Full portfolio

This page contains all the audio work I will do in my participatory project with UMthathi Training Project. To see my portfolio from previous years, click here, and to view my full audio portfolio, click here.

Introductory workshop with Umthathi facilitators
On Friday 11 March, Annie and I conducted our introductory workshop with the Umthathi facilitators.  The aim was, firstly, to foster a stronger relationship with the facilitators, by getting to know them better.  Secondly, we aimed to establish a shared vision for the project, informed by clear understanding of everyone’s roles. Thirdly, we hoped to set the ball rolling with regards to the process of generating ideas for content to include in the show. Our primary aim for this workshop though, was to draw out themes which would be covered in the gardening and healthy living radio show.

To initiate the process of identifying these themes, Annie and I initially planned to introduce a mapping exercise to the facilitators, in the process of generating content ideas for the show. We were going to instruct each facilitator to draw a basic map of their outreach area (where they facilitate), and include facets of their respective outreach area, and their experiences of facilitating in that particular area. They were to draw things such as schools and communal gardens in which they facilitate, the people whom they facilitate, citizens who play an influential role in the gardening projects Umthathi is involved in, in the respective areas; and key issues that can be taken out from the outreach areas. We had also hoped to enable the facilitators to identify what they have learnt in their experiences of facilitating in their outreach areas. We hoped to take this, and identify possible avenues which the show could follow, and use these maps as reference points for brainstorming show content ideas.
With these goals in mind, Annie and I had factored in time for explaining our plans for a gardening and healthy living show depth, including the role that Umthati would play in the process of producing it. We felt it was particularly important to ensure that the facilitators understood the distinction between their own role and that of Radio Grahamstown.
During the workshop itself, Annie and I realised that we would need to restructure our future workshops with the Umthathi facilitators, due to them being tired during the workshop. By the time Annie and I arrived for the workshop, the facilitators had already been part of a long workshop and we realised that they were not overly enthusiastic about having another meeting. Annie and I therefore decided that we would try and make our own session shorter than we had planned, but we agreed that we would have to do this in a way that would not compromise the workshop goals. We therefore started by outlining these aims, placing particular emphasis on the third one − that of generating reference points that would allow us to start planning content for the show. We explained that we had hoped to do so through a mapping exercise, which would allow us to explore  the  landscape in which the facilitators worked, pinpointing relevant  social issues, economic issues, and also identifying people with whom they had established strong partnership In this way, we would identify topics for discussion, as well as potential sources for stories.
At the beginning of the workshop, I noticed the difficulty some of the facilitators had in expressing their views, so Annie gave me permission converse with them in isiXhosa, and I would translate all that was said to her. The workshop commenced smoothly, and the facilitators added valuable input in the workshop. We also identified the personalities of each facilitator, which will aid our relationship with them, and our interactions with them.
The facilitators gave insight into their respective outreach programmes, and in the process of discussion and brainstorming, five themes which the radio show is most likely to follow, were identified. They were:
1.The benefits of gardening
2. Nutrition ─ a focus on eating healthily, and growing healthy foods in gardens
3. Traditional and medicinal plants
4. How to plant and different gardening methods
5. Creating an income from gardening

We had initially planned to make each radio show focused on one theme per episode, but after further discussions between Annie and myself we decided to arrange these themes differently. Each episode of the radio would focus on two themes, and they would rotate on a weekly basis. Since there are five themes, there would be a show dedicated to the theme of traditional and medicinal plants, due to the potential for this theme to generate extensive discussion.
All in all, I would say the introductory workshop was fruitful. Annie and I conveyed the roles each of the parties involved in the participatory project will play. They responded positively to this, and were excited to be in a partnership towards creating a long-term gardening/healthy living radio show. In our estimation, the themes we identified will prove of great value in providing terms of reference for the radio show. Most importantly, we strengthened our relationship with the Umthathi facilitators, as they collectively showed their enthusiasm for this project, and willingness to be part of a gardening/healthy living radio show. This response came at a good time, as in our next workshop, we will be meeting the producer and anchor of the planned radio show, who are employees of Radio Grahamstown. This would mean that next week, our audio production partnership will finally have all of its members together.

Umthathi's "Masilimeni Day"
On Friday, 4 March Annie and I attended Umthathi’s Masilimeni Day, which was held at the NGO’s headquarters in Extension 7. This was an educational day, where the facilitators of Umthathi  conducted presentations at different ‘gardening stations’, on how to create a certain kind of garden, and how to plant in that particular garden. The presentations included talks such as how to build and plant in a ‘tower garden’, which is usually built in dry environments which have little fertile soil. Some of the most interesting presentations of the day included a talk on: how to plant organic vegetables properly; how to create one’s own solar cooker, and a talk on traditional plants.
Zolani Zondani, UMthathi Africulture nurseyman

 I had hoped to meet traditional healers whom I would possibly use for my documentary, as Zolani Zondani, the Africulture nurseryman at Umthathi had expected some to arrive at this event. Unfortunately, none of them pitched up. As a result, I only have one traditional healer as a possible source for my documentary so far − Ms Phyllis Nomsebenzi Mnyamana, who worked for over 20 years at Rhodes University, and is now part of the Board of Trustees at Umthathi. Despite this setback on my part, Masilimeni Day was a great success for Umthathi. There was a considerable turnout from the community, where in the first session of the event, there were approximately 10 onlookers in each of the six presentation stations.
Onlookers in the traditional/medicinal plant station

The facilitators gave very good addresses, involving the onlookers in their presentations in different ways. One of the facilitators, for example, encouraged fellow onlookers to answer questions which had been put to him by the group, regarding indigenous plants used for traditional healing. The onlookers were also encouraged to plant in the various presentation stations, where they got to grips with different gardening methods in a practical way. 

A tower garden in its infancy stage

It was a pleasant surprise for me to see how engaging the public was to the various presentation stations in the Masilimeni Day. They were were also willing to get their hands dirty, in experimenting all that they were told at these presentations. They also raised some key questions, from the perspective of the average citizen, which gave me insight on the kind of radio show Annie and I will produce. Questions related, for example, to how one should approach taking traditional medicine and going to the clinic, the dosage one takes of traditional medicine which they may grow  for themselves

The variety of issues showcased in the different presentation stations provided possible depth for the potential radio show. Given that the onlookers clearly also had insights to offer, as part of the discussions that I witnessed, my sense is that they also have a lot to contribute to this show. I also sense is that if we keep this in mind, the  radio show can  indeed be a useful avenue to spread awareness of healthy living, vegetable and medicinal planting and sustainable living. I also noticed that the facilitators, who in previous weeks have been quite distant, were more approachable, and displayed a kind of confidence towards Annie and I, which was had not been evident up to now. They also expressed interest in taking part in the radio show, talking about their respective gardening specialties.

The participatory project is finally gaining momentum. By my next post, Annie and I will have hopefully finalised a time and day of when the first radio show featuring the Umthathi Training Project facilitators will be broadcast on Radio Grahamstown. I will have also, hopefully, have conducted my initial interviews with the traditional healers I will be profiling in my documentary. I am amazed at the pace this project has gained in the past week!

Masilimeni Day participants getting their hands dirty

My introduction to Umthathi
In the past two weeks, Annie Polak and I have been in regular contact with the various workers of the Umthathi Training Project. We have had the opportunity of getting to know them, and for them to know us, and so far I believe there is still room for our relationship to improve even more.
When I first met the programmes manager Michelle Griffiths and the administrator, Xoliswa Mbewu, I was immediately impressed. My sense was that Umthathi is an NGO performing a key function in the Grahamstown community and surrounds. I sensed that they do this against all odds, particularly in context of having minimal support from potential funders. When I visited the Umthathi headquarters with my colleague Annie Polak though, I realised that funding was only the beginning of the problem. There also seems to be a need for much more awareness within the communities they target of contribution that Umththi is making to local development. They do so by training schools and other groups within the community in gardening methods, and educating them about  healthy eating habits. I think that not enough is known about their work, within the broader Grahamstown community. It could be then, that a the proposal that Annie and I have been asked to consider by our radio lecturer - i.e. to establish a food gardening show on Radio Grahamstown - would be of great benefit to Umthathi.  Such a show could  could focus on aspects related to gardening, healthy living, and other issues which Umthathi deals with.

When we were introduced to  this project at the start of this term, it was explained to us that it would operate as a form of service-learning.  I think that establishing a show of this nature,  in partnership with Radio Grahamstown and Umthathi, could certainly operate as a form of service learning, As I understand it, service-learning demands that all the different partners benefit from the process. We would be carrying out a service to the institutions we are in partnership with. While they were to learn from what we were bringing to the partnership, we too were going to learn from what the partners were putting in, and from the experience of being in the audio production partnership. Certainly, I can see how I would benefit as students. By being involved in such a project, I would  learn and grow as a radio journalist, through grappling with the stories I would help to cover, starting a radio show from scratch, attempting to make it sustainable, and playing a leadership role throughout this process. At the same time, I can also see how this is an  opportunity for Umthathi to benefit, since it would provide them with a   platform for having their work publicised to a wider audience. At the same time, they would learn basic audio skills, which would assist them in ensuring that they can make good use of this platform.

In our radio course this year, we are exploring different ways of thinking about knowledge production . As part of this exploration, we have been looking at different paradigms or strategies of thought of social research, and considering the value of each for the conceptualisation of knowledge production. As part of our discussions, we spoke, for example, about the value of the interpretivist versus the critical paradigm.

I think that, in my approach to this  radio show, I want to draw on both these paradigms. An interpretivist paradigm would allow for guidelines and agreements to inform the partnership, and possible themes to tackle in the radio show. A critical paradigm would provide a means of creating an understanding of these themes, and allow for the full understanding of each of the partners in this partnership, about the institutions represented in the partnership, and the people behind it. I think both paradigms bring something to the process of producing a worthwhile radio show to be produced, which interrogates ways in which a gardening and healthy living radio show can be both interesting and long-lasting. The interpretivist paradigm will look at different angles of looking at the respective themes of the show which are yet to be identified. A critical paradigm will form a wider branch in this process, where different factors and topics which result from the respective themes will be looked at. The critical paradigm will look at the viability of themes and topics to be discussed in the show.

All in all, I would say that this project offers me a great opportunity to grow as a radio journalist, and that it will hold me in good stead for my future endeavours.  It will, I believe, take hard work to make all of ideas come together properly. But I am a dedicated and hard-working individual, and will offer that quality to this project  I will attempt to ensure that Xoliswa gets sufficient training to be able to co-host a radio show. I will engage with Radio Grahamstown, specifically Bongiwe Bozo, Phumlani Wayi and Khaya Thonjeni, to ensure that the station provides and trains producers who will take over the production aspect of the radio show when Annie and I leave the project. I will work with them, ensuring that a shared set of editorial guidelines are established which will ensure that the production team continue to keep these in mind. If I have achieved these tasks, I will know that I have succeeded