The establishment of a food garden at Isikhokelo Primary school in Khayelitsha has sparked a small vegetable gardening revolution in the township.
Founder of the Ikhaya Food Garden at Isikhokelo Primary, Xolisa Banga, said he approached the school to plant vegetables on a portion of their property in 2013 in order to help feed the children and educate the community about healthy eating.
As a result, there are now more than 150 people growing vegetables in their backyards in Khayelitsha.
Banga said the Ikhaya garden provides for the school’s feeding scheme so that learners from poor households receive something to eat, and it has inspired residents to grow their own food.
“We share the food with the school and also give vegetables to the learners who work in the garden as a token of appreciation and so that they are also able to put food on the table,” said Banga.
With a lack of environmental awareness in the area and braai stalls and taverns on almost every street corner; children believe their food comes from the shelf rather than the soil.
As part of an environmental education drive, he works with learners from a number of primary schools in Khayelitsha who come spend some time at the Ikhaya garden to learn about gardening, nutrition and the environment.
He has even travelled to Matatiele in the Eastern Cape to teach people about growing their own vegetables, and in October a team of volunteers from the Italian cultural society, Società Dante Alighieri, helped clear a garden and plant indigenous wild food beds at Isikhokhelo Primary as part of an event called Impilo Yabantu.
He says the garden teaches urban youth about the importance of a green environment and has ignited a passion for farming among many learners and the wider community.
As a result, Banga now assists residents to establish their own veggie gardens and is busy raising funds in order to start a second community garden on the grounds of the Site C library.
To make money, Ikhaya sells fresh produce at events in the township.
Ikhaya also runs an initiative called Disco Soup which involves approaching farmers and collecting produce that does not suit market requirements. The produce, which would otherwise be discarded, is used to cook nutritious soup which they dish up to children in Site C.
“The only challenge we have is water (for watering the gardens) and we wish that the City of Cape Town would help pay for the water,’’ said Banga.
Isikhokelo learner Chumisa Ntsebenzo said besides learning about growing vegetables and the environment, the project sometimes raises funds to take the children to visit places such as Robben Island and Table Mountain.
Ntsebenzo said Banga also checks their books to see how they are doing at school. He said now he has his own garden growing at home thanks to skills learnt at the Ikhaya food garden.
Lonwabo Mfenguza is one of the people who was inspired by Banga to start his own organisation called Ekasi Project Green at Vuzamanzi Primary School in Site C.
Isikhokele Primary principal Yoliswa Qoboyi said she was happy the Ikhaya garden exists at the school as it has taught learners to plant food at home and eat good organic food, as well as learn about the need to save water. Qoboyi said the project also contributes in terms of providing food for the children . “It helps us a lot,’’ she said.
Nompumelolo Matshoba, who suffers from diabetes said she works at Ikhaya three days a weekend and now has her own garden from which she can harvest vegetables rather than buying them from the shop.
Matshoba says she also sells her surplus vegetables to make some extra money.