Ujamaa encourages food gardens

Xola Maroqa, Tsakane Jeanet Sibanda, Zukiswa Cedile, Nkwame Cedile and Alakhe Phepheni hard at work.

Growing your own food is one of the best ways to ensure easy access to fresh produce free of chemicals, and is one of the major steps that can be taken to alleviate poverty.

However, there are many misconceptions surrounding food gardens, such as the need for large pieces of land to grow a meaningful amount of food.

Others argue that it is expensive to start and maintain a food garden.

But Ujamaa Communal Food Garden, a non-governmental organisation, which is based in Khayelitsha, has proven that one does not need to have a huge space to initiate a food garden.

They are on a mission to educate township residents about the importance of food gardens. The organisation plants vegetables and gives them free of charge to the community because they strongly believe that food should be freely available. They told Vukani that it should be a right to have food, not a privilege. They described selling and purchasing food as inhumane and have called for an end to it.

The organisation was established last year and it has initiated more than 200 food gardens in various areas across Khayelitsha and the surrounding areas. Their main mission is to ensure that people have access to an abundance of quality, organic and nutritious food.

Cedile Nkwame, organiser of the organisation, said part of their aim is to encourage children to see the importance of food gardens.

He said they want to turn township areas into green spaces while preaching the importance of eating healthy.

He argued that their food gardens are not fenced because they believe that discriminates against those wanting to access them.

He highlighted that they also aim to build social cohesion among the residents and revive the spirit of Ubuntu.

He said people need to realise that food comes from the soil not from the shops or supermarket.

He said they also started a children’s food garden competition during the school holiday to ignite a passion for food gardening among the youth.

He said their plans are to build a school of food gardening.

Mr Nkwame believes that the school could unlock the abundance of possibilities and opportunities for black children.

“We want more land so that we can continue with our endeavours. People are disconnected from the soil. We need to practise doing things for ourselves. The greatest resources that people have is themselves. Fencing food is an imprisonment and food should not be fenced,” he said.

He mentioned that land scarcity is among the many challenges facing them.

He said when they found the space last year it was a dumping site and they turned it into a garden. But when they visited the garden again at the beginning of the year, they were heartbroken to find it had been destroyed and some of their material stolen.

Alakhe Phepheni, 11, who has been attending lessons through the organisation, said he was learning a lot about food gardening and aims to have his own garden that would produce food for his community.

He said he enjoys food gardening as he learns how food is planted.

Another organiser Tsakane Jeanet Sibanda said the aim was to conquer the entire continent.