Ahead of our imminent first field trip to South Africa, colleague Dr Eugine Makaya visited Prof. Edward Nesamvuni for a few days to do a prep visit to the village where we’ll be doing the research. Here’s a short account of his trip. Enjoy!
Ndaa (Hello in Venda)
An encounter with the Folovhodwe community in Vhembe District will never leave you the same. The community is endowed with loving people, great scenic views, sand loamy soils, a perennial river, an irrigation scheme fed with water from an ever bubbling gravity canal, a dam with species diversity and hips of mine dumps that speaks of the mineral resources in the area.
To reach the community, one can take on average two hours from Thohoyandou going northwards along a tarred road that will leave you fifteen kilometres away from the village. The road network is beautifully winding through mountainous ridges, downhill you will be seeing beautiful villages some of which you may mistake for suburbs as there are multi-story residential developments. During this rainy season, light drizzles and misty atmosphere are a common phenomenon. Villagers throng the roadside with Marula brew sold in clear PET bottles.
After travelling for 80km, you head towards the west along a gravel road for 15 km to reach the village. To move fast, you need a 4X4 or an SUV as the road is bumpy and dusty. The good thing about traveling on such a road is that you slow down and have an opportunity to see African villages, cattle and donkey moving about while birds will be singing along. Thorny bushed and baobabs are very common along this stretch.
Before you can say you have fully enjoyed the ride, you will see yourself in Folovhodwe village. Like any other South African village, you will see very systematic settlements each measuring 900m2 and served by a communal water tap or individual private metred water tap supplied from a village borehole. The community also depends on a perennial river and a dam in Tshipanda sub-village. Many of the homes have electrical installations while others are solar powered. The village is very lively as its members will be doing their daily chores; taxis carrying people to and fro the village. Musina is their nearest town of preference, though some prefer going to Thohoyandou for business.
There are two primary schools and one secondary school in the village. Pupils are in primary school from grade R to grade 7 and in secondary school from grade 8 to grade 12. The schools are very easily accessed by the village pupils. Buses are available to ferry teachers and pupils around the village and nearby locations. Pupils get food while at school as a way of enhancing nutrition.
The village is headed by a chief, a jovial middle age man, the custodian of the local traditional values. Within the village is one community hall used for meetings; and at times people use the chief’s homestead to do meetings. Villagers live on a number of livelihoods that include cattle farming, rearing goats and donkeys. 112 households depend on irrigation, 48 work on bigger irrigation schemes, 38 are cattle farmers. There are also community gardens which are much closer to the homes. The agriculture extension officer is responsible for all farming activities in the village. He also helps villages transport and market their produce in Johannesburg. Many villagers are formally employed in two mines; Musina Mine and Tshikondani Mine.
The majority of the villagers are Christians while a few are traditionalists. There are no special festive days observed by the villagers; except that people are not allowed to work on a day when a burial occasion is taking place.