City lobbies for food garden support

The City’s Social Development and Early Childhood Development Directorate is appealing to residents to join the quest for poverty alleviation through food production.

The key focus of the Directorate’s Poverty Alleviation Programme is helping to establish and nurture community food gardens by providing training, materials and support to such initiatives in communities in need. Since the first roll-out of the food garden support programme in the 2013/14 financial year, the Directorate has lent support to 196 community food gardens – 28 of them at City-owned Early Childhood Development centres.

The gardens were identified with the assistance of ward councillors, with the City providing gardening equipment, seedlings and training, and making available workers via the Expanded Public Works Programme to help tend the gardens. ‘We have made decent progress in helping to establish food gardens for the benefit of the surrounding communities, but we have a long way to go.

We’ve seen the success stories where some food gardens are feeding the indigent in their communities or even selling produce to their neighbours, but there are challenges like a lack of ownership or inability by some to see the benefits of investing their time and effort into a garden. We’ve also had our fair share of vandalism to contend with, which is demoralising but certainly not enough to throw us off course,’ says the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Social Development and Early Childhood Development, Councillor Suzette Little.

To date, more than 300 community members have been skilled in soil preparation, growing crops, pest control, general gardening techniques, handling gardening equipment, marketing produce and networking. Considering that residents who are involved in community gardens support families and sell some of their produce, thousands of people have benefitted from vegetables produced by community gardens, including the hundreds of children attending Early Childhood

Development centres operated from City-owned premises. Plans are in the pipeline for a feasibility study in the 2016/17 financial year about how the poverty alleviation programme can support small-scale livestock farmers. ‘We are always asked how people can assist those less fortunate. Given the on-going drought and other factors that have seen food prices skyrocketing, I want to challenge churches and other social organisations, but also individuals, to start food gardens with or for the benefit of the underprivileged.

These gardens are a sustainable way of giving people a hand up and making a real difference in their lives, simply by converting a small patch in your backyard or churchyard and investing time and effort. ‘Government cannot solve all of society’s challenges on its own; we have to work together to make a difference. So I appeal to Capetonians across race and class barriers to literally get their hands dirty. We need to get beyond the idea that food gardens are only for the poor by the poor. They can and should be everyone’s business.

The City will continue expanding its food garden project, but we can reach so many people so much sooner if we work together,’ says Councillor Little.