When you don’t reach your initial goal, you might feel like something is wrong with your destiny. But in reality you might only need a redirection. This describes Mafusi Molefe’s journey into farming, and now she shares her knowledge with children in Lesotho.
Molefi is a 32-year-old woman, born and raised in Lesotho, in a small community called Ha Ramachine.
Growing up, she had difficulties attending school because of fees and had to stay home for some years. Through it all, she managed to be the first woman in her community to pursue studies at university, while others aimed for college.
In 2014, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in education from the National University of Lesotho, majoring in developmental studies. The unemployment rate was high during that period in Lesotho, which led her to Johannesburg, South Africa in search of employment as a teacher. It became a difficult time in her life because after so many job applications, she still had no luck in getting a job.
“This was a difficult time in my life and I went into depression for two months,” she admits.
New opportunities arise
During that time her family relied on R3 500 of her mother’s salary, who was a domestic worker in Johannesburg. Molefi would occasionally visit her mother and help with chores. That opened an opportunity for her to build a good relationship with the family her mother was working for. When the family moved to Dubai in 2014, they decided to take Molefi with them to be their domestic worker in their new home.
“It was such a huge transition as I had to take care of my mother, who at that time was having arthritis,” says Molefi.
Molefi took the opportunity and went to Dubai for two years. “I had no other choice because I was not getting a job and my mother couldn’t pay for my expenses in Joburg.”
Her journey to Dubai opened a new perspective on life as she was now able to support her family in Lesotho and also save. When she returned in 2016, Molefi was able to fund her studies at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and did her Honours in developmental studies.
During her studies at the UJ, she worked with Dr Naude Malan, who was her supervisor. Part of her requirements as a student in developmental studies was to attend the Izindaba Zokudla in Soweto. “At that time I hated farming, I remember in primary school, farming was used as a form of punishment for disobedient learners, so I had a different perspective on agriculture,” Molefi explains.
This was the platform that introduced Molefi to permaculture farming and changed her perspective, as she met interesting people in farming and learned about other forms of farming.
Her research was on nutritional value in the school system, and during her studies she volunteered to teach school gardening using the permaculture process in primary schools around Soweto and Pretoria, incorporating it into the school curriculum through Food and Trees for Africa.
“When I got to the schools, I was so surprised that some children couldn’t identify a tomato in its early stages; some thought they were manufactured in China, ” Mafusi giggles.
This made her feel the need to change how children look at farming. Molefi went to many schools, practically teaching leaners farming, while working at UJ as a researcher for six months.
Later in 2018, she went back to Lesotho. The aim was to transfer her acquired skills to her family and community. Before going back home, she looked for organisations in or close to Lesotho that practiced permaculture.
She found the Waarpoort farm in Rosendal, in the Free State, and has been volunteering there since.
Sustaining her family
She started a backyard farm at home and introduced her brother, Mokete, who was unemployed at the time to farming. He has made permaculture his main income. With food prices going up during Covid-19, they were able to generate income and feed the whole family. “That, for my brother, was a turning point, seeing that growing his own food supplements a lot of our nutrition and daily bread,” she says.
Molefi also started her own after-school farming program at her nearby primary school in Lesotho. With the help of Food and Trees for Africa, she was able to get seeds. She has worked in schools that didn’t have a water supply and learners had to travel to fetch water.