Love in Marriage and in the Soil : Thanda’s Nisela Organic Farming Programme

A compelling story unfolds through the lives of the Mhlongo family. At the heart of this narrative lies a remarkable duo—Dorothy and Solomon Mhlongo—a husband and wife inseparable not only in love, but also in their pursuit of cultivating a brighter future for their children and community through the soil.

This committed duo are testimony of the impact farming programmes can have in rural communities. We are inspired by the Mhlongo’s approach to partnership, love, respect and farming, and how this is an outstanding example for their children and fellow community members. 

Husband and wife, Solomon and Dorothy Mhlongo

Solomon Mhlongo begins: “I have worked for someone for most of my life. I woke up every morning and go to work for someone, and there was no reward. I would spend my money more on getting to work than on my family. I’d spend hours fixing people’s cars when I did not have a car of my own. I’d spend hours working away from my wife and children only to come back home once a month with not even R500. So, when my wife and I sat down and looked at our situation we both made a decision to do better with what we have.”

Dorothy adds: “We started farming for obvious reasons, my husband lost his job as mechanic during COVID, and when he was working, the money he was making was not enough. So as a mother and wife, I could not just sit back and watch my husband carry the burden of providing for our children on his own. We only planted food to eat – and sometimes we would grow more than we needed, it would get rotten, or we’d have to share with our neighbours because we did not want the produce to go to waste. Yes share, not sell. At the time… how can I put it, our eyes and minds were not opened to the endless possibilities the land can provide.”

Dorothy tending to her crop of spinach

Now that the Mhlongo’s have been with Thanda for over two years, Dorothy and Solomon share what their success has been.

“The community now knows to come to the Mhlongo’s if they need assistance with fresh produce – or even one of the other farmers here at Dwesuha. We are not in competition with each other because we all want to make ends meet. I am in competition with myself, and with my husband of course (she laughs) only because we need to push ourselves to be the best providers for our family.

The Mhlongo’s lovingly caring for their crops

Happiness is a norm when you work with Thanda here in our community, do you see where we are?  It is very hard for us to get anything here in Dweshula, I always say we are the forgotten ones, but you know what? Thanda didn’t forget about us.  

Solomon includes; “We’d only eat to fill our stomachs, now we are able to sell. Thanda has markets that they introduced us to, and you at Thanda, also encourage us to seek our own markets to sell. I like that. I am fulfilled. I wake up every morning through God’s grace with my wife by side, I am able to see my children grow while working together on this farm. 

Dorothy: I can tell you that being in the field with my husband has made our marriage stronger. When we are both stressed or feeling overwhelmed with life or just family we come to the field and start working. Sometimes I can wake up early in the morning and Baba (Solomon) is not in the house, I know he is here, talking to the soil. I follow him here and I don’t say much and I start working too – we both talk to the soil. I believe because we are both passionate about taking care of family through farming, our love shows in the food that we produce. Anything that is not made out of love shows- it does not grow as well. And much like in marriage, in farming too you have to have love and be patient with what you are trying to grow.

We are patient with our plots, in fact we have one for each of our children. They do come and work with us on the plots on the weekends and holidays. It is not a chore nor do we try not to make it that because then they won’t want to come and help. I think the children willingly help because they have seen how the farm helps us as a family. If the children need anything for school Baba and I come to the field to harvest and sell the produce, and we do make the money. Just last week we were supplying vegetables for a wedding, that must have been five sacks of cabbages, carrots and spinach.

Farmers at Dweshula with the bright Thanda Fun Foundations ECD in the foreground

Solomon adds, We now think not only about providing for our family, but also how we can provide for the community and make a living through that. The Thandamentor is a very good boy – he shares a lot of knowledge with us. I gardened in my younger days, but the different methods of farming he has shown us have been a wealth of good. For example, digging trenches and making the seed beds higher has made a difference when there is heavy rain.  He recently brought this spray (Apeche, organic pesticide) … it smells of garlic to spray on the cabbages and spinach, we recently started using it and it has been working well.

You know, we were not very familiar with this type of farming. Everything we use here is natural. Who would’ve thought? Chilies to get rid of pests, Thanda is very clever.

In fact, Thanda has been very clever in many ways – when we got water? Oh my, that was a good day, it has been good ever since. We are able to irrigate our plots using those water tanks, so there are pipes coming from the tanks all the way to where we are standing. That has made a huge difference. We now don’t have to worry about getting water from the nearest community tap in order to water our plots.” 

Fellow Dweshula Farmer

Dorothy concludes: “Yes, with the assistance we have received, I think I speak for the both of us when I say we want to continue working hard to make this farm one of the best. I also do not want Thanda to give up on us, Thanda has provided us with a lifeline. We are living and working, and Thanda is living and working hard too. So we cannot let each other down, and as long as God keeps me here – I will be working side by side with Baba Mhlongo to provide the best life for ourselves, children, and community.”