Scene 2: Mini-Projects for Community Development in Mtshini Wam – Gardening and Carpentry


At the end of Thursday’s (15/11) meeting in Mtshini Wam, Sia, one of the community leaders, asked us what we were really bringing to the community and what exactly our project was. An important question, but it was hard to hear that our work wasn’t readily visible to all community leaders. We decided it would be best to meet the following day to discuss this pressing issue. The community prepared an agenda for the meeting and brought up, yet again, gardening and the new concept of carpentry. The idea of carpentry in Mtshini Wam was never truly considered as a group consensus until this meeting, but gardening has been in discussion since our first or second day in Mtshini Wam.  Although carpentry came as a surprise to our group, primarily due to not knowing that the community had the skills or interest in the topic, we are willing to consider both carpentry and gardening as additions to our project efforts so long as there is a plan for the safety, sustainability, and total community benefit of the programs.


Scene Takeaways

  • Rachel and Sarah spoke with 10 community members willing and able to garden in the community
  • Steve and Adam spoke with the eight community members willing and able to perform the carpentry, experience of which has come from temporary jobs worked in the past
  • The need to establish safety protocols, community plans, and leaders within this team was taken well
  • Pricing out the tools puts the total minimal purchase for carpentry at approximately R4500, which is over half of the WPI budget for Mtshini Wam
  • After discussing the budget with Klaas and King, they are understanding of going ahead with the reblocking and carpentry dual-purpose tools, and are willing to revisit the other tools later in the project


Cast of Characters

WPI Group – Adam, Steve, and Zach

Gardening Leader – Ntsomi and Sandisiwe

Gardening Team – Donono

Carpentry Leaders – Klaas and King

Carpentry Team Members – Sibusiso Rasimeni, B. Londile, S. Faca, Mbozi, L. Mbekeni



It was during our meeting with the community leadership, ISN, CORC, and iKhayalami that we discussed the community initiatives taking place within Mtshini Wam.  As the Liter of Light and community gardening are on the plan but also on a waiting period after scheduling an installation day with Stephen Lamb, of Touching the Earth Lightly, the community was hoping to put in a few more solutions during our time here.  Gardening has long been in discussion as a feasible project for us to complete in the community. Only recently has this idea come full circle with the help of Stephen Lamb and his crated plants. On his conditions we would only be given the 18 plants if there were community members to take care of them. We brought this idea to Nokwezi and asked her if there were interested community members, and during Thursday’s meeting we were introduced to two Gardening Team leaders that make up part of the 10 person group who have committed to participating in community gardening. The following day Rachel and Sarah were able to meet with the group to discuss their thoughts and visions on gardening and their previous experiences. Through this conversation it was clear that the women had thought through this endeavor and wanted to go further than just crated plants. Sarah went with the Gardening Group leaders to the hardware store to price items for gardening and have now selected and confirmed that we will be using part of our co-researcher budget to purchase these items in the upcoming week. Furthermore, we modeled a pocket garden out of paper, a design that could hang on the side of a shack and grow small vegetables and herbs saving ground space and beautifying the shacks. Ntsomi agreed to make one over the next few days while our team is away, this way we can buy and plant immediately upon our return.

The idea of carpentry was discussed by the community members and then brought up to our project group and advisors.  After discussing the possibilities that this trade could serve in Mtshini Wam, we came to a collective decision to move forward with it on the condition that we would price out the tools together and decide which were necessary for the community benefits.  A few days later, Zach and Adam went to price out tools with Klaas and Mathambo at PennyPinchers, and the total came to R4500 minimal, which is over half of the WPI budget.  In conclusion, Steve and Adam discussed this large amount and the need for a cushion room in the budget for mistakes, breaks, and recurring costs, thus the compromise to get carpentry tools at R1000 total that also help with reblocking efforts.  The two community leaders in this discussion, Klaas and King, were appreciative of our explanation of this and in agreement that this would be a good direction to step in for the time being.


Plans, Ideas, and Challenges

Moving forward in a positive direction for community developments requires more than simply building a shelf or planting a garden with the settlement members.  There is a learning curve to be had on both sides of the equation, as we are still new to working in such an informal environment and to understanding what constitutes a collective community decision.  Similarly, the community does not want to overly impose their ideas, given our constraints as an external student group with limited time, budget, and familiarity to give to Mtshini Wam.  Looking forward, the carpentry and gardening efforts are hopeful, as the community teams are passionate to make a difference and to learn new skills.  It will be interesting to express our ideas and gauge the level of understanding the community will have without acting on a physical prototype.  Perhaps through writing instructional pamphlets with visual aids and explanations, the hands-on training we are instituting next week will translate into a continued effort for settlement developments.