HARD-WORKING, dedicated and a people's person are some of the words used to describe one of this year's The Herald GM Citizen of the Year nominees, Nomonde Ntsundwana.
The 47-year-old Seyise Primary School teacher, who has taught for 23 years, started a garden project in 2005 at her former school, Canzibe Primary in Motherwell.
Last year, Ntsundwana's gardening project was recognised when she was chosen as one of six eco-pioneers profiled by Total in its quest to "recognise institutions and individuals who are committed to protecting the environment and actively working towards a greener planet".
She said she never expected to be recognised for her gardening projects.
"I feel great and honoured to be nominated, but I never expected this," the single mother-of-two said.
"I want the children to know that vegetables do not just appear in supermarkets. When you teach something to children, they grow up with it."
Ntsundwana won the Kudu Award from South African National Parks in the category of individual environmental education and capacity-building last year.
She was also a Shoprite/Checkers Women of the Year finalist this year.
Her Canzibe gardening project supports 10 schools, two NGOs and two churches.
"The people who nominated me see me as a winner already. It would be great to be the citizen of the year, but if not, it's not the end of the world. If I win I would not just focus on my area, but help wherever I can," she said.
Seyise Primary principal Xoliswa Vikishe described Ntsundwana as having a unique gift.
"She is a hard worker in and out of class. She is a people's person who loves to get involved in other projects as well.
"Even in class she understands that not every pupil will understand what is being said at the same time. She has a very unique gift," Vikishe said.
"We had a garden before she came here, but no one had knowledge about gardening."
Xoliswa Mambalu, a teacher at Dumani Primary in Motherwell, said they had learnt a lot from Ntsundwana.
"She taught us how to garden without using chemicals – gardening the organic way.
"She loves gardening and loves to see people healthy.
"We grew up in an era where gardening was important and she is bringing back that culture now," Mambalu said.
"Her teachings have resulted in our school winning R20000 at a regional competition and R50000 at provincial level."
She also has an hour long radio show, Ufundo Ngezolimo, on Nkqubela FM every Thursday from 5pm where she shares her gardening knowledge with listeners.
Her gardening projects aside, Ntsundwana also started an orange-fleshed sweet potato nursery in 2008.
The former rugby coach also assists with netball coaching at Seyise, and enjoys reading in her spare time.