Four Stories About Food Sovereignty works with three generations of female farmers in rural Nwamitwa, South Africa, about 450km north of the city of Johannesburg. These women, most older than 60, struggle to create community and dignified livelihoods amid structural unemployment and the effects of climate change. Members of the Hleketani Community Garden (featured in the award-winning film The Thinking Garden), these women have been succeeding at providing the local community with nutritious, affordable, accessible vegetables for more than 25 years in the face of enormous challenges, from the HIV/AIDS pandemic to devastating droughts.
Josephine is a founding farmer and board member at Hleketani Community Garden. She has a wealth of experience as a small-scale farmer in a resource-poor, former apartheid 'homeland'. With fellow community members she has weathered political upheaval, the crushing HIV/AIDS epidemic, damaging shifts of the global economy, drought and other deepening effects of climate change. Josephine speaks from personal experience about these pressures, including efforts to build a community of farmers within the farm gates, repeated thefts, and difficulty attracting younger farmers. Her name means “hatred” which comes from her grandfather’s brother who was hated by the family.
Mphephu is a founding farmer and board member at Hleketani Community Garden. She is a true leader and key team member at the farm and in the community: Mphephu is always one of the first at the farm in the morning, frequently there just after daybreak, and one of the last to head home as the sun dips low at the end of the day. She often leads colleagues in rousing praise songs, and is a strong representative of the farm to government agencies; she once camped out at the electricity utility's office when staff ignored the farm's needs. Mphephu’s name means “suffering”, something that was experienced by her parents who tried to have children for 20 years and then “God gave them [me]”.
Basani is a student of Media and Communications at Boston College in Pretoria, South Africa. She has a deep interest in sustainable community development and is an advocate for Hleketani Community Garden and small-scale farmers more generally. She served as assistant director of the documentary film The Thinking Garden and is specializing in film for development in her studies. Basani serves as interpreter for Josephine and Mphephu who speak Xitsonga, a Bantu language.