Community food garden owners and backyard growers in informal settlements in Cape Town are at their wits’ end because of the destruction that rainy-season flooding is causing to their township gardens.
Flooding in areas like Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, KwaLanga and other informal settlements are a setback for many backyard gardeners and community garden initiatives that contribute to food security in these areas.
Community gardener Ludwe Qamata, of Litha Park in Khayelitsha, tells Food For Mzansi that his community experiences flooding every year during winter. This limits them as food growers and keeps them from growing food at full capacity.
“Every time this happens, we are losing the nutrients in our soil. Every winter season this happens and then every time we have to renovate and fix our living areas and garden spaces,” Qamata explains.
Furthermore, they are forced to recycle stones and collect road rubble (tar) through the rest of the year, to reinforce backyard floors and gardens.
“We have to do this because otherwise we struggle to grow our vegetables at full capacity. And it’s always a mission to recover from this. But even in that we strive to survive and continue growing.”
The impact on food security
Gugulethu farmer Nomonde Kweza says that, although flooding may not be a problem during the summer months, she expects the flooding cycle to repeat itself during next year’s heavy rainfalls.
“It happens every time during winter and every time some of our community gardens here get flooded with water.”
Kweza suggests that the City of Cape Town’s urban agriculture unit should take hands with the Western Cape department of agriculture to address their concerns.
“These two parties need to come on board because, lately, the City of Cape Town has been too relaxed when it comes to food security activities. They must speak one language when it comes to addressing basic services that affect food security.”
Plans are underway
Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) has also criticised the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape provincial government for failing to address the township flooding crisis.
However, according to COGTA minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, interventions to resolve flooding drainage systems in these areas are underway.
“Cabinet resolved that COGTA and National Treasury should lead the process of the development of the municipal support plans in collaboration with sector departments, the South African Local Government Association, provinces and municipalities,” she told the committee.
This process, Zuma promised, was underway. A cut-off date to complete the municipal intervention and support plans has been set for the end of October. The governmental plan is expected to include strategies to address the flooding challenges faced by residents in informal settlements.
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