Cape dumping site transformed into veggie garden

A dangerous dumping site in Red River Street in Manenberg, Cape Town, has been turned into a haven for children and community members. It is now an urban garden that provides fresh vegetables to the community kitchen in the area.

It all started when Jonathan Jansen (43) and a few friends in the community took it upon themselves to clean the site when it became too filthy and started attracting rodents. Jansen shares that it had become unhygienic and unsafe and they took it upon themselves to clean it and make it a safe space.

After ten months of hard work, the former dumping site now provides fresh vegetables for the community kitchen that is run by Jansen and his team in the community. It also has a play park with three jungle gyms and several fruit trees that provide shade for the parents who watch their children play.

“When we started cleaning up the dumping site with young people in our area in December [2020], our aim was just to make it a clean and safe area for the children.”

“But then we realised that if we kept cleaning it up, people would still dump their trash there the following week and we would have to start the process all over again. So, we realised that the best thing we could do is to think of something else to do at the site, more than just cleaning up,” he says.

The former dumping site in Red River Street in Manenberg, Cape Town. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

In January 2020 they decided that they would turn the dumping site into an urban garden to support Jansen’s community kitchen that provides meals for the community three times a week.

Jansen runs his kitchen under his organisation called Love Out Loud, which has a few youth development projects in the area.

At the end of January last year, they gathered a few friends and young people in the community and visited some urban gardens around Cape Town. The aim was to gain knowledge and inspiration to start their own urban garden.

After that they went back to Manenberg and did just that.

“It started small, but it grew very rapidly,” Jansen says.

ALSO READ: Youth turn Soweto dumping site into food garden

Challenges along the way

The main crop that is grown in the garden is spinach. Photo: Supplied/ Food For Mzansi

“However, accessing water was very difficult. What we did is we went around to the neighbours and asked them to keep their laundry water so that we could use it in the garden. But that often meant that there wasn’t always water because people were not always doing laundry. Luckily, we have a Facebook page where we promote our work and we just approached a few friends and asked them if they could help us,” he shares.

Fortunately, a group of friends that have been planting trees on the side of the canal in Pinelands, Cape Town, gave them an electric water pump. Another friend paid for a well to be built in their garden.

“We also received a few spades, a wheelbarrow and some seedlings from a few friends, but the goal was always to be sustainable because we couldn’t always live on handouts alone,” Jansen explains.

“So, what we then did is sell some of the excess produce that we couldn’t use in the kitchen to the community for R5, and we used that to either buy seedlings or whatever we needed in the garden.”

The garden has grown substantially and the crops that they have planted in their garden so far includes spinach, green beans, broccoli, beetroot, carrots and onions. They have also recently planted pumpkins. The garden employs five volunteers on rotation and they hope to grow in the future to create more sustainable jobs.

“The actual space is big. We plan to develop a youth development centre that can teach skills to young people in the area,” he says.

ALSO READ: Ma Pitso’s food garden makes safe space for kids

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