SIXTY-YEAR-OLD Ntombikazi Rwayi, fondly known as Ma Agnes, is the Restoration Facility Team leader at the Westlake Conservation Centre.
She takes care of plants, empowers Expanded Public Works Programme workers and has a passion to grow specialised fynbos plants.
Ma Agnes lives in Khayelitsha and has no formal environmental education but learnt about plants from her father who loved gardening, and taught her and her siblings how to look after plants like spinach.
Ma Agnes first worked for Abalimi Bezekhaya in Khayelitsha in 1996, a non-profit micro-farming organisation.
From there, she moved to a private nursery in Westlake where she got to learn more about plants. She also worked at Kirstenbosch Gardens and some schools in Khayelitsha.
Ma Agnes started working for the City in 2014 and her primary responsibilities include:
- Manage the Restoration facility staff – this is through various EPWP programmes. Each time the programme gets new staff, Ma Agnes has to train them up from scratch. There are usually about 12 staff members at a time.
- Propagating approximately 200 000 plants per year, many of which are unique and highly threatened fynbos plants that require specialised knowledge to be able to propagate them.
- Caring for the plant for up to three seasons before they are planted at the receptor sites.
- Cleaning and preparing seeds for re-seeding programmes.
‘As we celebrate and honour women, I believe it is befitting that we honour Ma Agnes – she is the true epitome of inspiration and hard work. She has not allowed her circumstances to dictate to her. Having no formal education in the field does not limit her. She continues to empower and nurture countless people about propagating various plant species, and is not about to stop. Ma Agnes’s story is one of success and speaks to our commitment to not only attract talent, but give it an environment to thrive in,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Spatial Planning and Environment, Alderman Marian Nieuwoudt.
‘I would like to see more people understand the importance of nature because lives depend on it. I am particularly keen to see a lot of young people learn about caring for nature from a very young age. Nurturing the youth is one thing. Seeing them flourish and making a career out of it is so rewarding. I would like to encourage women in particular to consider a career in this field. That way we can preserve nature for the next generations. Also, love for nature should be about motivation and not money,’ Ma Agnes said.
- Issued by: Media Office, City of Cape Town