As a child, Sipho Mabusela spent most of his weekends and school holidays driving with his father from East London to Willowvale, both in the Eastern Cape. In Willowvale, they would spend the day looking at crops in the field and, in the afternoon, travel further to gather goats from the veld.
Today, Mabusela not only holds an animal science degree, but he is passionate about regenerative agriculture. He believes it is key for socio-economic and environmental sustainability. He is also a co-founder and director of the Khuthaza Foundation, inspiring healthier communities across South Africa.
“The bug of making meals using locally accessible tools bit [at the University of Fort Hare in the Eastern Cape, where I studied]. It was not until I got to university that I realised how [regenerative agriculture] was or might be related to sustainability,” he tells Food For Mzansi.
Building a better world
Khuthaza is set on improving communities through “real food” and environmental sustainability initiatives. Influenced by the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, it focuses on three objectives: a poverty and hunger-free world and responsible food consumption and production.
Mabusela says, “When I started working for DSM Nutritional Products, a Dutch multinational, my vision and understanding of sustainability expanded beyond what I had learned in the dusty fields of Willowvale and the information-filled lecture rooms of the University of Fort Hare. I was inspired … after attending the One Young World Conference in the Netherlands in 2018.”
Khuthaza was officially registered in February 2019, adds Mabusela. Over the years, he has met a number of remarkable people and organisations who have inspired him. This includes Boitshepo, a crèche in Cosmo City, Johannesburg which counts among the many Khuthaza beneficiaries.
“Working with less fortunate communities always leaves a mark. We started their food garden which feeds more than 60 kids weekly. The ATKV [Afrikaanse Taal- en Kultuurvereniging] has been [another] great partner when it comes to our tree planting festival. Evergrow, a seedling supplier based in Soweto, has been instrumental when it comes to collaborating on our food security project,” he explains.
Mabusela and his colleagues are inspired by the problems they face, often bringing optimism and help in the face of adversity.
“It may be a rollercoaster ride, leaving you feeling helpless and as if you aren’t doing enough to make a difference. At times the people that you are trying to assist can be the very same people that are sabotaging the projects. It takes a little bit of patience and understanding to figure out the reasons behind that.”
A future beyond Covid-19
Like other non-profit organisations, Khuthaza relies on volunteers to work on their initiatives. The financial hardship brought about by Covid-19 has, however, led to a decrease in volunteers. This is being overcome through new collaborations with key partners and fundraising outside Mzansi.
Khuthaza wants to ultimately inspire people across the world to live more sustainably, explains Mabusela. They are also looking to expand their resource transfer programme through partnerships with like-minded organisations such as Evergrow.
Also, they are hopeful that their on-farm education programme will be accredited by AgriSETA so that volunteers will not only learn to grow food sustainably, but also receive qualifications that can be useful to find employment elsewhere.
This year, Khuthaza will focus on expanding its team and re-establishing its Life on Land eco-village which was put on hold due to earlier issues with their landlord.
“Once we get that up and running, we will be able to host volunteers at our resource exchange programme that helps a lot of people get skills; a resource to plant their food. Another big focus is our annual tree planting festival where we aim to plant 1 000 trees to increase carbon sinks and biodiversity and rehabilitate ecosystems.”
Mabusela dreams of a day where every South African will have access to nutritious and quality food that was grown sustainably. “I hope that people can get pride in working the soil and realising the value that it has to them and their families.”
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