Started in 1998 by the Damane family in Matatiele, Eastern Cape, the Ntantaise Food Security Project has now grown into a community garden project, with close to 30 members. Through World Vision’s intervention, the 52 hectare land project has become a significant source of food and income for community members, who would not otherwise be able to produce their own food. A sentiment recently echoed by the Department of Agriculture during a flea market, where the project was awarded for its excellent vegetable produce.
Depending on season, some of the garden fresh produce includes turnips, cabbages, beans, pumpkin, beetroot, etc. The community members who work in the garden acknowledge the positive difference the garden has brought in the area. “Gardening involves physical activity so it helps both elderly and young improve their physical fitness and this decreases susceptibility to illnesses and overall reduces the burden on the health care system, which in any case is almost non-existent in our location”, noted a community member. Studies show the following health benefits to be associated with involvement in community gardening: strengthened immunity, reduced rates of asthma, decreased stress, increased overall sense of well-being and reduced risk of childhood lead poisoning.
As a child-focused organisation, World Vision, through Umzimvubu Area Development Programme (ADP), has boosted the project to ensure it becomes a success. To meet the challenge of water scarcity in this dry area, World Vision purchased a much needed water pump machine (at a cost of more than R30 000) and provided garden tools and seeds to the project.
Recently, the community garden members walked away with a trophy during a provincial flea market, awarded as number one vegetable producers exhibiting. “The flea market was a breakthrough for us, we came back with a good profit from selling the vegetables on the flea market and made contacts with some decision-makers in the retail sector”, said one of the project founders, Nokuzola Damane. Women who work in the garden do not get paid, but they are able to provide a healthy plate of food for their families.
The children join their parents in the garden after school, a practice encouraged by World Vision. “Researchers will tell you that learning to grow plants is mentally stimulating and adds to the children’s wealth of knowledge and expertise. It also teaches them to think sustainability and use of long-term problem-solving skills rather than relying on quick-fix, short-term solutions”, said Umzimvubu ADP manager, James Mboto.
The project has become more of a community building initiative as it has increased the sense of ownership, stewardship, fostering the development of community identity and spirit.
- Olwetu Gwanya is the communications officer at World Vision South Africa.