Breaking Beariers- Magdelana Jose: Farming helped me overcome mental health challenges

Home Agriculture Breaking Beariers- Magdelana Jose: Farming helped me overcome mental health challenges
Breaking Beariers- Magdelana Jose: Farming helped me overcome mental health challenges

ν  Max Henrich


ONGWEDIVA – Following a drooping battle with depression, anxiety and substance abuse, 27-year-old Magdelana Jose has managed to defy all odds and the stigma that comes with mental health challenges, and is now a thriving small-scale vegetable farmer.

Jose, who lives in Salem in the Kavango East region, dropped out of university in 2017 due to severe mental health issues during her second year at the University of Namibia (Unam), where she was pursuing a degree in Business Management.

Things went from bad to worse for the young Jose, whose relationship with her immediate family also deteriorated because of her dropping out of university.

“I was going through a lot mentally. My depression and anxiety started in my teen years, when I was 17 years old. But it eventually got worse when I went to university,” she shares. 

She says things got worse when she fell pregnant with her first child during her first year at Unam in 2016, which she says forced her to halt her studies and relocate back home to stay with her grandmother.

“I went to stay with her [grandmother] because I had a fallout with my father due to the pregnancy and dropping out of school. Things between us got rocky. But I eventually got back on my feet and pushed through to my second year at Unam, but things were just getting worse for me. I knew something was wrong with me mentally, and decided to drop out of university to seek help. But that decision came with a lot of backlashes from my family members,” says Jose.



It was not an easy journey for the young crop farmer, who had to deal with the stigma and the misunderstanding of mental health challenges from close relatives and community members. But she did not give up on life, and continued to seek salvage and guidance from her grandmother, who was her biggest pillar of strength during those dark times. 

“Mental health issues are not respected in most black families, and even my own family did not understand my mental health struggles. They started pointing fingers at me, and saying I had ruined our family name.” 

In 2018, Jose was blessed with a second child, and that was during the time her struggles with mental health started improving and she was now finding her true purpose and calling in life – which has always been farming. 

“In 2019, I sat down and asked myself if I was going to be a loser for the rest of my life, or if I will dust myself off and face the darkness of mental health and eventually change my life for the better. So, I decided to start helping my grandmother in her garden and in 2022, I got a portion of land from my grandmother to start my own garden. I now grow potatoes, spinach, watermelons, butternuts and many other vegetables, which I sell around here, and use that profit to sustain my family. I have found my true purpose in life,” adds a grateful Jose.


Healing through farming

With the garden being her only source of income and go-to place when things get overwhelming at times, she says farming has given her a renewed sense of hope and has played a huge lifesaving role in her journey to recovery. 

“When I started working on my garden as a fulltime small-scale crop farmer, I stopped having suicidal thoughts, and the feeling of always doubting my worth as a person. I have turned my back on alcohol to focus on expanding my garden and serving my customers with dedication. Had it not been for my grandmother, this garden and agriculture as a trade, I would not have been here today. Farming saved my life, and there is nothing else I would rather do than farm.”

She is also urging those going through depression and substance abuse to seek help and speak up without feeling any shame or guilt.

“You need to seek help, and for you to get that help, you first have to admit that you have a problem and that you need help. Speak up in a way that makes you feel safe.”