The seeds to start growing the township, childhood home of Nobel Prize winner Desmond Tutu, were planted in 2010, when the internationally acclaimed charity Project Hope UK instituted their flagship programme, The Thoughtful Path.
The project aims to engage the community Munsieville, said to be Mzansi’s oldest underdeveloped township, and enable its most vulnerable children to grow into healthy, productive adults.
Since 1994, Project Hope UK has been missioning to improve the health of children in poverty stricken communities while giving residents new skills through local services such as a garden scheme and child protective facilities. The organisation runs programmes in over 30 countries including Mozambique, Ghana, Malawi and Russia.
In 2010, Project Hope UK decided to find a sustainable way to address the growing crisis of orphaned and vulnerable children in sub-Saharan Africa. Munsieville was identified because of its rich apartheid history and for being the birthplace of anti-apartheid and human rights activist, Desmond Tutu.
“The only way of breaking the spirit of poverty in South Africa is to go back to the soil to produce our own food” – Betty Nkoana
Betty Nkoana, operations director of The Thoughtful Path, says they that there was a big gap. “We decided that we should start an organisation with a difference, whereby we will be able to cover the child holistically. We’re talking about the emotional, physical and mental health of the child.”
The initiative also runs a community-based garden project known as You Grow-They Grow Nutrition. They grow herbs, spinach and mustard, amongst other things. With the support of the Shoprite supermarket group, the project is meant to prevent malnutrition and the premature death of vulnerable children.
With a proud giggle, Nkoana adds: “It has now started to dawn in our people’s minds that the only way of breaking the spirit of poverty in South Africa is to go back to the soil to produce our own food. The poverty and hunger that we see in our homes will be finished, because we’re working with our own hands.”
It is the community’s duty to water and nurture the project gardens. Saffiera Ipeleng Sello, better known as Mam Saffiera, a senior case worker at The Thoughtful Path has been part of the organization since it started. She’s witnessed the change that has been cultivated in her township.
“We started with seven vegetable gardens at people’s homes. The numbers were growing very slowly, up to 100 eventually over the years. In 2016, Project Hope UK re-introduced the keyhole garden principle. We call it a heart garden, as it looks like a heart from above. We worked very hard and built over 200 vegetable gardens all over Munsieville.”