Uprooting expectations and planting a vision for Gugulethu


Between the tin shacks of Gugulethu, Manelisi Mapukata is nurturing a legacy. Recognisable in his bright blue overalls, he wraps his hands around the leaves of a beetroot and tugs it out of the ground. Rinsing off the dirt, the cool water on his hands provides a soothing contrast to the harsh sun on his back. Mapukata has been toiling since the early hours of the morning. The fruits of his labour have left many in awe. “When people think of this township, they don’t imagine it as a space where good can grow,” Mapukata says.

Centuries ago, Gugulethu used to home vineyards, orchards, and vegetable plots. With the forced relocations of apartheid, the agriculture of the land fell away. But Mapukata’s father reclaimed this heritage and continued to farm. When he passed on, the responsibility fell to his son’s shoulders. Mapukata had the will to continue, but not the know-how. So he began studying books and magazines on farming. Soon, rows of carrots, pumpkins, cabbages, spinach, peppers and tomatoes sprouted on his plot. “Once I saw how much potential farming had in sustaining my family, I realised I could do the same for my community,” Mapukata says. Before long, Manelisi’s Urban Farm was established.

By engaging a team of locals to produce fresh crops, Mapukata is fighting unemployment and hunger. “What I do is my way of showing my community that I love them,” he says. Beyond initiating a green revolution, he’s also planting a vision for the future. “We hope to get more land and equipment to expand our farms,” he says. Mapukata lives up to the Xhosa meaning of the word gugulethu – our pride. Having harvested the field of people’s potential, Mapukata proves that when South Africans take care of their roots, we discover how much goodness we can reap together.