Rramotsho: The ripe tomato

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My name is Rramotsho, when translated into English it means the black man. Born and bred in an isolated and secluded village with limited resources. My childhood wasn’t that of any ordinary teenager in the cities. Every day I had to wake up before the sun was out and walk a long distance to draw water from the river return home so we could purify it before it could be used. I also had to walk a long distance to school on the dusty, dry and rocky road. Walking was something we did a lot in this village. It came naturally to us. Wherever we needed to go, we walked. We walked to school, river, church, shops, church, school, river and home. We became one with the soil, and this is where our humanity was rooted from.

One Tuesday afternoon, while walking home from school, I came across something I had never noticed before. The dusty, dry and rocky road that I had walked all my life had something growing from it. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I was very curious to find out what it was. It was a green plant with some fruit or vegetable that looked like a tomato but it was too green and small. I waited on the road. Waited for my mother to make her way home, so I could ask her what this plant was. The sun was burning my skin, making me darker than I already was. From a distance, I saw her approaching my direction, but I couldn’t wait to ask her what it was. So I quickly ran towards her, grabbed her hand and ran back to the plant. I showed her what I had discovered on the side of the road. At first, she laughed at me, as she thought I was coming to her with an emergency. Once she caught her breath, she also became curious about the plant. She told me that it was a tomato growing. I had never seen a green tomato before, but she told me they are green when they start growing and become red when they ripen. What made her curious was how was it possible for the tomato to grow on soil that is not fertile. How was it able to withstand the toughest conditions, which it was growing from?

My mother knew anything there was to know about plants as we had a farm, which is where we grew all the food and meat that we ate at home. This farm sustained our household. Both my mother and father would harvest enough food to also sell to the local people. We were financially restricted, however, we were never hungry, and my mother always made sure that we are clothed, as she would also make clothes for all 3 of my siblings. We never considered ourselves as poor; in actual fact, our community regarded us as a wealthy family. My parents were always strict and wanted the best from us. They told me that once I finished with high school they wanted to me to go to the city and study in a university. They had never been to a university before, but they wanted my siblings and me to go. So we could build a better future for ourselves. At the end of that year, I finished my matric with the highest grades in my class, and I was awarded a scholarship to study at any university I wanted to. I decided to study Agriculture; this made my family and the community really proud. I was the first person to leave the village to go to a university and live in the city. I was scared. Scared of how I would adjust to the different life of the city. But my mother told me, like the tomato I found on the dusty, dry and rocky road I would blossom and grow into someone great. They walked me to the bus stop, with one suitcase in hand and a plastic bag filled with fruits and vegetables.

When I arrived in the city I lived a very different lifestyle and met people who lived differently to those back at home. People in the city have an addiction to money. People allowed themselves to be poor because they don’t have money. No one was helping anyone, and no one cared for anyone. People had their earphones on and looked at their phones. People weren’t talking to each other. I couldn’t understand this lifestyle, which was lived.  I couldn’t visit my family back home during the holidays. I didn’t have enough money to go back home. We would, however, send letters to each other. They’d tell me how the family was doing and they couldn’t wait for me to come back home. Every letter from my mother would always end the by her saying, “ My son never forget, like that green tomato you once saw on the dusty dry road, your time to be ripe will come”.

After living in the city for a few years, I came to realize that the city life was not the kind of life I wanted to live, it made no sense to me. So with the money I had saved from my weekend jobs, I told myself that on the day of graduation I would go straight and surprise my parents. Two days later I did just that. The graduation ceremony ended and I got on the very last bus leaving the city and headed back home. I arrived home and my family was very happy to see me. I started to tell them about the city and about the struggles which people face in the city. It didn’t take much convincing and my parents agreed that we should commercialize our farm.

They brought their experience and I brought my new knowledge about businesses and the city lifestyle, we continued to work hard as we always did. Our first harvest of corn sold for over R200 000, we reinvested the money to the business and in no time we bought a tractor and improved irrigation. In our second year of operation, we made a bit more than the previous year. We had increased our farm space and could now farm more variety of fruit and vegetables. Strategies improved and the market widened. We expanded our supply to reach more cities and towns in the country. We also started to supply our supermarkets with fresh fruit and vegetables.

Today we have been farming commercially for the past 20 years. We own more than 50 farms and we still continue to supply markets around the country. We expanded to dairy, poultry, beef and pork. We currently gross R75 million annually Profit after paying 5000+ employees. We invested in our own equipment and dams, which lowers operating costs.

We still live a simple life, we still eat what we farm, and we still live our own farm lifestyle, just affording our children opportunities to be exposed to the world. Life is simple, we are positive people, and we started as a family, which didn’t have any money but lived a very happy life. We started a business and like the green tomato I once walked passed your time to be ripe will come despite time or place, we also managed to grow in a tough and not so allowing situation. The road maybe dry and not fertile, but when it’s your time to blossom, regardless of the condition of where you are, things will be possible.

I am Rramotsho, The ripe tomato.

Co written by Nolo Mmeti & Botlhale Mos
14/03/2016

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