Growing solution

Premier Helen Zille, joined by Lentegeur Hospital patient and Brian Joffin of the Spring Foundation, tours the garden.

Over the past five years the Market Garden initiative at Lentegeur Hospital has expanded, to 1.2 hectares of fresh vegetables and beautiful flowers.

The agricultural project, a partnership between The Spring Foundation, an NGO, and the hospital, helps patients recover.

When Premier Helen Zille visited the psychiatric care project on Tuesday April 25, she said even though treatment was different at psychiatric hospitals, the end goal remained the same.

“Psychiatric hospitals focus on assisting patients with developing emotional, social and intellectual skills required to live, learn and work in the community with the least amount of professional support.

“In order to support this goal, The Spring Foundation has launched projects dedicated to empowering persons with mental illness at Lentegeur Hospital, with the intention of supporting their reintegration back into their communities,” Ms Zille said.

Last year, Ms Zille, through the South African Urban Food and Farming Trust, sponsored R744 900 to help develop the initiative. Other sponsors included Janssen Pharmaceutica and The Rupert Foundation.

Dr John Parker, a psychiatrist at Lentegeur Hospital and director of The Spring Foundation, said the garden was just one of the hospital’s psychosocial rehabilitation initiatives. These activities are overseen by the occupational therapy (OT) department and focus on promoting personal recovery, successful community integration and satisfactory quality of life for patients.

“Psychosocial rehabilitation is a key element of recovery and returning to living a meaningful life in the community – which is essential for persons with mental illness. The Market Garden is a form of ‘green therapy’, which aims to improve mental and physical wellbeing through doing outdoor activities in nature,” said Dr Parker.

The Spring Foundation employs two farmers who teach patients to grow, harvest and sustain the garden. Twenty patients are part of the programme and 80 have benefited from it started in 2012.

“In the future, we would like to encourage and equip discharged patients to start their own gardens in their communities. This will not only benefit the patient, but his or her community as well, as food insecurity is a concern for many,” said Dr Parker.

Mariska Mabee, spokesperson for The Spring Foundation, said the patients were eager and keen to work on the project.

“They are enthusiastic, because they can see how their work has grown and developed. We are very proud of them because they put a lot of effort into the project,” she said.

Money made from selling the garden’s produce is ploughed back into it.

“We have this project and other projects, and would like volunteers to assist us, so we are calling on the community,” said Ms Mabee.

Ward councillor Goawa Timm said it was a “brilliant” project which could be adopted by the rest of the community. “Picture this in our community, it would be great, residents growing their own vegetables such as parsley, coriander and making a pot of food with the items,” she said.

Ms Timm added that she would help to get residents involved in the project.

Call The Spring Foundation at 021 392 1747 or 073 669 1799 or email mariska@mitchellsplainalive.com