Many South African youths dream of a one-way ticket out of their rural villages to escape abject poverty. They dream of making it in the big city. But with these aspirations comes a high cost of living, cramped living spaces and financial pressure, believes Ludwe Majiza, an Eastern Cape–born permaculturialist.
He believes that instead of aspiring to access wealth in the big city, young people should look to accessing wealth within their own rural communities.
There is a need for skilled youth to make a return to rural communities, he says. “These things that they (youth) are chasing does not necessarily equate to wealth, to value and true happiness, because sometimes you get trapped in that whole thing,” he says.
“With this big fight in our country on the issue of land, I realized that my roots are here.”
This is not a vision that he advocates for without merit. In 2018 Majiza (34) moved from Cape Town back to his familial home in the village of Mkhubiso in the Amathole District of the Eastern Cape. He has since made great strides in the community as a permaculture farmer.
The beauty of making this return home is the access to land, he says. “With this big fight in our country on the issue of land, I realised that my roots are here. (Mkhubiso) is where I have land. For me to rent land somewhere else and pursue my goals and live my dreams didn’t make sense, I saw it best to come back here,” Majiza explains.
This move has prompted him to build an integrated community. He does this by educating and equipping youth with sustainable skills in agriculture. “I am working on building communities that are aware,” he elaborates.
“For our people to realise their true value is in what they own, which is the land that they have and the land that they were given by their families that was left behind, that is where their true wealth is,” he adds.
Majiza spent 10 years working as an IT specialist with the Western Cape department of the premier. There his passion for educating and youth development grew. “My true passion is teaching and helping others, and community development. And developing people that are listed as disadvantaged. The projects I worked in the IT side was like what I do here,” he clarifies.
The project he worked on during his time in the Western Cape entailed bridging the gap between the haves and the have–nots. “It was focused on giving basic IT services to schools and children,” he says.
“I grew up in the Eastern Cape, and with AmaXhosa, we’ve always been farmers.”
Educating these disadvantaged children made him feel like he had a purpose. “When you leave school and you get into varsity everything is technology based. The kids I worked with were disadvantaged and didn’t have the skills. So here I feel it’s something very similar where people don’t have the information, they don’t have the know-how. And permaculture is just a vehicle for me to achieve that ultimate goal,” Majiza says.
Farming is deeply embedded in his roots. He uses the knowledge he gained in the big city and now shares it with the youth in the village of Mkhubiso. “I grew up in the Eastern Cape, and with AmaXhosa, we’ve always been farmers,” he says.
He only learned to appreciate his farming roots later in life and merged it with his love for nature. These passions culminate in his permaculture garden.
“Majiza believes rural living and permaculture could be the solution to food insecurity.”
“Naturally I was never into farming or gardening, but I have always loved nature. And it’s only once I came across permaculture (that) I understood how I can connect my passion for nature and animals and move into the farming space.”
Majiza explains that the concept of permaculture is working with nature to create a sustainable livelihood. He develops gardens in the village and teaches youth how to build these gardens for elderly members in his community.
“Permaculture is taken from a lot of indigenous tribe practices in agriculture,” he says. “They basically have taken all the best of what comes from indigenous agriculture and mixed it all up,” he adds.
Majiza believes rural living and permaculture could be the solution to food insecurity.
“If you look at our elders and the way they ate, and the way they lived: they lived for longer, they were healthy and they were strong. So, for me it’s important that we actually consider going back to our roots for the overall betterment of our well-being,” he further elaborates.
“Whatever you see around you – in essence it comes from the soil.”
It takes a village to grow a community, he believes. Although Majiza was not raised by his mother, his family played a big role in his upbringing.
“I was raised by different people in my family. You know with black families that happens a lot.”
In 1995, Majiza was shipped off to boarding school in Port Edward, KwaZulu-Natal. His time on the grounds of the prestigious Woods Private School shaped his diversity. “That’s where I learned to be diverse, because it was different cultures. From 1994, when we got the freedom, the first thing my mother did was send me to a ‘white school’ and obviously there I stayed with people from different backgrounds and who are of different ethnicity.”
His diversity influenced his passion for permaculture. He hopes to share this passion with his community. There is ample opportunity to access wealth in your own background he says.
“Whatever you see around you – in essence it comes from the soil. So, (I’m) making them aware, making them realize that their wealth is actually in their hands. They just need to know how to convert that into actual monetary wealth or spiritual wealth.”
Although there is often an abundance of land in rural areas, challenges with accessing funding stand in the way of these areas reaching their full developmental potential.
“I have got a lot of land here. I just need the infrastructure, and I have got water in abundance. That is why I came back, because this is one of the best places to farm. The climate, the soil and the water – those three factors are very important in farming,” Majiza says.
He has aspirations of expanding his endeavour to other villages. Majiza advises youth to consider returning home from the cities so that they can help develop rural areas.
“I am practicing small-scale at the moment. I have a backyard garden, and I build permaculture gardens for people and communities. I am just trying to spread this as wide as we can,” he says.
Ethical farming and permaculture go hand in hand. This is the is the future of agriculture, he says.
“I think a mind–shift is needed. That’s one of the things that I believe is challenging in the work that I do – convincing people that this is the better way, this is the healthier way, you will live longer,” he says.
“Permaculture is nothing new. It’s indigenous knowledge which, because of industrialization, has kind of been parked aside. But really if you want to produce your food organically or without chemicals permaculture is the route, especially for small-scale farmers.”