Lillian Masebenza

Mhani Gingi Social Entrepreneurial Network

I was born in rural Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga, and grew up in Limpopo Province of South Africa.  In 1981 I obtained my B.A. Honours Degree (1981) in Communications and Marketing and I have various other diplomas and certificates. After holding several posts in government and the private sector, I took early retirement and left my position as Marketing and Sponsorship Manager at Old Mutual in Cape Town in 2004, to establish the Mhani Gingi Social Entrepreneurial Network.   Through Mhani Gingi I have pursued my vision of alleviating global poverty through empowering vulnerable groups with social entrepreneurial skills. 


I have received numerous awards and nominations, including being made an Ashoka Fellow in 2008, for this work empowering women, youth at risk, the elderly, and People with Disabilities (PWDs) through social entrepreneurship and through urban agriculture and gardening.


You can view a video on me made by Spirit Sisters Productions here:


My Passion:

My passion is to encourage people to take personal responsibility and to ‘use what they have’ to help themselves, rather than waiting for handouts to improve their situation. These are very important principles for me.  What drew my interest to community work were my own roots in a rural community, where I experienced first-hand the problems that the poor and marginalized face. Through my work experiences I have realized that the problem of poverty in our society can be addressed more efficiently if those affected are empowered to help themselves. I have seen women who are forced to stay in abusive relationships for economic reasons, as well as gifted young people who, with proper assistance, have the potential to do better in life. It concerns me that there are so many orphans because of the HIV/Aids pandemic. To prepare for a better future, these problems must be addressed with sustainable solutions. I see the Mhani Gingi model as one such solution.


Another important principle for Mhani Gingi is the ‘power of the collaborative collective’, through which we can achieve more by working together to solve social problems.


So my passion is about empowering people through skills training and helping them to do what they are doing better; to move away from the notion of being suppliers of labour, or goods and services, and to rather see themselves as creators of their own wealth. 


This vision we have pursued at Mhani Gingi over the past 15 years – and look what we have achieved:  During 2020 the Mhani Gingi Satellite Community Food Station delivered meals twice a week to hungry communities in Cape Town affected by the COVID 2019 pandemic, impacting at least 55 000 people during the last four months of 2020 alone.  The soup stations were supported by the ten community gardens we manage in Uitsig/Ravensmead, Retreat, Athlone/Mannenberg and Langa.  Ladles of Love donated weekly supplies for the meals we prepared.


Through the state-of-the-art Mhani Gingi Agri-Processing Hub that we launched during Women’s Month in 2021, I would like to promote further skills and employment for the vulnerable.  The Agri-Processing Hub supplies both the lower end and the upper ends of the market because we deliver packaged produce directly to restaurants in Cape Town.  We can even hire out our first-of-its-kind unit.



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The state-of-the-art Mhani Gingi Agri-Processing Hub was acquired in 2021.


My Dream:

My dream is also to empower people to start thinking differently, because no longer will school-leavers and college graduates be ensured employment.  They need to think about how they can use their skills to employ themselves and others.


How I would change our world:

I wish I could transform more unused and under-utilised spaces for urban agriculture and food gardening, and thereby train communities about healthy eating as well as giving them skills to earn income.  I  also wish for further collaborations to establish projects towards supporting survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) with gardening skills, to enable women to make an income when they leave shelters.  We do this at Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children in Athlone.