Makhanda townships blossoms into veggie heaven

Food & Trees for Africa helps Eastern Cape residents to start their own vegetable gardens

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“Food security is a huge challenge, but food sovereignty is our ability to produce our own food – and that is Food & Trees for Africa’s main objective. To ensure that farmers and people that want to grow food, have the ability to do so.”

These are the words of Robyn Hills, the food gardens manager at the development organisation, whose Victory Gardens drive encourages residents of Makhanda in the Eastern Cape to start their own vegetable gardens.

In the wake of the worrisome hunger pandemic exacerbated by covid-19, more than a thousand seedlings were donated to the Rhodes University’s Community Engagement (RUCE). Subsequently, its partner organisations, including backyard gardeners, have each benefited from between 200 and 400 seedlings of cabbage, beetroot and spring onion.

The idea for the Makhanda victory gardens was borne out of residents’ struggles in the wake of covid-19. Even before the pandemic, Makhanda already had a high unemployment rate. Photo: FTA/Twitter

“The narrative around food got stronger, so we started the Victory Garden initiative with Food & Trees for Africa. We brought a number of organisations that work in the food garden and nutrition space together and got gardens ready for planting”, says Diana Hornby, directory of Rhodes’ community engagement initiatives.

Access to markets

RUCE’s partner organisations include, among others, the Umthathi Training Project benefiting 15 home gardens, Egazini Community Garden feeding over 20 families, and Sodla Sonke home gardens in KwaThatha and Zolani townships.

Maso Nduna, manager of the Assumption Development Centre in the Eastern Cape. Photo: Supplied

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Maso Nduna, the manager of the Assumption Development Centre (ADC), says the sponsored seedlings from RUCE and Food & Trees for Africa will go a long way. They had already started about 10 backyard community gardens in Joza on Makhanda’s outskirts. The ADC empowers the community to generate their own income and to become entrepreneurs.

Nduna says, “We work together with the Umthathi Training Project who has about two to three hectares of land. There we provide community members with the necessary training and skills for them to manage their own gardens. They can either take their produce home or (we) provide them access to markets where they can sell the vegetables around Makhanda.”

Community work and youth development lie at the heart of the ADC, adds Nduna. “One of our main projects is to uplift and upskill the youth in our community to create a vibrant township economy.”

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