Champion gardeners at Uitsig Community on the Cape Flats show how urban agriculture can be done

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A GROUP of 24 gardeners at Uitsig Community in Uitsig on the Cape Flats have created a thriving food garden that is a shining example of what can be achieved.  It took a year for the overgrown site to be cleared to make space for vegetable and herb cultivation.  Yet by January 2017, within 12 months, a food garden had been created that delivered its first harvest – a crop of healthy red tomatoes that were shared with the school.

 The vegetable garden that is situated at Uitsig Primary School continues to produce an abundance of vegetables for harvest – onions, spinach, potatoes, carrots, gem squash, salad greens, herbs and more – despite the drought.  The team of gardeners at Uitsig Community also tend a food garden at the Uitsig Community Centre twice a week.  Enough produce is harvested for the gardeners’ own consumption as well to share with the community and school kitchen, and to sell at markets.

Peter Sampson (left) and Gavin Jansen with produce fresh from the garden.

The community garden tended by this group of people with disabilities (PWDs) at Uitsig Community is among 25 community gardens in the greater Cape Town area that are managed by Mhani Gingi Social Entrepreneurial Network.  They include a vertical garden at Langa Cheshire Home for Adults situated in Langa and a food garden at Blouvlei School for Learners with Special Needs in Retreat. 

 “It always seems impossible until it’s done”

It was “quite a challenge” for a group of people with various disabilities, some of whom are in wheelchairs or on crutches, to clear the overgrown site at Uitsig Primary area to make space for food cultivation, according to the team leader, Vanessa Baadjies.

 Yet the large vegetable garden has “showed us any things can be done if you are committed and strong” maintains Baadjies.  Surplus produce is sold at markets like the Market Day at Pick n Pay Office Park in Kenilworth and vegetables have been supplied to the Department of Agriculture.  The harvest is also shared with the school and with the community of Uitsig.

The Uitsig Community gardeners also make crafts, such as baskets, and do pottery.  They are studying towards a learnership in a National Qualifications Framework Level 4 qualification to run a construction business, according to Baadjies.  They were honoured when the recent graduation ceremony where they obtained certificates for six months of training on how to handle their finances was attended by the former Minister of Higher Education, Dr. Blade Nzimande.

Peter Sampson, the group’s star sportsman, won a gold medal in the 10 km race at the Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge OCC Race athletics in George last year.  Sampson took up bricklaying recently and is laying pathways in the garden that are “wheelchair friendly”.

The gardening team at Uitsig Community.

Inclusivity for people with disabilities (PWDs)

“Mhani Gingi is proud of the activities of its Flagship Programme to include people with disabilities innovatively in urban agriculture.  An example is the vertical garden that we created at the Langa Cheshire Home for Adults. With more open space to allow wheelchair movement and wall space at our new location at Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children, we plan to expand on this inclusive initiative,” said Lillian Masebenza, Founding Director of Mhani Gingi Social Entrepreneurial Network.

The Uitsig Community gardeners are members of Mandla Sport 4 Change, which was set up by the Netherlands-based organisation, Respo International: The Joy of Movement.  The organisation trained Baadjies 10 years ago and she began working with the Uitsig Community group five years ago.  Baadjies says that the changes that she has witnessed since then in the lives of people who had little opportunity in life have exceeded her expectations.

A game-changer”

Some families in Uitsig who had no breadwinners now receive food and income because a family member is working in the food garden, she said.  “It’s a game-changer” says Baadjies.  “It’s a life-changer because they realise they needn’t sit at home.”

A daily stipend provided from the Western Province Department of Social Development enables the gardeners to maintain themselves and their families.

The site before it was cleared for gardening.

Uitsig in the Cape metropole ranks among the highest in the world for tuberculosis (TB) infection and poverty, unemployment, gang activity and other social challenges occur.  Mhani Gingi donates vegetable and herbs seedlings from the Mhani Gingi Organic Vegetable and Herb Seedling Nursery situated in Athlone to the food garden.  Mhani Gingi also provides training and expertise.

A source of hope

Produce from the vegetable garden at Uitsig Primary School and Uitsig Community Centre is shared among the school, community and old aged homes. “The food garden helps old age people to have something to eat before taking their medication; some of the old people (do) not have a source of income or decent income to buy healthy food to eat before taking their medication,” said Tabisa Mahlathi, Co-Ordinator of Mhani Gingi’s Flagship Programme.

“The community garden has now become their source of hope to bring food to their table,” Mahlathi said.

Besides the athletics (wheelchair racing) and craft-making and pottery activities of the 24 gardeners at Uitsig Community, Mhani Gingi has donated a sewing machine to initiate a sewing project.

Food kitchen provides access to healthy nutrition

Harvest from the garden.

“We have also started a community kitchen at Uitsig civic centre for everyone around the community to have access to nutritional food,” Mahlathi explains.  There is a growing realisation that even when food is available in supermarkets, it may not be accessible to every household, she said.

“A large portion of people in disadvantaged communities do not have access to acquire sufficient food quality to have all of its family members meet their nutritional requirements and lead productive lives. As the Mhani Gingi Flagship Programme we are working together with the communities, churches, early learning centres, old age homes, prisoners, and disabled homes (in) different communities in the Western Cape Province, creating food gardening to help them bridge the gap between the rich and the poor.

“The food gardening in the communities helps households to have access to organically propagated vegetables,” she said.  The Flagship Programme, which houses Mhani Gingi’s environmental activities, thus helps to provide access to healthy nutrition and to boost food security among disadvantaged communities.  The community gardeners earn a stipend which is obtained through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) of the National Department of Public Works and the Department of Social Development in the Western Cape Province.

The Flagship Programme activities are funded by support from Ackerman Pick n Pay Family Foundation, General Mills through United Way Worldwide, the Department of Social Development; the National Department of Public Works through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), City of Cape Town, and others.

Now the Mandla Sport 4 Change champions are now looking forward to a holiday together. After saving all last year, they will travel to George in February 2018 to participate in the Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge OCC Race.  Some of them have never been outside of their suburb, let alone travelled further afield, or taken a holiday, said Baatjies.

 

Soap-making enterprise empowers abused women

Mhani Gingi Social Entrepreneurial Network and the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children in Cape Town have partnered to launch a unique project funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to empower abused women with entrepreneurial skills. This Dutch Soap Making and Training Hub Project was launched in September 2016 and is aimed at building financial independence through the establishment of a soap manufacturing social enterprise.

Mhani Gingi celebrates Mandela Day

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Mhani Gingi and Beating Heart SA deliver winter warmth and support for Mandela Day 2016

Nocawe Mdoda, Principal of Ikhayalethu Educare, took delivery of donations from many individual Capetonians to improve her educare facility and received donations from Beating Heart SA to support the initiative Mdoda has planned for youth of Khayelitsha in honour of Mandela Day 2016. Mdoda’s Mandela Day event to take place on 16 July 2016 aims to inspire a group of 20 young people with hope for the future and to encourage them to avoid substance abuse.  Mdoda’s supporters from her community in Khayelitsha, shown with her in the image above, wished to remain anonymous.

Meanwhile, in June about three hundred children benefited when Mhani Gingi Social Entrepreneurial Network and Christy Haefele, ­­Founder and Director of Beating Heart SA­­, delivered warm scarves, caps, leggings and gloves to five educare facilities in the greater Philippi area of Cape Town, to spread winter warmth and love.  Each of the items was hand-made with love in every stitch.

A total of 273 children at Enkuthazweni Educare, Stars of Tomorrow Educare, Siyamthanda Educare, Lindisiwe Educare and Lidinga Educare received the warm winter clothing.  In addition, left-over scarves and baby jerseys were distributed to the parents of smaller children.

Mhani Gingi Social Entrepreneurial Network, in collaboration with AfriCAN Charity, has been training Early Childhood Development (ECD) principals and practitioners, including Mdoda, from 15 community educare facilities in Khayelitsha, Langa and Philippi East townships of Cape Town since May 2015.

Beating Heart SA, among initiatives, acts as a drop-off­ centre collecting clothing, books and toys whi­ch are then distributed to vari­ous safe houses, schools and othe­r non-profit organisations.  Haefele is currently a Schwarzkopf Professional Mrs SA 2016 Finalist

Nocawe Mdoda – Mandela Day

Three organisations, African Change, Lighton Education and Mhani Gingi Social 
Entrepreneurial Network, in partnership, 20150718_124158 
provided a series of 6 workshops to Early Childhood Development practitioners located in the Philippi area. These workshops included the value of using waste in the ECD centres and how skills, concepts and activities could be developed to deliver quality education through the use of recyclable items.

One passionate young teacher, Nocawe Mdoda, embraced this concept, and although she does not yet have her own ECD, chose to spend Mandela Day providing young children in her immediate community with an ECD made up purely of waste. This encouraged the young children to view waste through different “glasses” , encouraged parents to use waste at home to enhance the learning experience of their young children and to encourage a clean environment.

With no structure within which to set up an ECD, she used the outside area of her parents’ home in Khayelitsha. Good weather was a definite prerequisite for this and this is what Nocawe got! This inspirational young lady had a team of learners, ranging from grades 8 – 10, who assisted her in her preparations. They, too, were wearing “waste”. These learners gave their school holidays to paying it forward to the younger community members.

“A wonderful afternoon was achieved by all, where young and old gathered to celebrate the life of Madiba, who said ‘education is the greatest weapon anyone can
use to change the world.’ Nocawe, for being that change, we commend you. Thank you for inspiring us all! Stand tall!!” said Joan Wright, Trustee of Mhani Gingi and a committed educator who helped train the ECD practitioners.

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Lillian is invited to speak in Women’s Parliament

On the 9th of August 1956, 20 000 brave women marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest  against the pass laws that was introduced under the Apartheid system. This march was one of the biggest demontrations in the history of South Africa and the National Women’s Day is celebrated yearly in memory of these strong women.

On this occasion Lillian is invited to the national Parliament as a guestspeaker on August 21-23. The theme for the event is “Working together to enhance Women’s empowerment through skills development and sustainable jobs”. They were 20 000 women marching in 1956 –  imagine our opportunities and what we can achieve togehter in today’s society!