Residents taught urban gardening skills

Participants of a home gardening project at the Young Men's Christian Association base in Stramdfontein.

Lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes, garlic, chillies and beetroot are just a few vegetables residents along Camp Road, in Strandfontein, have been harvesting since they started working with the soil in November.

Forty families, residents and neighbours of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) base in Camp Road, Strandfontein, were taught urban gardening techniques and given the tools to start household and community food gardens, in an effort to support food security in the province.

This stretch of road is home to residents of Masincedane informal settlement, City Mission informal settlement and squatters who had nothing or very little to eat until the gardening programme was introduced.

Yvonne Perries, 47, who has a creche with 15 pupils, said the garden has helped her feed them thrice a day. Her household includes her husband, their five children, three foster children and her husband’s niece.

“I can feed all of the creche children and ensure that they at least have something in their tummies,” she said.

Eva Smith, 48, who lives in Masincedane informal settlement, said her garden brought her great joy and peace.

“It makes me feel very good. It gives me something to do and I can see God’s hand over the garden – how He makes things grow,” she said.

Ms Smith said it is not just her garden but also that of her neighbours, who require the odd vegetable.

Maggie Villet, who runs a soup kitchen in the area, said the garden has allowed them to exchange ingredients with donors and use the money for items other than vegetables.

She said it was not just about handing out food but helping residents to be self-sufficient.

Ms Villet and project co-ordinator, Berenice Roman, agreed that the gardens had to be self-sustainable and that the youth could be motivated to get involved and grow their skills.

Ms Roman said they would be working alongside anyone who is prepared to help the community.

Mpume Zama, YMCA’s national Youth (Y-) Justice programme manager, said the gardening programme was pivotal to help youth in conflict with the law, prevent teen-pregnancy and limit the dependency on hand outs.

Adolf Smith and Ms Villet have also started a Y-Justice drilling squad, where they teach children, aged between 13 and 17, discipline and life skills to make good, confident decisions.

He said it was critical for youth to be skilled and understand their potential to do good and be of benefit to the rest of the community.

Johnathan Jonkers, from South African Youth Adventures (SAYA) based at Blue Waters Resort, said some of their participants had also completed a gardening programme and that they were looking forward to reaping the rewards of their winter crops.

According to the Western Cape Department of Agriculture, these gardens provide work in the community; serve as a source of financial income; provide access to healthy food in the form of fresh vegetables; provide access to nutritional meals; food security; and a greener alternative, to limit the carbon footprint in communities.