Violet Mabaso is an up-and-coming herb farmer in Alexandra who says she is ready to expand. The 56-year-old is one of the women in the area who farms at the skills centre near Alexandra Mall.
She started farming in 2014, and says she is depending on the Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) programme to acquire land. She has been waiting for a response for more than a year.
"I am urgently looking for a farm, because this place is too small for me – the people out there who have land but not using it; come help us," she told HuffPost.
"I just want to see myself staying at my own farm and planting more herbs. I am stuck!"
Mabaso farms about 47 herbs including basil, thyme, lemongrass, parsley and five different types of mint, which she sells to restaurants and markets around the Sandton area.
When she gets her own land, she wants to work alongside her husband – who has aspirations of being a poultry farmer.
The farmer, affectionately known as Mam' Violet, was an interior designer but she promised herself that she would "go back to her roots" once she turns 50. She regrets not studying agriculture initially.
"Unfortunately when you are growing up, you cannot choose the right career – I wasted my time. Instead of taking interior designing, I should have just gone straight to farming," she said.
That is why, when she got the opportunity to start Molobanyane Cooperative, she grabbed it.
"As women of Alexandra, we just came together and identified some projects, and I became the secretary of the projects. The idea was poverty alleviation when we started, but as time went on we discovered that we can sustain ourselves with this garden. That is when we decided to register cooperatives," she said.
Mabaso says the women were able to go ahead with the plan through the assistance of local government.
"The city of Joburg supplied the team with land – they were supportive. The farm has a cold room and two tunnels – it also has security, because it is a skills centre," she explained.
"I love farming with all my heart. The way the food industry has been struggling, this farming is motivating me to maintain the organic product and feed myself and feed the community." – herb farmer Violet Mabasa
The social development department provided them with tools, uniforms and seeds when they started the project.
It is just one hectare of land, but nine cooperatives have been registered, while some women only farm to feed their families.
She says that she loves farming and was born to do it – but warns that it is "very hard".
Mabaso yearns to educate her community about farming, especially women. The mother of three says government is simply not doing enough to introduce young black people to farming.
That is why she hosts a class for the youth every Saturday, at which children as young as seven are taught about farming herbs.
"Government alone cannot do it," she said.
Although she prefers producing organic products, Mabaso recently learnt how to process her herbs. She did a six-month course funded by the city of Johannesburg.
"I love farming with all my heart. The way the food industry has been struggling – this farming is motivating me to maintain the organic product and feed myself and feed the community," she said.
"Fortunately, the city of Joburg took me for a six-month course, and now I do pickling, juicing and drying... I only knew the traditional way of farming – but now I am skilled."
Another milestone for her was Malobanyane Cooperative winning a provincial land-care award just two weeks ago.
She believes that "wealth is on the land" and that expropriation will be beneficial "if government can manage that".
"Whatever they do, we need to negotiate," she said.