A highlight of the year for Mhani Gingi Social Entrepreneurial Network was a visit of the Honourable Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, and an entourage of officials to the Mhani Gingi Social Entrepreneurial Centre of Excellence on the day of the Minister’s Budget Vote on 11 July 2019.  The entourage included MECs for Social Development, a representative from the United Nations, and officials from the Department of Social Development.  The Honourable Minister Zulu identified Mhani Gingi for the site visit to celebrate and showcase the sustainable livelihoods approach practised by Mhani Gingi because sustainable livelihoods formed the theme of the Minister’s Budget Speech.

The dignitaries toured Mhani Gingi’s facilities at the Social Entrepreneurial Centre of Excellence, which include the Mhani Gingi Organic Herb and Vegetable Seedling Nursery and the Restoring Dignity Liquid Soap Producing Enterprise project for survivors of domestic violence.  There are also three growing tunnels, a hot house for propagation, a ground vegetable garden, herb cultivation, and a vertical garden which enables people in wheelchairs to participate in urban agriculture.

The Honourable Minister’s Budget Vote Speech delivered in the National Parliament outlined her department’s plans and budget allocations for the year.  In her Budget Speech delivered the following week, on 25 July, the Honourable Minister explained the theme, ‘Working Together to Empower Communities for Sustainable Livelihoods’.

‘Sustainable livelihoods’ approach

“Sustainable livelihoods is about creating a conducive environment for individuals, families and communities to enhance their capabilities and sustain themselves now and in the future. This will be fully achieved when every South African is able to reach their full potential,” she said.

Founding Director of Mhani Gingi, Lillian Masebenza, commented after the visit:  “The Honourable Minister Zulu’s visit was very special for us because it was validation of Mhani Gingi’s Sustainable Livelihood approach, which is rooted not only in our National Development Plan but also in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Also, her visit was the first of two ministerial visits to Mhani Gingi in one year.

“During her visit the Honourable Minister praised the work that Mhani Gini is doing amongst vulnerable groups.  She also praised the groups themselves – the Persons with Physical Disabilities (PWDs) from Uitsig Community; Blouvlei School for Learners with Special Needs (LSN) in Retreat; and women survivors of abuse – for taking responsibility in restoring their dignity. Because of this accolade, Mhani Gingi has been linked with the Agency for Social Development, whom we are now supplying with vegetables and herbs,” Masebenza said.

“We also have an opportunity to employ six beneficiaries at the Mhani Gingi Social Entrepreneurial Centre of Excellence, via the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), facilitated by the Department of Social Development.  We teach them propagation skills, how to start and maintain a vegetable garden, and correct healthy plant-based cooking. We are not only promoting a healthy lifestyle by helping to prevent diseases of affluence in the vulnerable communities, but also addressing the problem of unemployment,” she said.

 Vulnerable communities

Mhani Gingi promotes sustainable livelihoods for vulnerable groups within poverty-stricken communities of the Cape Flats, including women and children, youth at risk at the Goodwood facility of the Department of Correctional Services, and people with disabilities.  As a result of lack of suitable space from which to operate, the organisation is presently situated on a piece of unused land at the premises of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children in Athlone, Cape Town.

The Mhani Gingi Social Entrepreneurial Centre of Excellence also showcases Mhani Gingi’s innovations to promote inclusivity for physically disabled people in gardening.