They say when women come together incredible things happen, but sometimes it takes one woman to plant a seed so that the ones who follow can reap the fruits. This has been the reality of the women across Khayelitsha in Cape Town who have had the opportunity to be part of the Moya We Khaya organic garden that was pioneered by Christina Kaba.
The 73-year-old Kaba started the garden in February of 2014 with a mission to uplift the women in her community. Seven years later the vegetable garden has mushroomed into a community development project that not only sustains the women but employs the men in Khayelitsha too.
Kaba currently works with two men and eight women seven days of the week on the 1,5-hectare garden near Bonjour in Khayelitsha, but they don’t complain because they are passionate about gardening.
“We do this because we love farming, some of us are unemployed some of us don’t have a husband or family to take care of us, but we don’t lack anything because the money we make from our garden sustains us,” says Kaba.
Kaba’s passion for farming has always run deep. She had been trying to get permission for using the land since 1995 when the neighbouring Manyanani Peace Park was built. When she was denied, she didn’t surrender, but kept fighting for her vision of a community garden.
Eventually she contacted Rob Small, a social farming entrepreneur from Cape Town for help. He assisted her with land and fundraising so she could get her garden off the ground.
The birth of Moya We Khaya vegetable garden
Finally, in 2014, her vision came to life and Moya We Khaya (The Spirit of Home) was formed. The group of passionate and hard-working gardeners have been there every day since. “It doesn’t matter if it’s raining or if it’s winter, you’ll find us here, we are fighters!” she says.
Kaba shares that when the ten gardeners started growing vegetables in the very poor soil, a lot of compost, manure, and hard work was needed. Back then, all ten members were working together as a big group, but they soon decided to divide the space so everybody could have their own set of plots.
With this change in structure, their harvest improved immensely as everybody could now work at their own pace. To extend their knowledge, the community took part in training courses through the Western Cape department of agriculture and Abalimi Bezekhaya, a non-profit micro-farming organisation that promotes small-scale urban farming in Cape Town townships.
Although the garden is divided into individual sections and plots, the group still works as a team. When one member is facing challenges, everybody steps up to help. Only two of the members have vehicles, so they will help the other members to collect needed materials and seeds. “There is a real family feel at Moya We Khaya,” Kaba says.
The members are glad to regularly get support from unemployed young people, who come to help in the garden to earn some money. Inspiring and supporting the youth to grow their own vegetables is an important goal for the farmers. Kaba mentions that her granddaughter started to come help in the garden after school and she enjoyed it so much that she now has her very own set of plots.
Since Moya began, the farmers have been selling their surplus produce to different markets across Cape Town. Now their biggest dream for the future is to have their own community centre and packing shed.
“This would provide us with space to properly prepare our veggies to send away to the clients. It would also allow us to set up our own market to provide market days to sell to the community,” she says,
The Moya We Khaya members would like to present training courses for the youth and get the community more involved. One concept they would like the community to understand is the importance of organically grown vegetables.
“It might take the vegetables longer to grow, and they may be more expensive, but the result is better tasting and healthier produce,” she says.