“The real cause of hunger is the powerlessness of the poor to gain access to the resources they need to feed themselves.” - Frances Moore Lappé

Mary Choombwa is a 65 year old widow and subsistence farmer who lives in Mwonze, about 200kms from Lusaka, Zambia. Over the years, Mary lost all the 12 herds of cattle which she owned to tick-borne diseases. Mary recalls; “When the cattle died it was painful. They were my wealth. We used them for ploughing and drawing our carts. Now overnight, I was left with nothing.”

Mary’s case is not unique, in sub-Saharan Africa, ticks and tsetse flies transmit some of the most economically devastating diseases which claim close to two million cattle annually. Some of the diseases transmitted by ticks include: zambeziensis; babesiosis, and anaplasmosis.

The solution to ticks is to spray the cattle with arcaricides or take them to a dip tank. The challenge in Mary’s case is that the dip tank is 15kms away and it costs one kwacha per cow. Dipping should be done every week in order to be effective. This means that for Mary’s 12 cattle, she would have had to spend about seven American dollars per month on cattle dipping. Although this amount might seem merger, it is a huge amount of money in sub-Saharan Africa where more than half of the population survive on less than a dollar a day.

For Mary, the loss of her cattle marked a turning point in her life. She decided that she would do everything in her power to protect her animals. In 2013, Mr Misa Hachalala, a lead farmer under the Southern African Network for Biosciences (SANBio) Livestock Node based in Lusaka, spoke to her on the possibility of using an organic plant, Tephrosia, to prevent ticks breeding on her cows. He gave her a few seeds to plant in her garden and informed her that there was a training scheduled to happen in her area. Mary who was in the process of restocking her herd embraced this opportunity and availed herself for the training. “I asked my five children to also attend the training so that my whole household knew how to use the plant.”

Through the training, Mary was taught how to grow the plant, pick the leaves, pound them, and mix them with water to create the formula she can use for spraying the cattle. She learnt that once the plant was ready for harvesting, she needed only 2 hours every week to both prepare this formula and spray her cattle.

Today, Mary boasts that she has not lost any cows since she started using the Tephrosia plant. Her children help her to spray the animals and she feels very happy with the effects of the plant. She now has eight cows. She has also found other innovative uses of the spray, which include spraying the interior of her house to kill bed bugs.

To commemorate International Women’s Day, SANBio celebrates women like Mary who have risen above the challenges they face on a daily basis. Mary is a perfect example of how women can benefit from capacity building initiatives and pull themselves and their households out of poverty.

By Gwadamirai Majange

The FPD award for excellence in community engagement is awarded annually to the employee who has made the most significant contribution towards FPD’s community engagement. The 2014 prize was awarded to Sharon Ngomane, Mgozi shares her story.

Sharon is a community health nurse from a rural village in Bushbuckridge. She has a speciality in Primary health care nursing science and worked in the primary healthcare setting since she qualified as a nurse. Her love for community development motivated her to further her studies to Masters Degree level majoring in community health nursing science. She is currently the community technical lead at FPD and she works with a team of 31 people in 4 different districts. The team is made-up of 4 primary healthcare nurses, 9 social workers who also serve as community champions, 2 community coordinators as well as 16 health promotion assistants who are the re-enforcement for community mobilisation in the districts.

“When I joined FPD, the community project was still new so the stream contributed immensely to its success. My job comes with a lot of responsibilities including meeting deadlines   supervising and managing a big team. I see this as a positive challenge in my career as it contributes to the development of my Human Resource Management skills” said Sharon Ngomane.

“Receiving the award was a great reward to my contributions in the communities. Before I could learn that I had won, congratulations where coming in from my colleagues and I couldn’t understand what they were talking about until Dr Margot Uys handed me the award at a meeting. I was overwhelmed to learn that there are people observing what I am doing in the work place and it also made me realise that my labour is not in vain. My sincere gratitude goes to my supervisor, Dr Uys and my committed team for all their contributions towards the success of the programme.”

Her motto in life is based on Ecclesiastes 9:10; whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.

“I find work values inspiring and they give me a sense of purpose. They help me to re-direct myself when I go out of line and I can also use them in managing my staff to draw them back when they are not delivering quality,” said Prof. David Cameron in excitement.

The FPD values award is presented annually to the employee who in the opinion of their colleagues lives the FPD values and David received the 2014 award. David is a Senior Specialist at a Strategic Information Technical Assistance department at FPD. He is trained as a medical doctor and worked all over South Africa; in rural and urban areas and he served the University of Pretoria for 12 years before joining FPD in 2010.

 David believes that company values are important and they are not there to decorate office walls. Company values are the guiding principles for employees; they help people understand that they are working for a purpose. “Working just to earn a salary is not satisfying but doing a job that has a purpose and working to make a difference inspires me. Values indicate what is important for a company and at FPD; Innovation, Integrity, Quality, Freedom of challenge, Respect and Service to society are equally important.”

“Our CEO, Dr Gustaaf Wolvaardt is very creative and innovative, and that sets a tone for the rest of us to try and solve problems in an innovative way. The Integrity value reminds us to deliver on our promises to the government and other organisations we work with. The Freedom to challenge is one value that is not often practiced. People believe in being submissive and doing what they have been told. In FPD employees have the right to question what is being done, particularly if they have a better way of doing it.”

David emphasised that these values reflect on our mission which is to catalyse social change through developing people (which is the educational side of FPD), strengthening systems (which is what the TA Cluster is doing working alongside the government to improve healthcare) and proving innovative solutions (which challenges us to come up with new ideas to solving problems).

“FPD is a great place to work because it has allowed me to do things that often in government a person is prevented to do. It has allowed me to do interesting and innovative things and that I have enjoyed tremendously. ”

FPD’s values were formulated by FPD employees in a fully consultative process.  Everyone had an input there were  discussions, consultations and eventually a voting process from which emerged  the above mentioned values.


Amidst the media frenzy – both social and mainstream – around the ruckus during the State Of The Nation Address, one positive aspect to emerge was the abundance of youth voices commenting on both the commotion and ensuing address by President Jacob Zuma.

In contrast, the youth were glaringly absent from the speech with a mere eight mentions in total, three of them buried in general fluffy PR statements and the latter referring to the ‘Employment Tax Incentive paying off’ and listing the amount of funds disbursed to micro enterprises by the NYDA last year.

According to Parliament’s website, the purpose of the State Of The Nation Address is to ‘assess our country’s domestic and foreign situation and outline what we should do so that we enhance our efforts to achieve a better life for all our people’.

That said, post SONA, there’s no definite information as to the state of the youth in South Africa who make up around 66% of the population.

The President himself repeatedly states that ‘…the youth are our future…’ and yet continuously fails to address the pertinent issues holding youth back from substantial growth and economic freedom.  

As a network of young people around the country, ACTIVATE! feels that while areas of concern affecting youth were raised by the President during SONA, there was no plan of action to address issues unique to the youth of South Africa.

For example, while the President highlighted that jobs grew by 203 000, he failed to address the fact that unemployment among youth is significantly higher than that of adults and that this growth coincided with an increase in discouraged work-seekers, ie: youth who are no longer looking for work.

Activator Hlayisani Ingreet from Durban expressed her frustration in a Facebook post: “Yesterday, I heard Mr Jacob Zuma talking about six million job opportunities for youth. He can say it but there’s no actions for what he [sic] saying.”

At face value, the State Of The Nation did not reflect the state of the youth in South Africa and lacked mechanisms to address specific youth issues. If the President truly believes that youth are the future, then perhaps it’s time he start engaging with us. 

For more informatiom, refer to

Finance Minister, Nhlanhla Nene, will deliver the 2015/16 National Budget to Parliament on 25 February 2015 at 14h00 in Cape Town. As in the past few years, SANGONeT invites non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to comment on the Budget in line with their areas of expertise and expectations.

Issues covered by the NGO comments should range from general observations about the budget to key national development priorities such as job creation, education, social services, youth development and health.

Comments should be emailed to

The submission deadline for comments is 2 March 2015 at 14h00.


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