Nombini Zingisa Gono, who hails from Port Edward in KwaZulu-Natal, has been making an impact in environmental, water and grassroots food production since obtaining a BSc in environmental science from Walter Sisulu University in 2013.
During her undergrad years, Gono participated in various campus clean-up campaigns and took on the mantle as a leader in the student church following her qualification with an honours degree in geosciences from Nelson Mandela University.
Gono’s research focused on water scarcity in Mzamba village in the Eastern Cape, which she chose to focus on when the lack of tap water in 2016 forced inhabitants to buy water from vendors. She approached youngsters in the village to help with data collection, which sparked their interest in practical science and how that can be used to find solutions to the problems people in the region face.
She is proud of her close working relationship with her community, and one of her proudest achievements was developing a vegetable plot with a widow as a demonstration of how to grow your own food in a small space.
While studying, she was a science communicator at the Nelson Mandela Bay Science and Technology Centre, where she handled science exhibitions, shows and workshops for learners in conjunction with Nelson Mandela University. She also completed research on waste management to understand people’s behaviours and perceptions. From the findings, the centre drafted educational material on the economic benefits of good waste management strategies.
Gono started Macazinga in Bizana in 2018 and is the project co-ordinator. The business, with its apt slogan, Engage Inspire Impact, provides agricultural goods and services as well as environmental support services.
“The company brings solutions to our communities and environment — it creates employment opportunities, finds solutions to environmental issues and is a beacon of hope to those who seek inspiration.”
In 2020, she trained again, this time at the Mandela Bay Development Agency as education and programmes co-ordinator before becoming a volunteer at the Water Institute of Southern Africa’s Woman in Water initiative.
Gono and Macazinga’s influence in the sector was acknowledged three times in 2022, with the Water Research Commission’s Top 25 award, as a finalist in the TotalEnergies Top 15 Startupper Challenge for her social entrepreneur pitch and the GreenPitchSA award.
Gono says the Covid-19 lockdown taught her the importance of food production at ground level.
“It was during this time that most people lost their jobs and had nothing to bring to the table. That’s when I realised it is important for everyone to have a small piece of land where they can grow their own vegetables.”
The lockdown made her realise that, as a community, they must work together to grow their own food on available land, create employment and empower the community with skills.
What would she like to achieve for South Africa?
She longs for a country where everyone goes to bed daily with a full stomach and hopes for the next day.