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Nonhlanhla Joye has created a frugal, climate-smart system to grow organic vegetables.
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PartnerFood & Hunger

How This South African Woman Grew a Farm in a Plastic Packet

By Carissa Drury

Nonhlanhla Joye was diagnosed with cancer in 2014. While chemotherapy challenged her strength, her immediate concern wasn’t her health.

Too sick to return to work, Joye’s priority was finding a way to put food on the table for her family.

So the daughter of a farmer turned to what she knew best and started planting vegetables outside her home in Cato Manor, South Africa.

But what Joye hoped would be a solution turned into a disaster.

The chickens roaming around the township got to her garden, destroying her harvest. If Joye was to succeed, some creativity was needed.

That’s how she started farming in a plastic packet.

“I created a frugal, climate-smart system to grow organic vegetables,” Joye says.

She built a wooden structure to hang rows of plastic bags filled with soil.

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Joye planted her seedlings in the packets, which would have otherwise ended up in landfill sites. The raised setup allowed Joye to tend to her garden with greater efficiency and less wastage.

“You save water. The yields are higher,” explains Joye. “It can be erected anywhere.”

Not only had she found a way to avoid those pesky chickens, she created something that could address the lack of space in rural areas.

After implementing and perfecting a plan to support her family, Joye found herself in a position to do even more.

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“I realised there was more food than I needed so I started selling and the next thing, I had a business,” she says.

Umgibe Farming Organics and Training Institute works with 51 cooperatives to provide agricultural training and business management.

“In the rural areas, unemployment could be a thing of the past,” Joye says.

The garden in a packet creates jobs, provides a sustainable source of food, reduces plastic waste, and decreases carbon emissions from transporting food as more people eat home-grown vegetables.

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Joye is now reaping the rewards of her efforts. She was awarded the Impact² Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award in Paris, one of 11 awards she won in 2017 alone.

But this social entrepreneur’s goals go beyond prizes. 

“My purpose in life is to stop hunger,” she says.