Tim Abaa (38), however, a lifelong resident of Orange Farm, breathes new life into this idea. He proves in every conceivable way that given the chance, one human being can make a difference in the lives of thousands. Yes, the numbers are really that staggering.
Orange Farm, located roughly 45 minutes from Johannesburg, is a township ravaged in parts by poverty and violent crime. On the face of it, this may not be very different from other working-class areas across South Africa. The difference in Orange Farm, however, is that, due in large part to the efforts of one Tim Abaa, close to 90% of every home in the area has a fruit tree growing in its backyard.
“I’ve always been a servant of my community,” says Abaa with great pride. This, despite having been directly affected by the widespread criminality in Orange Farm.
In 2014, just as the IT company he’d started had begun to lift off, his place of work was burgled with all his equipment stolen. Greater devastation would follow when his best friend was shot and killed in an unrelated incident.
Both incidents sparked a flame in Abaa. “I decided that I needed to take my early interest in farming much further. My friend had always been one of my greatest motivators and I promised myself that I would honour him through my business.”
With barely anything to his name, Abaa sought out advice from local farmers, learning everything he could from them about the industry. Convincing them to fund his initiative was a difficult task, but those who did, saw their investment in him grow exponentially within a matter of months.
In just under a year, Abaa had managed to grow over a thousand trees in his first nursery – among them, peach, apricot, pawpaw, avocado, apple, grape and guava trees.
Abaa is an unabashed environmental and social activist whose enterprise, Nectar Farms, has since become a training ground for educating members of his community about the fundamentals of organic farming as well as its benefits, both on an economic front and with reference personal health.
His skills and development workshops are always well-attended and have gained him a reputation for public speaking beyond the borders of Orange Farm.
Nectar Farms is also home to a library with books on agriculture anyone can access freely.
Abaa also owns a seed bank, which he uses to help those wishing to start their own businesses. He doesn’t charge a cent for his seeds. Instead, he enters into a bartering agreement where those he engages, agree to return a portion of their yield when their produce is harvested. “In this way,” he says, “everybody wins.”
In just a few short years, Abaa has become somewhat of a hero in Orange Farm. It’s easy to see why. There’s an earnestness about his way of being utterly void of insincerity and unmarred by what could have been a deeply harboured cynicism borne out of all that has happened to him.
Admirers from all over have nothing but praise for his enterprise which has grown in practically no time to now include an assortment of organically grown vegetables and herbs, as well as a separate stable where he keeps chickens, pigs, geese, rabbits and a few beehives.
Yet, despite all his success and everything Abaa has done to uplift his beloved Orange farm, he has never received any acknowledgement or recognition from government or other industry champions. As true heroes often do, however, he brushes off talk of any praise for his work, casually stating, “I don’t need it. I do what I do for my community.”