American students lend a hand at food garden

From left, Evan Stanfield, Phoebe Pyles, Isaac Turpin and Kathryn Mallaney call themselves team Mama Vivian.

Four American agriculture students have come to the aid of a Khayelitsha food garden with the donation of two tunnel greenhouses.

Evan Stanfield, Phoebe Pyles, Isaac Turpin and Kathryn Mallaney, from the Virginia Tech School of Plant and Environmental Sciences, set up the greenhouses at the Iliso Care Society Community Garden at Encotsheni Primary School in Site C on Tuesday January 9.

The students, who were accompanied on their trip to South Africa by Professor Ozzie Abaye, called themselves Team Mama Vivian after Vivian Zilo-Ncana, the woman who started the garden.

The greenhouses will protect the garden from birds and insect pests that have plagued it in the past and divert rainwater to irrigate the plants and prevent flooding in the neighbourhood.

“It’s a very exciting day. We couldn’t be more excited to donate the greenhouses that are estimated to R24 000 both to Mama Vivian. She is an amazing woman who works for the community. She is part of a global food security programme” said Mr Stanfield.

Ms Pyles added: “This is a great project that needs to be taken care of. We are excited and over the moon to be part of this community. We are truly honoured to have succeeded in giving back to this community.

“The garden is made up of seven small plots of land sandwiched between buildings and behind the school admin block.

Ms Zilo-Ncana thanked Varkey George from UCT who had helped to attract potential donors to her projects in the community, and had brought students from Germany to the garden in 2020.

“It was back then when she came to me and asked me to apply for sanitary pads in a project that we ran for women. As they say, the rest is history because she has been bringing in so many students to us,” Ms Zilo-Ncana said.

Ms Zilo-Ncana said the greenhouses would help to make the Iliso Care Society Community Garden more productive.

“I had been challenged by birds, insects and floods, but now all that is in the past,” she said, voicing her gratitude to the students.

Iliso Care Society Community Garden member Lunga Mvumvu shows off some of the crops produced by the garden.