Southeast of central Cape Town, South Africa is a large, flat swath of land known as the Cape Flats. The area is home to around 4 million people and unemployment is around 40 percent. As many as 25 percent of students in the Cape Flats are undernourished.
SEED is working with students and teachers to establish permaculture food gardens in 21 Cape Flats schools. (Photo credit: Matt Styslinger)
South African non-profit organization School’s Environmental Education and Development (SEED) has established its Organic Classroom Programme in 21 Cape Flat schools. The project aims to improve food security in the Cape Flats by engaging students in environmental sustainability and teaching them how to practice permaculture—a holistic agriculture system that mimics relationships found in nature. SEED’s Organic Classroom Programme is a winner of the 2010 Sustainability Awards presented by Impumelelo—an independent awards program for social innovations in South Africa.
“Permaculture looks at ecological habitats and applies them to human habitats,” says SEED Permaculture Designer, Alex Kruger. Kruger says that sustainable food gardening is a starting place for students to learn about larger environmental sustainability issues. “It addresses an immediate need. And it also brings biodiversity back into these schools, which are quite barren.”
Around 1 million people in South Africa—the majority of whom are recent arrivals from the former apartheid homelands, Transkei and Ciskei— live in the shacks that make up Khayelitsha, Nyanga and the area surrounding the Cape Flats outside Cape Town. Just under half, or 40 percent, of the population is unemployed, while the rest barely earn enough income to feed their families.
While Abalimi Bezekhaya is bringing food and wild flora into the townships, it is also helping the townships to bring fresh produce into the city. (Photo credit: harounkola.com)
In Xhosa, the most common language found in the area, the word abalimi means “the planters”. Through partnerships with local grassroots organizations, the aptly named, Abalimi Bezekhaya, a non-profit organization working with the people living in these informal settlements, is helping to create a community of planters who can feed the township.
Abalimi Bezekhaya is helping to transform townships into food—and income—generating green spaces in order to alleviate poverty and to protect the fragile surrounding ecosystem. Providing training and materials, Abalimi Bezekhaya helps people to turn school yards and empty plots of land into gardens. Each gardens is run by 6 to 8 farmers who, with support and time, are soon able to produce enough food to feed their families. Abalimi Bezekhaya encourages community members to plant indigenous trees and other flora in the township streets to create shade and increase awareness of the local plant life, much of which is endangered due to urban sprawl.
But while Abalimi Bezekhaya is bringing food and wild flora into the townships, it is also helping the townships to bring fresh produce into the city.
For families in Cape Town, HoH means fresh vegetables instead of the older, and often imported, produce at the grocery store. But for families of the farmers working with Hope of Harvest, it means much more. “To grow these vegetables here for me, first, is a life,” said Christina Kaba, a farmer working with HoH in a video about the project. “Second, is how you can give to your family without asking anyone for a donation for money or food. Here you are making money, you are making food.”