25 Mar 2003

Here is the marvelous Slow story of how Noluthando Bulelwa Mavis Nduzulwana’s carrots and cabbages came to be in a much better state of leguminous health…

It was the final gathering of the faithful followers of Slow Food, an evening of Funa fun and fundraising, the start of the Silly Season. The party was just about to begin when the sweet news came over the mobile: “We’ve got water!”

It was the news that the Fellows of Funa had been waiting for a long, long time – in fact, as long as Jos Baker and friends founded the Cape Town Convivium of Slow Food back in March 2001. At the time, it was decided that SF CT would not simply be an eat-out together group, but actively ‘support people in poorer communities involved in food production and preparation’. For that purpose the Funa Fund was established. (It derives from the Xhosa. ‘Do you want food?’ is ‘ufuna’. ‘Funa’ refers to need or want.)

Mavis Nduzulwana’s efforts in her vegetable gardens in Khayelitsha, identified by convivium committee member Myrna Robins, was an obvious choice for Funa support. SF CT set out to find the money to find the water for the struggling garden in the sandy, difficult environment.

All manners of fundraising were undertaken, the most rewarding being the annual end-of-year bubbly bash presented at the AVA Art Gallery with Graham Beck Cap Classique, art donated by the exhibiting artists (Louis Jansen van Vuuren and Zwelethu Mthetwa) and plenty of jolly prizes for the lucky raffles.

By mid 2002, SF CT and its Funa purse were ready to talk to the water-drilling experts, JJ Myburg & Bros. But would they find water?

After much talking to experts, advisers and others, water wizard Jerry Cole went out one good day to divine. And so as November turned into December 2002, Louwtjie Myburgh and team sunk their hole into the corner of Mavis’ garden. “There is never any guarantee,’ Louwtjie warned.

Then on that Friday, December 6, an hour and a half before the Funa Party, the sweet news came through: Wonderful water at 31 metres, with a potential of gushing 36 000 litres an hour.

In the days that followed the Myburghs put in the pipes and a Funa Fund cheque for close to R20 000 was issued. There was hope for the wilted.

Now the efforts turned to getting the water out of the magnificent hole. Enquiries to various pump operators took its own downward turn: exactly what was required for Mavis’ gardens, quotes came in too high, and pump technicians said working in the township was too dangerous.

Then came forth another good man: Riley van Wyk and his team simply went in, negotiated the shortcuts, simplified matters and cut corners. The pumping system was installed, user-friendly and ready to go.

Two months after water was struck, another sweet telephone message came though: “Water is pumping strongly from the pump… A little brackish perhaps”.

But in a summer sun parched vegetable garden, this is a miracle.

And so the wonder of water happened in Khayelitsha. Wine also had a lot to do with it. In the Funa fundraising efforts, plenty of it was consumed, auctioned and offered as prizes. So all those generous winemakers who gave also deserve a thanks…

Melvyn Minnaar of Slow Food is a freelance journalist based in South Africa’s Cape Region, where he contributes wine and lifestyle articles to a variety of publications. He is also an art critic, curator and judge.

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