his beloved Itsani. He was given land, at no cost by a local businessman, to realise his dream of owning a farm of his own. With the finances he had raised – meagre as it was – he was able to acquire the basic equipment and resources to do what he does best in the place he loves most.
He beams at the accomplishment of having built his farm, Mavhunga Vegetable Suppliers, from scratch. He says his home in Venda was a key factor in both his success as a farmer and his general state of happiness “There are many places in the world I could do what I do, but I will never leave Venda. I hope to expand my business one day, but Venda is where my heart lies.”
Today, along the banks of the Dzindi river in Limpopo, Marvin grows winter maize, mustard broadleaf and okra, supplying them to local stores and supermarkets. And while there is nothing easy about his life as a farmer, the joy he expresses when he speaks about now being able to take care of his mother the way she once took care of him is infectious.
“She did so much for me when I was a child. Now, I can finally do what I’ve always wanted to do, which is to look after her. After all we’ve been through together, it makes me really happy.”