Project helps home gardeners grow

Bulelwa Tom credits Soil For Life for changing her life.

It was a joyous occasion for Mfuleni residents and the surrounding areas when NGO Soil For Life commemorated World Environmental Day, at Chris Hani Hall, in Mfuleni.

Although the day is marked on June 5, the organisation opted to celebrate the day last Friday, June 10, by running awareness campaign about the importance of having a food garden.

About 50 home gardeners braved the freezing weather to attend the event and expressed their sincere gratitude to the organisation for empowering them with life-changing skills.

The organisation teaches home gardeners about organic food gardening, soil improvement methods, setting up local markets, running small businesses and food processing and preserving.

It encourages people to create gardens in unfriendly and often dangerous areas and inspires poor communities to reconnect with the Earth.

Soil For Life uplifts township residents and teaches them to be self-reliant and to use their limited resources to create a better future for themselves.

Soil For Life trainer Gugu Mazibuko said they envisaged a green city where everyone was growing some of their food and using environmentally-friendly methods.

Ms Mazibuko said they trained a number of home gardeners in every township across Cape Town. The training took a year and they learnt how to make their small gardens commercial.

After the training Soil for Life offers mentorship, workshops and ongoing support until the gardeners can stand on their own feet.

“We want people to be independent. We aim to fight the grinding poverty levels in our communities by introducing the concept of having a food garden.

“Most township residents are unemployed and are battling to make ends meet. We want people to use the spaces they have and establish food gardens in order to make an extra income while they are still looking for jobs.

“We have trained a number of home gardeners in Khayelitsha, Phillipi, Driftsands and other townships. We want people to live a healthy lifestyle and run their small business to generate income for themselves and their families,” she said.

Despite the enthusiasm shown by the home gardeners, Ms Mazibuko said many young people were still reluctant to pursue farming and most of the people they had trained were senior citizens.

Home gardener Bulelwa Tom praised the organisation, saying they had equipped her with critical skills and her future now looks brighter.

Ms Tom said she never knew that she could use a bucket to plant vegetables. She said the organisation provided a rare platform to township residents and they should grab the opportunity with both hands.

“We were also taught about the importance of recycling waste material. I never knew that bones are rich with calcium and play a vital role in boosting the soil. I never realised that the small garden that I have can be commercial and provide an additional income to my family. I also save a lot of water because they showed us ways to plant without using lot of water,” she said.

Another home gardener, Sakhumzi Gqirha, 26, told Vukani that he was one of the youngest people to be trained by the organisation.

He said he was battling to find employment and no one in his family was working so he chose to use an open space at his home to plant vegetables.

“I have also received a certificate from the organisation for being the youngest home gardener and that has encouraged me to continue farming. I’m able to put food on the table through the profit that I make from the garden and I produce fresh vegetables now. I don’t see myself looking for a job, but I wish I can have a bigger space to expand the garden,” he said.