From little things, big things grow

From little things, big things grow

The Southern Africa Livelihoods Project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

In rural Swaziland (Eswatini) most families grow vegetables around the homestead. Wendy Zwane from Sigombeni village was once no different. She recalls the difficulties she faced as a subsistence farmer: “I had a small garden at home, but the chicken ate all the vegetables.”


For Wendy and a group of other community members, their farming was given a new direction some years ago when World Vision supported them to begin farming together.

 The Sigombeni Vegetable Group was born and after a few seasons they were able to produce enough vegetables to sell directly to NAMBoard, Eswatini’s (Swaziland) National Agricultural Marketing Board.

From little things, big things grow

Cracks in communication

As the size of their farm began to grow, so did their daily water requirements. The group was lucky to have a local spring just a kilometre away. However their pipe system was constantly springing new leaks and daily patch ups with rubber tyre tubes were needed.

Over time this challenge began straining relationships between members and for a period there were some who even stopped communicating with others.

In 2017, when the Southern Africa Livelihoods Program (SALP) began working with the group, they quickly realised Sigombeni was at risk of losing direction and momentum.


Support from SALP

SALP invested in physical infrastructure for the group by constructing a small weir at the opening of the spring, laying new irrigation piping, and installing water tanks and sprinklers.

SALP Eswatini coordinator Bonginkhosi Mabuza facilitated a series of meetings with group members: “We sat down with the group trying to get to the root cause of those problems and we identified the problems.”

The discussions provided a safe space for them to air their frustrations and it also created a chance for the group to rebuild relationships. Collectively there was an agreement that in the future the group would do their best to not let communication break down between members.

“It is very important to be able to resolve problems as a group because it cannot be a good thing that one of us can leave the group because of disagreements, we need each other.”

– Grace Dlamini, Sigombeni Vegetable Group


Growing the group

Working cohesively as a group and being able to rely on their new irrigation system, Sigombeni found their vegetable production was quickly increasing.

Celucolo Ntokozo Matsebula works as a pastor at a church in the largest city of Eswatini, Manzini.

One weekend Celucolo, a passionate farmer, found himself preaching at a small church in Sigombeni. After the service he began talking with Sigombeni Vegetable Group Chairwoman Grace Dlamini.

“I met Grace Dlamini, she told me she's a farmer, so I was curious to come and see the farm so I came with her to harvest some cabbages. I found a reliable water supply, five hectares fenced and I said wow!”

After returning home from Sigombeni and talking with his wife, Celucolo decided to join the group. By the beginning of 2019, Sigombeni had attracted a number of other new active members. With the extra members now in the garden every day, the group decided to expand their production to more than seven hectares of land.


Wendy’s monthly wages

Among the Sigombeni Vegetable Group members, Wendy Zwane has the largest individual plot and every day of the week besides Sunday she can be found tirelessly tending to her vegetables.

Since SALP invested in the new water infrastructure, Wendy has noticed a massive time saving. Previously she would dedicate at least two days a week to just watering her vegetables. But now she is able to set up the sprinkler system and can continue with other work. This free time has enabled her to increase her plot to an impressive two hectares.

At the end of every season Wendy is busy harvesting and selling her produce to NAMBoard and since late 2018 she has begun paying herself a monthly wage.


This is a huge change from her life as a subsistence farmer where she hoped that she could just get to the next day. “I am very productive now than before, and now I am like someone that is working in an office or in town because I know I have got to earn every month and this means I have to work very hard.”


See more stories of how World Vision is growing livelihoods in Southern Africa.