Teaching township residents the importance of planting fruit trees and indigenous plants plays a critical role in equipping them with essential skills to take care of the environment and preserve nature.
This message was delivered to a group of senior citizens and children at Sinovuyo Old Age Group (SOAG) hall, in Litha Park, on Saturday October 29.
They gathered at the venue to receive certificates for having participated in a day-long gardening training during which they were taught basic cultivation skills, and how to grow their food.
The training was organised by Greenpop, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that plants trees and helps communities with food garden training.
The organisation also planted 24 fruit trees and indigenous plants at Sinovuyo’s offices.
SOAG secretary Patricia Ophila said as the country struggled with soaring food prices, it was essential to encourage communities to use their backyard spaces to grow their own food.
Ms Ophila said SOAG aimed to empower senior citizens and the youth to be self-reliant, that they formed partnerships with clinics that provide chronic medication to members and have nurses who conduct regular visits and health sessions.
Sinovuyo was established last year, with 15 members, to provide senior citizens with a platform to unwind and share their life experiences, and ways to deal with challenges. Now it has 30 members, and they are calling on interested individuals to join the organisation.
Ms Ophila said they also encourage the elders to exercise regularly and eat healthy food.
Funding, however, was their main challenge, she said, adding that they cook with food they buy from their own money.
“We cook for the senior citizens every day, starting with breakfast, lunch and supper,” she said. The pensioners pay R50 monthly towards food. The joining fee is R70.
“Our aim is to create a spirit of cohesion among the elders and the youth.
“Even though we are mainly focusing on senior citizens, we are not closing the doors on young people,” she said, appealing for people to help them.
One of the recipients, Nomakula Mnkayi, said she was glad to have received a certificate and that food gardening had always been her passion.
She is among those who initiated a food garden at Ntshayelelo Primary School, in Ilitha Park.
Ms Mnkayi added that she had learnt innovative ways to plant and grow food from the organisation.
“I have always loved food gardening hence I opted to participate on that training day and to further equip myself and because you always learn new things everyday.
“I would encourage the youth to start thinking about starting food gardens and be self-independent,” said the 75-year-old.
Deputy chairperson of SOAG, Mvuzo Sitofile, said he was glad to be part of the organisation even though he was not a senior citizen. He said it was crucial to promote the culture of food gardens in the township and empower the elders with the necessary skills.