Stories from the connected: A journey to entrepreneurship

Internet access allowed Lihle to explore sustainable gardening, entrepreneurship, and share her knowledge on healthy diets and recipes.

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Theresa Haans
20 October 2022 Clock 5 min

Searching the internet for information allows people to access infinite amounts of knowledge. The ability to look up and utilize information catered to your needs can create business opportunities and income security. For Lihle, part of the Mpophomeni community in South Africa, this was the case when she became connected to the internet. Through our partner Project Isizwe, got in touch with Lihle. She is one of the beneficiaries of our collaborative project where 20 WiFi hotspots were installed, creating a community network in Mpophomeni. Learning how to start a business and finding information on various types of foods, inspired her to share her knowledge to create healthier and better lives for the people in her community in the future. In this blogpost we share how access to the internet enabled Lihle to gain valuable knowledge regarding business creation and entrepreneurship, as well as using online communication tools to share her knowledge on healthy and nutritious diets. It gives a glimpse into her life and how she benefitted from being connected.

Can you describe how you use the internet?

Living in a small township with no easy access to the Internet has had an impact on me. Most of my daily activities require Internet access. However, using the Internet from Project Isizwe WiFi has greatly simplified my life. As a chef, I am fascinated by food and nutrition. I use the internet to find new sustainable food recipes; this has helped me learn and come up with new ideas for my own recipes. Second, the Project Isizwe Internet has been a great tool for me to pursue an entrepreneurship course online, where I was able to obtain my certificate. Finally, I use it to promote my business via social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook.

Can you explain the biggest changes that you experienced after being connected to the internet?

I was able to better my life by educating myself on business and life skills. I had the opportunity to take an online business course. This gave me the motivation to start my own catering company. I went freelance and started making money from my customers. As a result, because I enjoy helping and working with people, this helped me feel more connected to others. Finally, because I don’t spend much money on data purchases, I was able to significantly reduce my spending.

Lihle (Source: Project Isizwe)

Can you explain how and why you started your garden? 

It’s difficult to put into words the sense of satisfaction you get from planting seeds, caring for them, and watching them grow under your guidance. 2019 marked the beginning of my own garden. I was depressed at the time, without a job, had given up on everything, and began thinking about how I would provide for my family. I made the decision to work as a volunteer at iKhuze Farm, a local Mpophomeni small farm organization. My responsibilities included using hand tools to plant crops, till the soil, weed, and apply fertilizer. It inspired me to start my own organic garden. My husband assisted me in preparing the soil. The first plant I planted was lettuce. Later I added potatoes, cabbage, basil, mint, tomatoes, and spinach. I started my own garden because I love nature so much. Having a garden of my own makes me feel like I am connected to it. Secondly, the ability to be self-sufficient is something gardening teaches us. We must be able to feed our families and ourselves, but we must also learn how to grow our own food. Although there are many food sources in this country, they are easily spoiled by transportation and other factors. With the help of gardening, you can ensure that your family has access to a healthy and fresh food source at all times.

Can you tell us a bit more about your trip to Italy? Why are you going there?

In the year 2020, I became a member of Slow Food, an organization based in the Midlands. Slow Food is an organization that promotes local food, traditional cooking, and protection of the environment. As a Slow Food member, my role is to raise awareness in my community about the importance of implementing sustainable gardening and cooking practices. I traveled to Italy in September to represent Slow Food South Africa as a delegate. When I went there, I attended the Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, one of the largest Slow Food conferences. This was an exciting time for me. I was able to meet and connect with people from all over the world while also learning about indigenous food, different ingredients people use to cook their food, and tasting a lot of delicious food.

(Source: Project Isizwe)

Do you have any other projects in mind for the future? 

I want to pursue my qualifications in culinary school and own a restaurant. Secondly, I want to start a school food garden in my community where I will be collaborating with students, teachers, and parents. I think it is important for the children to know where their food comes from, to have a respect for nature, to develop entrepreneurship skills so they can sell their produce, and to develop a sense of community.

How do you hope your work and Internet connection in general can benefit your local community in the future?

With my work, I hope to raise awareness about the importance of sustainable nutrition to the point where people can make informed choices between healthy and unhealthy foods. As far as I can tell, there is still a gap in my community, and people in my community are suffering from lifestyle diseases such as obesity. This demonstrates that people in my community are not well informed about such matters. What I have also discovered is that people are still unable to cook using vegetables in their meals. I hope to help them with my recipes. With the use of the Internet in the future, I want to start a blog that will motivate readers. This blog will inspire, create, and inform readers about the value of sustainable nutrition, helping them to improve their lifestyle. It will also contain easy homemade, sustainable recipes that I have developed, as well as weight loss advice, gardening tips, and more.

You can read more about our partnership with Project Isizwe and the work we collaborate on here.