Mpumi Ncwadi, our Longtable Project Meat activist, has sent us all a  personal challenge to support the sheep farmers of Leliesfontein in Namaqualand. Read his compelling story to the end to see what we can do to eat great meat &  directly support a farming community

Leliesfontein sheep

Ilima: A Traditional Lesson on Gift Exchange

For centuries, Ilima was a common practice amongst abeNguni: the people of Nguni origin. In its simplest form, Ilima means “a collective effort for collective resilience.” To guarantee their collective resilience traditional communities of abeNguni worked together to address common challenges facing the communities where they lived. Perhaps the simplest illustration of this practice involved, ukulima, “ploughing the land,” whereby villagers combined their meagre individual resources (seeds, draft animals, equipment and labour) to plough every fallow piece of land in their community. As a result, every villager’s basic food security requirements were met through food gift exchanges.

The essence of Ilima laid in two underlying principles. Firstly, connecting individual parts to make the whole, as in connecting individuals and households into a larger community. Secondly, promoting the all-empowering concept of gift exchange. People willingly shared their individual gifts (wisdom, skills, talent, food etc.) with others, in order that they too may receive abundance from other people’s gifts.

Facts are facts; stories are how we learn

This is Rule #16 from Alan M. Webber’s book, Rules of Thumb. Here is an inspiring story that I believe is worth sharing and further illustrates the essence of Ilima.
I have often wondered if it is possible to come home to a place where I have never been before; where people looked different and spoke a different language differently. Now I know, it is possible. It happened to me the first time during my visit to a missionary village called Lubwe, on the banks of Lake Chifunamuli in the Samfya district of Luapula Province in Zambia. It happened to me again, last month, when I visited Leliesfontein in Namakwaland. The two visits reinforced my personal belief that although we may look different on the outside, we are all human with shared experiences, emotions and memories. When I go to a place where the people and the place where they live resonates with my own personal beliefs, upbringing and experiences, I become one with the people and place. So, I start to feel like home.

leliesfontein landscape

As the name suggests, Leliesfontein derives it name from a local fountain surrounded by lily flowers; white lily flowers in this case. For years the pastoralist Nama people used the fountain to quench their thirst and that of their sheep. That was until 1802 when the missionaries arrived in Leliesfontein and built the Methodist Church next to the fountain. Soon after the church was completed, the missionaries planted Canadian poplar trees, around the fountain, for shade. That was not all. They also drained other local wetlands to plant food crops. Oblivious to the damage that their actions were causing to the region’s water balance, and the negative impact to the flows of the Groen and Buffels rivers downstream, the missionaries planted more poplar trees around their crop fields.




Over time, the fountain vanished together with all the lily flowers around it. Why? Because, to cope with the average Summer temperatures of 430 Celsius, the poplar trees were consuming more than 900 litres of groundwater from the fountain; every single day. As a result, villagers and their livestock were deprived of a key source of life; water. This went on for more than 200 years. It was not until the advent of democracy that the Kamiesberg Municipality constructed the current concrete water storage tanks and mechanically pumped groundwater into them.

Then in September 2009, a small miracle that things began to change for the better happened. With a small grant of R140,000 from Conservation South Africa –– and the Disney’s Friends for Change Project Green, the Agricultural Resource Center at the University of Western Cape helped the Leliesfontein Wetland and Restoration Project remove 52 of the poplar trees and restore the fountain. One week after the fountain was restored the municipal water pump from the Kamiesberg Municipality broke down. For nearly a month, the fountain was the only source of water for 224 households comprising 1,000 people. If it weren’t for the fountain, the people of Leliesfontein would have had to travel long distances searching for other sources of water.

Water was not the only that returned after the restoration of the fountain. Miraculously, the lilies returned too. Today, the fountain produces more than 26,000 litres of water per day; throughout the year. In monetary terms, the fountain is saving the villagers are R91,000 a year. The project has created 15 full time jobs, in a village were people are forced, by the prevailing circumstances, to sell their labour in faraway towns, like Springbok, 105 kilometres away.

So what? Leliesfontein and its people matter to all of us. Leliesfontein is the world’s capital of succulent plants that we all need to cope with effects of climate changes. Leliesfontein is also home to multiple generations of Nama farmers and their families. These local people cannot pack and go; leaving behind the only life they have known all their lives: sheep farming. Currently, Leliesfontein is 210% overstocked with sheep and goats. The communal grazing land of Leliesfontein must be de-stocked; otherwise all the progress that has been achieved thus far, to help the people of Leliesfontein achieve reliable prosperity and resilience to climate change would have been in vain.

So what can you do to help?

What if this November, we created Ilima and made a life-changing choice to support their reliable prosperity and resilience of the Namakwaland farmers? We bought all the excess sheep; fat as they may be this time of the year.

Here is our challenge: To help the farmers of Lilliefontein and Steinkopf find a buyer for their sheep, by the end of day on 11 November 2013. The buyer will pay each farmer a fixed price R850 for a lamb off the veld. Some is not a number and soon is not the time. Here is the number 210 sheep. Here is the time: 5 p.m. on 11 November 2013.
Your gift to the families of Leliesfontein will provide them with resources to feed themselves through the festive season, educate their children the following year, and more importantly connect them to the rest of us; you and me. According to an African proverb, “A bird builds it’s nest with another bird’s feathers,” Intaka yakha ngoboya benye,

Call Mpumi: 078 1013105 or to order your lamb. It will be delivered to a butchery in Cape Town for collection.
Mpumi will be speaking this Saturday 15th November at TedxTableMountain

Mpumi Ncwadi