Improving access to nutritious food, food gardens are an excellent and widely adopted method for providing food to disadvantaged communities in South Africa, and around the world.
According to Suzanne Ackerman, director of transformation at major local supermarket chain, Pick n Pay, while community food gardens play an important role in ensuring that residents have a sustainable food supply, they also create opportunities for people to take ownership of improving their own long-term health and well being.
“Food gardens are an opportunity for environmental education. They help people understand waste management and sustainable urban farming and diversity as well as community engagement – and the ultimate goal, which is to turn a garden into a small enterprise,” she says.
Some communities succeed in growing their gardens to such an extent that they are able to create their own enterprise from the produce. The Denzhe Mukulao organisation, in a remote area of Limpopo started as a community garden and now supplies the Thohoyandou Family Store with spinach, cabbage, butternut and onions weekly. Amata Trading, another community garden in Limpopo has also grown into a small supplier of butternut, cabbage and tomatoes to the Giyani Family Store.
For more than two years now, we having been providing 100 impoverished families from the Mosselbay informal settlement with a monthly food hamper worth R450. This is obviously a great gesture but on closer examination it begs the question: “Are we really helping these families?”. What if we took the R45, 000 and each month, invested it in a project that will eventually benefit the entire community of Mosselbay and not just 100 families? This is the idea behind our Community Vegetable Gardening project – “don’t give them fish, give them the rod to catch fish”.
The mechanics of the project are:
- Divide the property into smaller gardens;
- allocate the gardens to twenty households from the Mosselbay community;
- provide each family with all the necessary vegetable gardening tools such as spades, forks, watering cans etc.;
- Teach these families how to grow and maintain a vegetable garden.
The training course will last for one vegetable season – approximately four months. Training will include all aspects of vegetable gardening from the proper preparation of soil to the proper harvesting of the vegetables. All the vegetables grown will be for the family’s consumption. On completion of the training course each family will be given a complete set of gardening tools and a vegetable seed starter pack. These families will take the skills they have learned back to their community and start their own vegetable gardens at home. We will continue to provide these families with backup assistance. The next twenty families are now ready to start their training course.
Food security is almost non-existent in any informal settlement. After two or three years more than 100 families from the Mosselbay community will have learned the proper skills of vegetable gardening. After five years we will have a community that is less reliant on food hand-outs. Our Community Vegetable Gardening project has three objectives:
- Teaching the Mosselbay community a basic skill – vegetable gardening;
- Teaching the Mosselbay community to become self-sufficient;
- Teaching the community how to manage their food security requirements.