Empowering youth with green fingers

Operations manager at Seed, Janet Cronje, and seed banker, Tania Jacobs, with a resilience pack.

Seed, a permaculture project based at Rocklands Primary School, is calling on unemployed youth who are passionate about growing the green economy to apply for training, which will take place at the Rocklands Urban Abundance Centre during August.

Operations manager at Seed, Janet Cronje, said the organisation was 16 years old and had been based at Rocklands Primary School since its inception.

“We run a range of different projects which includes our enterprise development project which is geared toward organic seed saving.

“We grow organic vegetables and the purpose is to grow organic seeds and later sell them,” she said.

“At the moment we are putting together resilience packs comprising kale, which we are trying to introduce into the community because it has loads of beneficial nutrients; leeks for soup; lettuce, spring onion, chard, parsley, coriander, marigolds and soup celery.”

The plants in the pack, were planted in May last year and cost R40.

Ms Cronje said they also had a food freedom network, started in 2012, which comprises home gardens scattered across Mitchell’s Plain.

“The number of home gardens fluctuate. When we were at our highest number we had over 200 gardens,” said Ms Cronje. “People, however, tend to garden less during winter.”

Ms Cronje said Seed was aiding food security in Mitchell’s Plain by establishing the home gardens and said whether it be in a container or in the ground, people should take up the challenge to plant to ensure that their families are fed.

Seed is currently preparing for its six-month course.

“We take on 25 unemployed youth with a valid matric certificate from the area and surrounds and put them through a three-week, six days a week accredited permaculture training course where they learn about the different plant systems. The rest of the course is made up of five different modules and the last module is enterprise development.”

Ms Cronje said they teach the students to recognise a gap in the market based on the training they receive at Seed. “We eventually hope to help them set up their own enterprises by the end of the training.”

She said while they had not run the course last year, this year they had partnered with the provincial Department of Economic Development and Tourism to offer the course.

“They are coming to the party by providing stipends toward the travel costs and other costs the students might incur,” said Ms Cronje.

Seed had advertised for candidates to take part, she said, and their second outdoor classroom was about to be finished.

“We are hoping they are going to be done building it by the end of July as training starts during mid-August.”

On the issue of raising regular funding to keep their organisation afloat, she said: “We have had issues with funding over the last two years because environmental issues don’t always stay top of mind for funders.

“Funders come and go as they focus on different things depending on the trend.”

“We are seeing funding coming back to us. We are still here and we are here to stay. Primarily our funders range from big corporates, individual funders to family trusts.”

Ms Cronje urged budding gardeners to “just start” honing their green fingers.

“It doesn’t matter if you plant in a little yoghurt container. Now is a good time to plant winter crop like the ones in the resilience packs. I encourage people to inter-plant which works as a good insect deterrent and encourages variety in one’s diet.”

Tania Jacobs of Strandfontein has worked at Seed since 2013 and is in charge of the natural seed social enterprise. “Starting community seed gardens allows communities to access organic seeds. Hybrid seeds are unstable so it’s best to use organic seeds as they are the foundations of food security.”

Alex Kruger, one of the top permaculturists in the country, said they were looking for committed youth to apply for the applied permaculture training course which would help “counter youth unemployment, lessen the effects of climate change and build the green economy”.

Ms Jacobs said her life had been transformed since she started working at Seed. “I was working as an office manager before I came here and my soul was dying. Initially I (started) Cycling Clothing; a personal project of mine and then I came here. I put the intention of what I wanted out into the universe and my dream manifested.

“I want to tell the youth that they can create multiple livelihoods for themselves. We don’t have to be locked into one identity. I see myself as an earth regenerator,” she said.

On Saturday July 1, Seed will be selling compost to the community from 9am until noon. Email admin@seed.org.za or call 021 391 5316 for more information.