Mathama Flora Maswanganyi is our beloved colleague and friend who was an outstanding and inspirational leader, a celebrated farmer and powerful activist who spent much of her life advocating for the rights of small-scale farmers. Mathama Flora, we remember your dynamism, passion, knowledge and fearlessness. We miss you and pray for your peaceful soul.
Elizabeth Mpofu remembers Mathama Flora with great love. “I first met Mathama Flora Maswanganyi when I was chairperson of ESAFF – the Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers Forum. She was on the board of ESAFF South Africa and together we attended many of the regional events together from 2004 to 2011. She was elected Chairperson of ESAFF South Africa in 2010 and became a member of the ESAFF Regional Board, so we had the chance to keep working closely together. We developed many plans together, carried out actions, and kept each other informed. The loss of a sister and comrade is immense.”
Mathama Flora was very passionate about her work in fighting for the rights of small-scale farmers, especially rural women and young people. She was always willing to share ideas with a big smile on her face. She was a very focused woman farmer and her emphasis was on the promotion of women in decision making processes. When she served as the Vice Chairperson of ESAFF Region, she was one of three women on the Executive Committee. Last December, she attended ESAFF’s Triennial General Assembly in Tanzania which, as it turns out, was her final farewell to colleagues and the ESAFF family.
Mama Flora will be remembered as a mentor, adviser and a calm soul. She was a hard worker and encouraged women to always work hard to provide for themselves and their families without expecting men to provide everything. She actively participated at high level meetings within SADC and across the Globe where she fiercely fought for policies that protect women, youth and small-scale farmers and was fully engaged in the ongoing BRICS debates. A powerful spokesperson, she appeared on television with strong arguments for the rights of small-scale farmers.
Elizabeth is Founding member and President of Zimbabwe Smallholders Organic Farmers Forum (ZIMSOFF); Board member of Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA); General Coordinator of La Via Campesina; and founding member of the African Women’s Collaborative for Healthy Food Systems.
To our great fortune, with support from ESAFF South Africa, Mathama Flora accepted a new leadership role in 2017 as a member of the Steering Committee of the African Women’s Collaborative for Healthy Food Systems. The Collaborative’s mission is to address the marginalisation of peasant and indigenous women across Africa by building a shared agenda of food sovereignty, healthy food systems and human rights with a way of life that respects and restores Mother Earth and her resources. Mathama Flora helped build the Collaborative with a strong sense of purpose and commitment, drawing on her expertise and experience. She wanted to see a world free of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. She wanted families and children to eat nutritious foods, and for governments to support food systems that lead to healthy lives. Her hands were with plants and birds, her heart was with rural women, and her head tackled challenging issues at a global level.
We mourn with her family, the ESAFF South Africa team and her community in Northern Limpopo together with ESAFF at large.