Lydia Hlophe, Founder of Yenzanathi community upliftment project who is originally from KwaMashu outside Durban, moved to Kwanyuswa (popularly known as KwaZulu-Natal’s “Valley of a Thousand Hills” )in 1993 when she got married. She noticed that “gogos” in the community of Kwanyuswa were being left to look after their grandchildren as their own children were dying of HIV/Aids, placing a huge strain on their resources and health as they were dependent on pension grants to survive.
Hlophe started off by providing food to 10 homes twice a week via the soup kitchen. Back in 2007, KwaZulu-Natal was one of South Africa’s HIV/Aids hotspots. The disease took a deadly toll on young adults, leaving many children orphaned or left in the care of grandparents. Although the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) won its 2003 Constitutional Court battle for access to antiretrovirals, the roll-out was slow and it would be a few years before people could get the necessary drugs.
After hearing about the Yenzanathi upliftment project, Shoprite got involved by despatching their mobile kitchen to help Hlophe in her initiative to make sure that those in need did not go hungry. The project now supports 65 households, many with elderly, orphaned or vulnerable family members. Hlophe has managed to secure half a hectare of land for a food garden where she and beneficiaries of the project plant and harvest a variety of vegetables for themselves, as well as selling the surplus.
Food and Trees for Africa assisted with training on how to go about planting and taking care of the food gardens in a sustainable way. The project sells its produce at the Checkers market day twice a year, which is well supported. The project also has a crèche on-site and an internet café for the community’s use. “My greatest wish is to see everyone in her community reach a point where they can use their new skills to provide for themselves – allowing her to move on to help others in need,” concluded Hlophe.