This is thanks to the local sports academy. It has not only provided a place for the community to engage in sports activities, but has also revived the previously desolate community vegetable garden.
The non-profit organisation known as the Tsakane Sport Academy and Projects was established by Samson Ndlovu. He noticed that several young people in the area didn’t have any activities to keep them busy and entertained. “Also, the unemployment levels in our community was and still is very high. Many households struggled to access food,” he says.
This had been the case for many years, but on one Friday afternoon in 2016 while driving from work, the 48-year-old realised the seriousness of the matter for the very first time.
“People in my community were suffering. Families were struggling to put food on the table and children started using drugs. I thought of the kind of adults these kids would grow up to be if no one intervened and helped them,” he exclaims.
To address this, the humanitarian started the academy in August 2016 with the objective off encouraging the participation of young people in sports as well as empowering them through life skills.
In 2018 the Ekurhuleni municipality built the youngsters a brand-new soccer field after Ndlovu approached them with the idea to start the academy. As an employee at Total South Africa, Ndlovu approached their events and sponsorship department for financial support. The oil company supported them with soccer kits, soccer boots and t-shirts, goal posts and balls.
But there was a greater need in the community. The youngsters were attending the soccer practices and tournaments hungry.
“Most of these kids are from poor families where there is no proper meal per day due to a lack of income,” Ndlovu says.
Determined to help address this concern, he started cooking wholesome meals every Saturday after their matches. He did this from his own pocket, but realised that a long-term solution was required.
A community of farmers
The solution was a local vegetable garden situated on the east side of Extension 12. The group in charge of the garden had struggled to maintain the garden and plant regularly. “I asked the ladies if they could open the garden to the community and sell fruits and vegetables as a cooperative. I further explained that it would in return create employment and they loved the idea,” Ndlovu says.
The garden, no bigger than four tennis courts put together, is called Vhukani Bafazi, which translates to ‘wake up women’. They grow spinach, carrots, potatoes, beetroot and onions. The founder of the garden, Nelly Mbatsana, says the garden was first started in 2011 to assist the unemployed to put food on their tables.
“Everyone who showed interest in the garden pooled together R15 to get it off the ground. We sold a variety of vegetables at a cheap rate of R5 to ensure that everyone could afford it,” Mbatsana explains.
The garden was a lifeline for a group of people in Extension 12, but more needed to be done to include the entire community. “Samson and his team of players helped us develop the garden even further and gave us additional seedlings to plant,” Mbatsana adds.
Vhukani Bafazi vegetable garden hosts regular community meetings to encourage new members to join the project. They focus particularly on people who are unemployed and households with one income. Some of the vegetables are given away for free.
The garden recently started selling some their crops to street vendors and a local market. With the money that is generated from the sales, the community of farmers buy equipment and seeds.
To further encourage farming amongst the residents, the Tsakane Sport Academy and Projects recently launched their Green Inter-Community Gardens competition. The community is asked to plant trees, fruit and vegetable seedlings in their backyards to compete for a cash prize of R3000. The prize giving will take place later this year.
“This way, those who do not make use of the vegetable garden have an opportunity to grow food in their own backyards and feed their families,” Ndlovu explains.
Ndlovu says it’s rare that young people take an interest in agriculture. With the Green Inter-Community Gardens competition he hopes to encourage the younger generation to actively get involved.