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Food System Heroes: Samuel Tshabalala- Cultivating Hope and Resilience in Food Systems

Updated: Feb 1

In the vibrant town of Stanza Bopane in Mamelodi, a remarkable community activist named Samuel emerged as a beacon of hope for farmers and residents facing adversities. Samuel, a humble and compassionate individual, had experienced first-hand the challenges of finding employment after completing his matric in 2009. Faced with hopelessness following his mother’s passing, Samuel eventually found light, his calling and purpose through helping people by growing food. In 2013, he formalized this by becoming a volunteer at the Stanza Bopane Community Centre.

The Stanza Bopane Community Trust, established in 1994, aimed to uplift the community by tackling the pervasive issue of poverty. One of their key initiatives was centred around promoting local farming and providing support to farmers, particularly pensioners and women who formed the core of their farming community. The trust recognized the potential of agriculture to alleviate poverty and improve livelihoods. Working with the trust, Samuel believed that it was crucial to meet at the level of the people he was trying to help, and aim to amplify what they were already doing, and not merely enforce a readymade solution.

At the outset, the community centre faced numerous challenges. Access to water for irrigation was limited, fertilizers were scarce, and resources were in short supply. Undeterred, Samuel and the trust tirelessly sought solutions. They reached out to companies, local organizations, and individuals for support, and their efforts bore fruit. Generous donations of boreholes, pressure pumps, and taps provided much-needed access to water, while collaborations enabled the provision of fertilizers and other essential resources.

With improved access to water and resources, Samuel and the trust focused on training and capacity building for the farmers. They offered stipends to farmers and conducted workshops to enhance their farming techniques and production. The trust also played a vital role in creating a market for the farmers' produce, a “One stop shop” where local farmers’ produce could be sold to a formal market in bulk. They collected the local harvest and facilitated its sale in bulk, ensuring a fair income for the farmers.

While the crops may not have met the stringent quality standards of supermarkets, the farmers found success by selling their produce in local markets and on the streets. The income generated from these sales empowered the farmers to support their families, send their children to school, and even pursue higher education. Their resilience and hard work brought about positive change, with university graduates emerging from farming families.

The Stanza Bopane Community Trust's main clients were the users of the local clinic, which saw a significant footfall of around 2,500 people each week. The trust's partnership with the clinic as well as an ongoing soup kitchen ensured a consistent demand for the farmers' produce, creating a sustainable and mutually beneficial cycle.

Samuel's unwavering dedication and the trust's commitment to the community yielded remarkable results. What started as a volunteer position for Samuel eventually led to his employment at the community centre in 2016. His story became an inspiration to others, and the trust's impact continued to grow. Their vision of poverty alleviation through sustainable food systems was realized, one farmer and one family at a time.

To learn more about how you could contribute to the Stanza Bopane Community Trust and their incredible journey, visit their Facebook page at and website at

Samuel's story stands as a testament to the transformative power of community activism and the indomitable spirit of those committed to nurturing sustainable food systems.

Written by Donna De Sani

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