Siyazama members reap benefits of food garden

Members of Siyazama Community Garden harvest vegetables.

As the country battles with high food prices, members of Siyazama Community Garden in Khayelitsha are harvesting the benefits of having their own food garden.

While starting and running a food garden may be hard work, those involved agree that it has also been fun and rewarding.

At a market day held at the community garden earlier this week, guests were informed about all the plants and vegetables which are farmed in the garden and how they were planted.

Siyazama Community Garden training facilitator and co-ordinator, Liziwe Sitofile, beamed as she took the guests into the garden, teaching them more about the different vegetables and plants.

Ms Sitofile said the food garden was first established in 1996 and the first produce was harvested in the following year. She explained that they produced organic food and had partnered with local churches who pre-ordered their vegetables.

Due to the changing climate and recent drought, she said, they had been forced to plan ahead and devise alternative methods of farming.

They had also scaled down on farming vegetables which required a lot of water.

To keep their food garden alive and lure other customers, she said, they had begun planting new vegetables which from other African countries and in China as well. She said plants which require lot of water were mostly planted in winter season.

“To run a garden requires passion and the love of nature. We have a implemented few strategies to deal with drought. We have created employment for the locals. Khayelitsha residents understand the concept of buying organic food.

“We just need to make more sales and expand our customer base support,” she said.

However, said Ms Sitofile, said they have been victims of theft and break-ins.

The women involved in the initiative have also received special agri-focused entrepreneurship training through the AgriPlanner programme that is sponsored by Coronation Fund Managers and facilitated by the Cape Town-based SA Institute for Entrepreneurship.

Chief operations officer at South African Institute for Entrepreneurship, Ernest Boateng, said this food garden was one of the shining examples of what their partnership between them and Coronation has given birth to.

Mr Boateng said Coronation’s overall contribution to the AgriPlanner programme had, to date, assisted around 5 000 farmers – most of whom are women -and 200 co-operatives across the country.

He said Coronation’s support of the initiative started in 2004, when it provided seed funding to the Siyazama farmers through its Growing Entrepreneurs Programme.

“The programme has empowered the Siyazama women farmers through entrepreneurial training and it has changed their own lives-and those of their families and communities.

“They are now able to give back to the community by teaching them about the importance of farming. And now they are providing affordable, healthy and organic vegetables to the residents,” he said.

Coronation Fund managers CEO, Anton Pillay, said through the project they had afforded the farmers an opportunity to enhance their skills and improve their knowledge. He added that the programme had shown that if small businesses were given support they could achieve more.