When dreams came to nothing, her garden fed more than just her body

Garden centre brings solace to the destitute WC townships

Every year, many people leave their homes in rural areas and migrate to cities to try and seek new opportunities to improve their lives.

Unfortunately for Vuyokazi Wulana (55), who moved to Cape Town from Tsomo in the Eastern Cape 24 years ago, the city did not offer what it promised.

She was hoping to find a job that would support her and her family back in the Eastern Cape. But instead she spent a lot of her time doing piece jobs that barely sustained her financially.

She shared her frustration with her friend Vathiswa Jack, who introduced her to the Zola Centre in Nyanga.

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The Zola Centre is an organisation which helps disadvantaged people in townships learn how to plant and grow their own vegetables so that they can sustain themselves.  

“I saw it as an opportunity, and I attended the Zola centre in 2009 where I was taught how to plant and grow vegetables. They also introduced me to markets where I could sell my vegetables once I owned a garden,” she says.

Wulana couldn’t start a backyard garden because she lived in a shack without sufficient yard space. Fortunately for her, she met Sibongile Sityebi in 2011, who was also a member of the Zola Centre.

He already had a garden called Asande Food Garden based at Intshukumo Secondary School in Gugulethu and they formed a partnership.

Asande Food Garden is based in Intshukumo Secondary School in Gugulethu and grows organic vegetables. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

“Sibongile was part of Abalimi Bezekhaya and he was already selling his vegetables through Harvest of Hope. Harvest of Hope is a project by Abalimi Bezekhaya which provides market access to farmers who want to sell their vegetables at a profit,” she says.

The pair decided to plant seasonal and organic vegetables, including spinach, beetroot, broad beans, green beans, lettuce, fennel, turnips, broccoli, cauliflower, rhubarb, leeks, spring onion, and a variety of herbs such as rocket, coriander, parsley, basil, thyme, rosemary and organum.

They not only sold their produce to Harvest of Hope, they also sold it to the informal sector in Cape Town.

In 2016 Asande Food Garden joined the Food Sovereignty Campaign which encourages the importance of food security. “We also participated in a basic food gardening training course with the department of agriculture,” she says.

In 2017 the garden received its Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) certification by Organics International, which allows them to gain access to organic markets through certified naturally grown accreditation.

“The accreditation really boosted our confidence as a business,” she says.

A year later they were joined by Buyelwa Fudwana from Gugulethu, who also wanted to create an income for herself. Together the Asande members continued to grow from strength to strength.

Although they have done quite well in the past and are still doing so today, they were faced with a few challenges.

“Sometimes the butterflies would eat our vegetables or lay eggs on them which destroys the quality. And since we don’t use chemicals to protect our crops, we have to use a Sunlight (soap) bar and water to spray our crops so we can protect them,” says Wulana.

Vuyokazi Wulana, Sibongile Sityebi and Buyelwa Fudwana would like to own a farm one day so that they can sell their produce at a larger scale. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

One of the most important lessons she has learnt is to be patient and to control her expectations.

“Sometimes you may plant a lot of seeds, but it does not mean all the seeds you produce will grow into vegetables. Also, it takes time to grow vegetables, so you have to be patient and take care of your crops while you wait for them to grow,” she says.

Even though their garden is doing a great job at sustaining their lives, the Asanda members do hope to own a farm one day. “We want to make more money and produce food for our families,” she says.

In the future, Wulana also hopes to have her own garden. Her advice to the youth who want to start their own gardens is to just “go for it!”

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