Much of the country might be in the grip of drought and battling the increase in food prices, but residents of Langa and surrounding areas are harvesting the benefits of having food gardens.
On Monday August 8, the Urban Rural Development and Capacity Building project (URDCB) held an event, in Langa, aimed at encouraging residents to cultivate their soil and grow their own fruit and veg.
Scores of budding farmers converged on the offices of the non-profit organisation to share their testimony about the importance of having a food garden and how it has changed their lives for the better.
In the face of grinding poverty and unemployment levels, the URDCB strives to equip residents with gardening skills that would enable them to make ends meet and ensure the gardens were viable.
The organisation’s founder, Nompumelelo Ngoqo, said their core mission was to help people find employment and alleviate poverty.
She added that when they started the project they had one garden, but now they had 14 in Langa and surrounding areas.
Furthermore, she said, the organisation had employed about 104 people who worked in the gardens on a permanent basis.
Ms Ngoqo said because of the sterling work they were doing, they had managed to form partnerships with various organisations which had urged them to encourage young people to join the project.
As a result, she said, they had discovered quite a number of young people who were graduates and were battling to find employment and through the relationships they had fostered, had been able to find jobs for them.
Ms Ngoqo said the Department of Social Development had given them relief funding to pay workers a stipend of R1 500 a month for three months.
She added that some of the young people who were part of the project were receiving training at Iziko School of catering, with all expenses being covered by the department.
The organisation also runs a soup kitchen where they feed needy Langa residents on a daily basis.
“Some of the young people that were part of the project were qualified civil engineers and others were mechanical engineers. But because they were struggling to find employment, they opted to join the project and we refused to allow them to work in gardens. Instead we assisted them to look for jobs.
“One of the young people we assisted is now working for Audi motor car company and the other is working for the City of Cape Town.
“In fact, there are lot of young people who we have placed in different companies. Next year in September some of our people working in the garden will visit America on a exchange programme to enhance their skills further.
“I started the project with another grandmother who unfortunately is no longer alive and when we started the project many people were sceptical and reluctant to be part of it with the fear that it was a money-making scheme aimed at enriching ourselves. However, people quickly saw the crucial role the project was playing in the community and many people joined the project, “ she said.
Nandi Nyala, programmes manager at Independent Development Trust (IDT), said they had funded the organisation for the past three years and were excited that the funding had been used to change the people’s lives.
Phumla Qwayi, 40, expressed her gratitude to the project, saying that it had changed her life and restored her dignity.
She said before she joined the project two years ago, she would spend her time drinking with friends because she was frustrated as she could not find employment.
“Now I’m the breadwinner at home and I’m no longer drinking. I thank the founder of URDCB for reviving our lives and rescuing destitute people like me from poverty,” she said.