Lalitha Neesha Kanagee. Picture: Facebook
Lalitha Neesha Kanagee. Picture: Facebook

Mom farms methi herbs to help family after losing her job as a waitress

By Charlene Somduth Time of article published Apr 30, 2021

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Durban - When Lalitha Neesha Kanayee lost her job as a waitress a few years ago, she turned to farming methi herbs to earn an income. And since posting photographs of herself harvesting her fresh produce on social media recently, her friend list increased and her business has grown.

Kanayee, 46, lives in Seven Tanks at the Silverglen Nature Reserve in Chatsworth. The community, who live in make shift homes, comprise small scale farmers.

She learned the skill of farming from her grandfather, Nandlall Pardesy, and father, Ramkissoon Nandlall, while she was growing up.

"We lived in a tin home near Brindhaven in Chatsworth. I watched my grandfather and father toil from early in the morning to late in the afternoon. They planted vegetables and fruit. After they harvested the crops, they took them to a small market in Unit 3 (now known as the Bangladesh Market) where they sold the produce. Our farm served as a source of food for our family and it helped us earn some money," she said.

When Kanayee was seven, she joined her grandfather and father on the farm.

"I was in primary school. My older sister chose to learn how to cook and I decided to learn to farm. My grandfather and father taught me how to prepare the soil for planting, how to plant, how to water and care for the crops, and eventually, how to harvest. It was hard work," Kanayee said.

Soon after completing school, she married and had a son and daughter.

While her children were growing up, she dedicated her time to caring for them.

In 2003, her husband, a taxi driver, was convicted of murder in the Durban High Court. He is presently serving a life sentence at the Westville Prison.

"Life was hard. He took care of us. With no income, I had to look for work. I did odd jobs and cleaned homes. I eventually got a job as a waitress but I lost that job a few years ago. My life took a turn for the worst. I suffered three heart attacks and I underwent triple heart bypass surgery. I eventually applied for a disability grant and was successful."

Kanayee said the disability grant was not enough to support her and her family.

"I remembered the hard work of my grandfather and father and I started farming methi herbs near a river close to my home. I choose methi herbs because it grows quickly. In summer, it takes six days before it can be harvested and in winter it takes up to 10 days.

"Before planting, the methi seeds have to be soaked overnight. The next morning it must be strained and sprinkled onto the ground and covered with a thin layer of sand. The sand must be removed after three to four days to allow the methi to grow."

She said farming was challenging because of her heart condition.

"It is hard labour but I have to do what I can to help my family. I sell the produce three times a week and on the remaining days, I plant seeds for a new batch. There is no time to rest. Methi herbs were popular among the older Indian folk because many believed it helped treat ailments like diabetes and high blood pressure," she said.

Kanayee said since recently posting pictures of herself on Facebook, planting the methi herbs, her business improved.

She sells the herbs near the A5 shop in Chatsworth.

"I sell them for R10 a dozen and on most days, I am sold out within a few hours. Social media has helped me build my business. Through my posts, I got so many new customers. I have more 5 000 followers on Facebook, who share and like my posts. It is overwhelming. I am thankful for the support. Many people have been left without jobs due to Covid-19. My advice is to find your skill and use it to help you generate an income," Kanayee said.

Lalitha Neesha Kanagee waters her methi herb seeds

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