Claire~ South Africa

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Claire Brown, a 30-year-old missionary in eManzana (also known as Badplaas), South Africa, is just a little bit older than the age range for Katie’s Krops gardeners. When our Ohio Growers introduced Katie’s Krops to Claire’s efforts after visiting her garden in Africa we were compelled to help. She was in such dire need of funds when her garden was first started that an exception was made. That has made a difference in how she and her employees at https://lydiasmission.org have grown to feed 1,600 children daily at their Hope Centers.

The organization began in 2017. The garden itself was started in 2019 and has grown in size to cover 43,000 square feet. It has gone from producing 3,000 pounds of vegetables in 2019 to 11,502 pounds of fruit and vegetables through the first ten months of 2021. The climate allows the garden to produce year-round with shade cloth used to prevent crops from burning. In addition, generous donors funded an irrigation system using water from the river at the property’s bottom. Although electricity to run the pumps is not always consistent, the irrigation system is much needed. It is not uncommon to have no rain at all for three-quarters of the year once the rainy season of a few months has ended. Claire and a team of 19 local women grow food based on the local diet and crops that grow successfully in the area, including tomatoes, pumpkins, cabbage, onions, beets, butternut squash, peppers, lettuce, spinach, and green beans. Other items that have been less successful and less well-received include avocados, baby marrow (a type of zucchini), carrots, cucumbers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, watermelon, peas, and kale. Orange, lemon, and grapefruit trees started bearing fruit in 2020.

The workers are also involved in raising 1,500 chickens whose eggs are sold to raise funds for the organization and breed worms. In addition, they create their compost using the chicken and worm droppings along with cow manure to which they have access.

Gardening in eManzana is not without challenges. Monkeys steal food from the garden (definitely an African problem!). The rain is sometimes accompanied by damaging hail. Six of the workers cannot read or write, and Claire has had to learn the most prominent language, Siswati since that is the only language 16 of the 19 garden workers know. She does use an interpreter when the conversation exceeds her basic knowledge. The level of need can be discouraging. Even before Covid hit, the area was a food insecure community. With COVID it is dramatically worse. Claire regularly meets children, families, and senior citizens who have not eaten in days because they do not have the money to buy food. Many times, they are so discouraged that they have given up even caring for themselves. When workers from Lydia’s Mission show up with a box of fresh vegetables from the garden, their hope is restored, and their faces light up like a small child on Christmas morning.