In the fishing town of Gansbaai in the Western Cape, the Masakhane Community Farm and Training Centre is slowly but surely empowering community members with farming knowledge. Zokhanyo “Zozo” Bikani (30), who leads the project, has dedicated herself to teaching others how to grow their own food – a cause she is passionate about.
“The project’s aim is to address food security in the community; to inspire them to grow their own produce, and to supplement their nutrition and income from the produce sold,” says Bikani, Masakhane’s farm supervisor and facilitator.
Bikani and her three brothers and two sisters were raised by a single mother in Dutywa, formerly known as Idutywa, in the Eastern Cape. Her love for gardening started at a young age in her grandmother’s garden. “When I was in the Eastern Cape, I would work in the garden and vegetable garden with my granny. I learnt a lot from her, more than I realised at the time.”
After completing high school, Bikani enrolled in a facilitator’s course at Unisa and later joined Guerilla House, which is an urban permaculture-based organisation that offers various workshops on, amongst others, greywater systems and mushrooms farming.
In 2011, she joined the Grootbos Foundation, a non-profit organisation encouraging sustainable livelihoods, as an agricultural student and formed part of their Growing the Future project. Through the project, Bikani learned more about organic vegetables, making compost and also acquired computer skills. Just a year later she became a student mentor and taught new students everything that she knows.
Bikani has been involved with the community farm since its establishment in 2016. She says the farm is located in close proximity to the community, and she engages with people on a grass-roots level.
Bikani also spearheads training courses, teaching more and more people every day how to produce vegetables and make a living thereof.
“It [Masakhane Community Farm] assists with training opportunities for the community and provides allotments (plots of land rented by individuals for growing vegetables) to community members that have gone through the training. In this way they can supplement their nutrition and their income when they sell some of their own produce.”
As the farm supervisor, it is Bikani’s duty to ensure that everything on the farm runs smoothly, from harvesting to helping members who are part of the training programmes. “I am responsible for the daily running, for the harvesting of produce and for the community training in urban agriculture and employability. The community comes to me for advice and it is inspiring to be able to help people bring about change in their lives.”
Bikani is mother to a four-year-old daughter, Onika. She says what motivates her in life is seeing the change in the people that she trains. “I am motivated that I am able to help others succeed through sharing my knowledge.”
She continues to challenge herself to grow and achieve more since she started out in the agricultural sector years ago. Most recently she has also obtained her driver’s license, an achievement she is most proud of.
Zozo, as many have come to know her, is an inspiration to many young farmers who are growing through their involvement at Masakhane. Her hard work and commitment towards the farm and community members resonates with Masakhane’s isiXhosa and isiZulu translations: “Let us build each other.”