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Photo-Narratives: South Africa

Drakensberg, South Africa (2008)

Photograph and Narrative Provided by Jeltsje Kemerink-Seyoum

This nice woman, named Ntandoze, I met in a former homeland in Drakensberg, South Africa, during field work that I carried out in 2008. She is a mother of three young children who lives with her family-in-law. During the rainy season they grow beans, maize, onions and tomatoes for their own consumption and their livestock grazes in the mountainous communal land located upstream of the homeland (two cows) and around the house (four pigs and chicken). The household also has some cash income through remittances from her husband who works most of the year in Johannesburg and through the pension that her parents-in-law receive.

Twice a day she fetches water from this deep borehole which is located a 10 minute walk from their household. The jerrycans she carries back home using a wheelbarrow. The water is used for domestic purposes (e.g. drinking, cooking, bathing, washing) as well as watering their livestock and the vegetable garden. In the village there are several boreholes, which have been drilled by the apartheid government and currently fall under the responsibility of the municipality but are badly maintained. Groundwater is the only source of water in the village besides a few streams and ponds that appear during heavy rainfall. Ntandozi knows very well when the water level declines. She notices it from the time she needs to pump before the water comes up. At such moments it takes a lot of physical strength to get the water out of the ground and it can exhaust her. Sometimes she needs to take one of her kids with her to help her with pumping. It sometimes even happens in the dry winter season (June – August) that some boreholes run dry, especially those located a bit more uphill on the other side of the village. The borehole in the central part of the village never ran dry yet queueing time can get very long during the dry season, so she prefers to use the borehole near her house.

From her homestead in the former homeland Ntandozi can see the three reservoirs full of water that are owned by a large-scale commercial farmer from European decendents. The water that flows into his dams is the rain that runs down from the former homeland and the shallow aquifers that drains into the valleys. He irrigates his fields year-round using central pivots and grows mainly wheat, peppers and fodder for his large number of cows. Sometimes Ntandoze and/or her family members work as labourers on the commercial farm during harvest season.

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