Tafadzwa Chibukwa, Chronicle Reporter
DINGINDAWO Gardens in Bulawayo’s Tshabalala suburb, decorated by trees, plants, flowers and a lawn, is a source of pride for 63-year-old Mariyeti Mpala.
It’s hard to imagine that the park was a dumpsite flooded with garbage consisting of leftover food, waste paper, unwanted plastic objects, glass articles, metal objects, old wooden objects, rags, discarded shoes and sewage.
In place of garbage, the place is now home to indigenous trees that include umbumbulu, umviyo, umqokolo, isigangatsha, isagogwane, umkhomo, umganu, umtshwankela, intolwane, isihaqa and other indigenous trees.
Exotic trees at the garden include oranges, lemons, avocados, peaches, mangoes, leech, grapes, granadilla, bananas and macadamia nuts.
“I would not have made it if it was not for other stakeholders who worked hand in hand with me, be it equipping me with skills or pitching in for the planting of trees. Once I acquired the piece of land to work on I approached several stakeholders to help me and they were of great service. I approached the Forestry Commission who helped with most of the trees I planted at the garden, I went to Proweb, where I got my entrepreneurial skills for two years and Nyaradzo also pitched in and donated trees,” said Mariyeti.
For decades before she stepped in, the site, located in a suburb where garbage collection services are rarely rendered, was used by residents to dump garbage. In 2006 all that changed when Mariyeti, who inherited a passion for cultivating orchards, decided to turn the eyesore into her own version of the Garden of Eden.
Without outside funding, Mariyeti, a former accounts administrative clerk for 26 years at Haddon and Sly, had to use her own resources to create the garden which has since become a source of pride for the 63-year-old who revealed that she got the passion for cultivating orchards from her grandparents who owned vast orchards.
Mariyeti told Saturday Chronicle that letting her calling die was never an option, it was just a dream deferred. In preparation for her grand vision, she honed her skills by gardening in her own backyard.
Her dream finally started becoming a reality from 2004 when she was given land by the council.
“Due to always being on the job at all times I did not get time to have big land, but I would plant flowers and trees in my backyard. It is when I applied for land at the council in 2002 that I started pushing my agenda.”
For two years she toiled on her land, ignoring the ridicules from residents who thought she had lost her mind. In 2006 she opened the garden and named it Dingindawo Gardens.
“The land I had applied for generally was a dumpsite. I wanted that exact land because I knew it would be fertile from all the litter. I got permission to work on it in 2004 where I started clearing it bit by bit.
“The council also helped me in clearing out the trash, most people thought I was mad for wanting to turn a dumpsite into a place of resort, others rebuked me but I believed in myself and my plan,” said Mariyeti.
Mariyeti managed to fence the hectare of land, set up a building, and worked on the orchard without harassment. Slowly but surely her vision came to fruition.
“I would wake up as early as 5:30AM and go to the garden where I would spend the day and return home in the afternoon or evening depending on how tired I would be. I started with a very small portion, planting indigenous trees, shrubs and flowers,” she said.
Today the garden is used to host events by the same community that thought she had lost her mind.
“From someone who was dreaming about having her own orchard someday I am proud of the progress I have made so far since I started planting the vegetation in the gardens. We had our very first wedding last month which shows that the place is really attracting the attention it deserves. I am also looking forward to finishing developing the orchard someday so that it will be open to many bookings,” she said.
“My aim is to see a good environment for the generations to come and for people to realise the importance of keeping our environment clean and planting of trees. With the changes that we are experiencing on a daily basis, people are neglecting plantations and the young generation is not aware of the trees around them, especially indigenous trees, my aim is to teach them about those,” Mariyeti said.–@Sagepapie14