Last year was a hard year for my family, most of us found ourselves (for whatever reason) in rather dire financial straits.
Personally I found that my Pulas had stretched as far as their limits proportionality would take them. Supporting my grandma, paying tuition for my brother, and being “breadwinner” in a house hold of three and paying off a mortgage that keeps screwing me over (story for another post) made it hard to do anything else with my money.
Unfortunately being one of only two grandsons that are “gainfully” employed means that my financial woes are to some degree irrelevant. The family expects us to help with the family masimo (farm). We are pseudo subsistence farmers. ( “pseudo” because we don’t really subsist off it anymore)
Our masimo has a number of cattle and chickens. Earlier in the year my cousin (the other gainfully employed grandson) had told grandma that she needed to sell the cows and maybe get goats or sheep instead.
In my opinion this was good advice, the nation is the midst of a really bad drought, our masimo hadn’t seen a drop of rain in over a year. There were no pastures or watering holes for the cows. As if it wasn’t enough that nature was screwing us over, our beef sector was still reeling from the aftereffects of severe mismanagement and destruction caused by corrupt officials, who to my knowledge have yet to be brought to justice.
In all honesty economic climate was very unfavourable to subsistence cattle farmers. We spent so much resource servicing the farm, and yet the more we did, the worse the situation seemed to get. It was sucking us dry. By years end, both our bakkies were broken, 75% of the herd were dead, (the rest were too skinny to sell or eat) and needless to say, I was broke.
What i couldn’t understand with all of this though, was why grandma was so adamant, on keeping these animals when they were so clearly eating us out of house and home. So at the end of the year i sat with her and we spoke about the situation at the farm. She told me how her dream had been to provide cows for us when we get married and make sure her family had some form of wealth beyond employment. To her, cows were wealth, and she was right. As Batswana we have always viewed cows as a form of wealth and so naturally you want to accumulate and keep as many as you can.
How times have changed. In under two decades the climate and government have conspired and rendered these symbols of wealth into pipe dreams and white elephants for the poor Motswana.
My grandmothers predicament is not hers alone, these days the world changes so fast that yesterdays cash cow quickly turns into today’s financial burden. I find myself dizzy trying to find some semblance of security, but the best I can do is to change with the times, watch the weather and try to vote for guys that wont screw us and economy over.
**editors note: A Bakkie is Afrikaans for a light pick up truck. Khumo is setswana which means wealth.