Farming as an Alternative to Costly Food

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Living in Gaborone, the capital city of Botswana are communication and infotech professionals and married couple, Tumelo and Duduetsang Mapila.

While always interested in farming, the two of them stayed away from the prospect of farming due to a perceived requirement for huge capital.

The first major Covid-19 lockdown affected lives all over the globe, and it had quite an impact on their lives as well. Three months down, Duduetsang and Tumelo realised that it had gotten harder and more expensive to buy provisions from the local supermarket.

They sensed that if they had to endure another lockdown or a similar shortage of food supplies, they’d need to fend for themselves. This pushed them into launching their farming endeavour.

The duo are now urban farmers, living and farming in the outskirts of Gaborone. They began with a small garden outside their own kitchen, and attempted growing different vegetables there. Due to limited space and inadequate lighting, they decided to try their hand at farming on a larger piece of land.

Equipped with the knowledge gained from their numerous previous attempts, they eventually expanded their operation to include a field, with furrows and open air farming techniques. They say, “The plants don’t thrive as much in the kitchen garden, as they do on the farm.”

On the field they have successfully grown butternut, sweet corn, red cabbage, cherry tomatoes, jalapeno, habanero chillies and various herbs. The kitchen garden, now not as important, houses a habanero plant that’s a year old, and some wild rocket.

“Layout of the garden affects productivity,” asserts the farming couple. “Especially when growing a variety of crops.”

Their initial farm layout wasn’t well-planned, but as they learnt more about themselves and their crops, they planned their farm better. The field is divided into blocks and sub-blocks in accordance with the crop rotation plan designed by the Mapilas. While developing the layout, the two kept in mind accessibility to the water source as well as paths to walk around across their field.

While, presently, vegetables sold in their markets are priced higher due to import restrictions and high demand, the Mapilas have reduced their monthly spending on vegetables due to fresh produce from their own farm.

“Growing your own food is one of the most fulfilling things… especially starting off with no prior experience in growing various crops,” they say.

Once their harvests reached a sizable quantity, the Mapila family started distributing and selling fresh fruits and vegetables among their neighbours.

What started out with a heavy reliance on Google searches, has now evolved into communications with Whatsapp-based farmer communities. In their opinion however, the greatest learning they have had, has come through in-depth research on each crop they have planted on their farm.