Armed with a mere 40-square-meter plot and a passion for service, Johannesburg youth are lightening the load of pensioners with their food garden in Orlando West, Soweto.
Their little garden called Izwelethu project, grows lush and green on what was previously known as a dumping site for residential waste material. These days, the space is known for its small patches of cabbage, spinach, tomatoes and beetroot, which are donated to the area’s elderly.
“It’s not a high-income earning area, so people do struggle there. Also, there’s a lot of pensioners that reside here. The garden really helps them a lot and remedies whatever shortfall they have,” explains Njabulo Kubeka (26), co-founder of the project.
The garden sprouted its first seedlings in September 2019 and provides vegetables to between 20 to 50 households, depending on the size of the harvest.
Once the veggies are harvested, the youngsters make their way through the streets of Orlando to distribute it to needy households.
Before the dumping site was turned into a garden, Kubeka had other plans with the property. He wanted to use the dumping site as an extension of his snack bar business, which he started in 2018.
Kubeka says things, however, changed when he became more aware of the need in his community. Recently, Shoprite came their aid with bags full of vegetable seeds and other inputs which the youngsters put to good use.
Gift of community service
Instead of sowing the seeds on their dedicated garden plot, they opted to create new gardens in the backyards of people in the area. “There wasn’t space on our plot for more plants, so we used this donation to plant gardens at homes we normally give our produce to,” explains Kubeka.
This has also, partly, relieved the group of another pressing issue. According to Kubeka, people in the community continue to use the area right next to them as a dumping site.
“They are not helping us to keep the space clean and have no regard for what we are trying to do. This is the main challenge for us.”
Another problem, he says, is that the area is not enclosed, so people tend to walk there, sometimes at night.
Despite this, they continue to dream about enlarging their community project. Already Kubeka is working on a plan to extend the garden.
“We want to play a bigger part in food security and feed as many people as possible. Our main goal is to continue assisting unemployed people who are unable to work due to various reasons,” he says.
Their big dream is to also establish a farming enterprise. “We’re working on the plan to secure funding for our farm, but until then we’ll keep on tending the garden here and providing for the most vulnerable in our community.”