Organic farmer helps set up veg gardens in townships
It’s better to teach a man how to fish than to feed a man with fish for a day.
That’s the belief of an organic gardener who has launched an initiative to teach people how to create gardens instead of living off food parcels.
Trevin van der Walt has been in the farming industry for more than 15 years and previously partnered with Nelson Mandela University to teach students about gardening.
Now he has decided to spread his knowledge and teach township dwellers about developing organic vegetable gardens.
“I have been building vegetable gardens and tunnels for the past 15 years and think the time is now right to get people to start growing their own food,” he said.
Van der Walt said infrastructure, guidance and training were necessary for the development of the gardens to make sure they were successful and sustainable.
He said he was funded by various stakeholders including the university to set up gardens and tunnels.
“I had noticed over the years the government giving people food parcels, even now with the current situation of lockdown. The reality is the food parcels won’t last.
“People need a long-lasting solution and gardening is the first step.
“In some areas of the Bay I have helped set up gardens for residents who have now used the veg to supply to charity homes that have soup kitchens for the needy.
“With this initiative, it’s a co-operative that consists of a number of people from an area.
“I build the tunnel garden and plant different vegetables and leave it up to them to sustain it.
“Then they can decide what to do with the crops, either sell them or feed their families,” he said.
Patrick Bam, 56, and Lubabalo Mkiva, 27, whom Van der Walt helped develop a garden in Kwazakhele, said they had benefited greatly.
Mkiva said 36 households had also been motivated to start their own gardens at home and plant different crops.
“We sell the vegetables to our community. We don’t make much money but then it also helps and motivates people to start eating healthily,” he said.
He said gardening needed patience and also had challenges in areas where the crime rate was high.
“Because we had fenced the garden we had issues with crime with people stealing the fence. But then we have taken ownership to watch over our garden and also involved the community as it’s something we all can benefit from, so we need everyone’s help to make it a success,” he said.
Bam and Mkiva said it was also a job opportunity as there was a high rate of unemployment in the townships.
“We also hire people to sell the veg and to maintain the gardens. It’s not much but it’s enough to put food on the table,” the pair said.
They said their mission was to appeal to the municipality to use open land and build more veg etable gardens so they could eventually supply large retailers.