Mhani Gingi launches new gardening projects at shelters for women to help survivors of gender-based violence

Community beneficiaries planting vegetable seedlings at the new food garden established by Mhani Gingi at LEAP Science and Maths School in Langa in December 2020. The gardeners received training in gardening skills from Nomawabo Damsese of Mhani Gingi Nursery. UPDATED 01 APRIL 2021

Mhani Gingi Social Entrepreneurial Network has launched new food security and skills development initiatives at shelters for women in Cape Town to empower survivors of gender-based violence with entrepreneurial skills and the means to rebuild their lives.  The four new food garden projects announced during the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children include a further development for five women at the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children in Athlone and a project with five beneficiaries at the Victory Outreach Christian Recovery Home in Hanover Park.

Mhani Gingi is a registered non-profit organisation committed to helping vulnerable groups in society make sustainable livelihoods for themselves, in order to combat chronic poverty and hunger.   This is achieved through community gardening projects and urban agriculture as well as through social enterprises.

Space cleared at Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children in November 2020 for a food garden.

The further vegetable garden established in November 2020 at the Saartjie Baartman Centre, where the Mhani Gingi Centre of Social Entrepreneurial Excellence is situated, and the new collaborative partnership formed with VOCRH, will provide women who are survivors of domestic violence or recovering from substance abuse with gardening and food production skills.  The projects will also generate income for the beneficiaries and provide food for consumption that will supply the respective shelter kitchens.

The women beneficiaries tending vegetable seedlings planted on the site at Saartjie Baartman Centre a month later.

Another two new community food gardens are currently being established under Mhani Gingi’s supervision, on an 8m X 4m site at Touching All Generations (TAG) centre in Manenberg and on a 10m X 8m plot at a LEAP Science and Maths School project in Langa.  These initiatives will empower another nine beneficiaries.

Mhani Gingi has been identified by the Department of Social Development in the Western Cape Province and the Department of Environmental Affairs to be an implementing agent of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) of the Department of Labour. This will provide stipends for the beneficiaries.

Lillian Masebenza, Founding Director of Mhani Gingi, said that the new projects are about “doing something, rather than just talking” about the pandemic of violence against women and children in the country and other challenges facing vulnerable groups in our communities.   Many women who sought protection at shelters had to go back to the same conditions and face the same violent perpetrators, Masebenza said. They needed to be equipped with skills, “not just empowered emotionally, but also economically,” in order to improve their situations and to escape from abusive circumstances, she said.

When faced with a dire situation or problem, Mhani Gingi’s approach was to ask “Well, what can we do about the situation?” Masebenza emphasised.

The ground cleared for the Victory Outreach Christian Recovery Vegetable Garden.

In his address to the nation on 17 June 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa referred to the increase in gender-based violence and femicide facing women and children as a second pandemic affecting the country.  The President read out the names of 21 women and children who were raped and murdered in the country in the two weeks prior to the speech.  According to Times Live, Social Policy Network data showed that the first three weeks of the lockdown saw more than 120 000 women contacting the government GBV and femicide command centre.   In Tshwane alone, the figure climbed by mid-April to between  500 and 1 000 calls per day to the centre.  Meanwhile, the Vodacom helpline experienced a 65% increase in calls from homebound women and children after lockdown began, the Times Live report said.

 ‘Food insecurity drives GBV in South Africa’

Bernadine Bachar, Director of the Saartjie Baartman Centre and head of the National Shelter Movement of South Africa, commented on the new garden project:  “We, at the Saartjie Baartman Centre, are very excited about this collaboration – food insecurity drives GBV in South Africa and community-based responses to both are crucial in assisting survivors and their children.”

The new gardening projects mark another phase in development of the Mhani Gingi Centre of Social Entrepreneurial Excellence which relocated to the Saartjie Baartman Centre site in 2017.  The Centre of Social Entrepreneurial Excellence showcases Mhani Gingi’s innovations to include people with disabilities in urban agriculture and houses the ‘Restoring Dignity’ Liquid Soap-Producing Enterprise project employing women survivors of domestic violence.

 VOCRH Vegetable Garden project

The five beneficiaries Mhani Gingi will work with in the skills development and sustainability project at VOCRH are women and youth who are recovering from substance abuse and related challenges.  The initiative will result in the establishment of the VOCRH Vegetable Garden by March 2021.

Masebenza referred to the VOCRH as “an amazing programme of restoring dignity and hope” to individuals in need.  “At Mhani Gingi we welcome collaborating with those who are more about doing than talking. This fits well with our plans of what we are doing during the 16 Days of Activism, not only against women and children abuse, but against ALL ills in our marginalised societies for our vulnerable groups.

“Although for Mhani Gingi, we are doing it every day!

A community vegetable garden is being established on this site at Touching All Generations (TAG) in Manenberg.

‘Ploughing back into the community’

At TAG in Manenberg, soil is being tilled for the food garden that will boost supplies for a soup kitchen provided to surrounding residents and for the daily meal that is provided at TAG’s Early Childhood Development facility catering for about 50 children.  TAG’s prime focus is on youth development.  Since lockdown, attendance at the creche has reduced to about eight as parents cannot afford the R150 fees.

“The food garden will mean a snowball effect for us,” said owner Tania Francis, explaining that savings on food resulting from the food garden can be used to keep the ECD fees low.  “Food and vegetables are expensive, so whatever we can harvest from the garden we can plough back into the community,” she said.  “Food harvested from the garden will help to reduce costs so that fees of the ECD can be kept low, while excess food can be given to the children to take home to their families.”

TAG also now receives supplies of food for its soup kitchen from Mhani Gingi.  The supplies are donated by Ladles of Love. Francis said that TAG’s ultimate goal was to further benefit the children of Manenberg.  Another aim of the ECD, which was established six years ago, was to create employment by providing work for residents of the surrounding community, she said.  Four people have been employed to work in the new food garden.

National Shelter Movement of South Africa

In December 2020 the National Shelter Movement of South Africa launched the 24-hour shelter helpline – the first helpline dedicated to issues of domestic and intimate partner violence – in an effort to get more women away from their abusers and to the safety of shelters.  According to the website, Zubeda Dangor of the NSMSA said in a press statement:  “South Africa’s femicide rate is one of the highest in the world, and for many of these women, domestic violence was already part of the equation.”

She added, “With the Shelter Helpline, we hope to play an even more significant role in helping women escape abusive domestic situations.”

Mhani Gingi community gardens

This site at Kuyasa Soup Kitchen in Langa is being developed into a food garden by Leap Science and Maths School.

Mhani Gingi supervises several community food gardens in the greater Cape Town area, including two projects maintained by 25 people with physical disabilities at Uitsig Community Centre and Uitsig Primary School in Uitsig-Ravensmead.  Other food gardens are situated at Blouvlei School for Learners with Special Needs in Retreat, Langa Cheshire Home for Disabled Adults, Zimasa Primary School in Langa and at the South African Red Cross in Langa.

The images below are from the community food gardens maintained by Mhani Gingi’s beneficiaries from Uitsig Community.  The images taken in December 2020 illustrate  how much can be achieved in community food production.

  • Mhani Gingi is also supported by the Department of Agriculture in the Western Cape Province, which provided technical assistance to Mhani Gingi, assistance with water harvesting for irrigating the food production gardens, as well as training in food processing.


The Mhani Gingi Satellite Community Food Station officially opened with Ladles of Love founder, Danny Diliberto, present on Monday 31 August 2020 at the Mhani Gingi Centre of Social Entrepreneurial Excellence at the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children in Athlone, Cape Town.

Soup made with vegetables picked from the Centre of Social Entrepreneurial Excellence gardens, and cooked in the refurbished Satellite Community Food Station kitchen donated by Ladles of Love, was served to guests and beneficiaries.  Ladles of Love generously provided new cookers and utensils for the Satellite Community Food Station and provides twice-weekly food supplies to supplement the preparation of soup at the four Community Soup Stations administered by Mhani Gingi.  The four soup stations are part of Mhani Gingi’s ongoing activities providing food security to vulnerable communities in the greater Cape Town area.

The Ladles of Love Community Food Kitchen award that Mhani Gingi received from Toby Scheckter.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, the four Mhani Gingi community soup kitchens, situated in Athlone/Mannenberg, Uitsig in Ravensmead, Retreat at the Blouvlei School for Learners with Special Needs (LSN) and in Pelican Park, have provided meals to hundreds of residents in surrounding communities twice weekly.

Peter Sampson, a member of the team providing a Mhani Gingi community soup kitchen in Uitsig and Ravensmead, at the launch on 31 August 2020.

With each of the four Mhani Gingi Soup Stations feeding about 200 individuals per meal, twice weekly, about 1 400 people are being fed per week.  Founding Director of Mhani Gingi, Lillian Masebenza, has estimated that about 52 000 meals have been served through the Mhani Gingi Satellite Community Food Station since March 2020.

Masebenza thanked Ladles of Love and Jody Scheckter for awarding the Ladles of Love Community Food Kitchen ‘Sustainable Catering to Serve the People’ certificate received by Mhani Gingi for its efforts feeding hungry communities during COVID-19.

Founding Director, Lillian Masebenza, addressing guests at the Mhani Gingi Centre of Social Entrepreneurial Excellence in Athlone, Cape Town.

Honouring women in the community

The launch event was also an opportunity for Masebenza to thank the women who cook the meals on behalf of Mhani Gingi and distribute them to vulnerable children and residents in the surrounding communities tirelessly, in compliance with the protocols of the COVID-19 lockdown.  Masebenza paid tribute to the women, who not only are cooking to feed hungry people but in doing so have unselfishly placed themselves and their families at risk during the lockdown, in order to help others.

Vanessa Baadjies, leader of the Mhani Gingi team providing a soup kitchen in Uitsig, enjoys a cup of hot soup at the launch.

In her address, which was recorded on video, Masbenza explained how Mhani Gingi works with women and people with disabilities in the community to help them improve their lives and to attain sustainable livelihoods.

Guests in the growing tunnel at the Mhani Gingi Centre of Social Entrepreneurial Excellence in Athlone.

“(For us) it means helping people to help themselves,” Masebenza said.  Through community gardening, Mhani Gingi provided people with training and skills to enable themselves to do something to help themselves and to generate sustainable livelihoods, she said.

The difficulty, Masebenza said, was generating sufficient funding to do more to meet the need.  “As you know, South Africa is the most unequal community or society in the world, according to the World Bank,” she said.  “Funding will help us to do more than we are doing now, plant more, and by that (help) to combat food insecurity more.”  While that was being achieved, people were improving their livelihood.

Mhani Gingi Project Co-Ordinator, Tabisa Mahlathi, supervisor of the community gardens and food kitchens.

Masebenza repeated her Call to Action for increased support for community gardening as a sustainable means to combat food insecurity and hunger.  “People (on Mhani Gingi’s programmes) will be learning how to do gardening, (but also they) will be economically improving themselves, generating income and  all their community will be included,” Masebenza said, referring to the positive impact achieved on improving the livelihoods of the families of beneficiaries and the surrounding community as well.

Lillian Masebenza displays a Ladles of Love Community Food Kitchen Apron.

She added that the Mhani Gingi methodology includes ongoing monitoring, assessment and reporting, to assess what people learned and the impact on the surrounding community, which was reported back to funders.

Mhani Gingi beneficiaries provide nutritious meals in four communities of Cape Town through the Community Satellite Food Station.

For further information or to contribute to Mhani Gingi’s efforts to combat food insecurity in vulnerable communities, please contact Lillian Masebenza at:  082 465 4687 or .


Mhani Gingi Social Entrepreneurial Network is honouring National Women’s Day, 9 August 2020, by celebrating the outstanding leadership of the women working with the organisation to provide sustainable livelihoods for vulnerable groups.  Among them are five remarkable women who help to drive Mhani Gingi’s initiatives to combat food insecurity among marginalised communities during COVID-19.  This is being done through three soup stations Mhani Gingi is overseeing in Cape Town. The food is generously donated by Ladles of Love and others who also tirelessly look for food donations from other individuals and organisations.  

A nutritious lunch being served by Delicia Kiewieto and other partners of Mhani Gingi to the community in Azalea Street, Uitsig, in Cape Town on 4 August 2020. This soup station catered for 260 people on the day, including adults and children.

Gladys Gobodo is helping to feed vulnerable children in the Athlone/Mannenberg area.  Vanessa Baadjies is team leader of 25 people with physical disabilities who are providing soup kitchens that feed hundreds of people every week in the impoverished Uitsig Community on the Cape Flats.  Cordelia Romes, Principal of Blouvlei School for Learners with Special Needs (LSN), is assisting Mhani Gingi’s soup station in the Retreat area and providing other support.  Tabisa Mahlathi, Mhani Gingi Project Co-ordinator, manages the Mhani Gingi Organic Herb and Vegetable Seedling Nursery which supports the three soup stations and Mhani Gingi’s various community food gardens established in Cape Town communities.

She is assisted by Nursery Assistant, Vuyisa Tekwana, who has been able to acquire a home and support her two children through employment at the Nursery since Mhani Gingi’s inception 15 years ago.

Vanessa Baadjies, team leader of the Uitsig Community group, serving food and porridge to the children and adults at the Wendy Park service point in Uitsig in July 2020.

The three Mhani Gingi soup stations helping to meet the expanded need for food resulting from the COVID-19 lockdown are a continuation of the usual work of Mhani Gingi and these remarkable women, to alleviate poverty in vulnerable communities in Cape Town.  Mhani Gingi will feature their stories throughout Women’s Month 2020 in South Africa.  The holistic Mhani Gingi approach is well illustrated by the involvement of the women social entrepreneurs in the propagation of seedlings, right through to the delivery of nutritious, cooked meals directly to hungry people on the streets of our communities.

Using what they have

“These women are not waiting around for someone or something to come and help them to solve the problems in their communities,” said Lillian Masebenza, Founding Director of Mhani Gingi, who is an award-winning social entrepreneur and an Ashoka Fellow.   “These women take the initiative and ‘use what they have’ to help to solve problems and meet the challenges in their communities.  This has always been the approach that Mhani Gingi advocates.  Mhani Gingi doesn’t just talk; we walk the talk.”

Each soup station feeds about 200 people – and often more in Uitsig Community – twice a week, amounting to about 1 200 hungry people being fed per week by Mhani Gingi.  The name ‘Mhani Gingi’ is taken from the Shangaan words for an industrious woman.  “We also want to take this opportunity to thank Ladles of Love for the generous donations of the food, making it possible for Mhani Gingi to feed hundreds of vulnerable people every week,” added Masebenza. 


Another donation from Ladles of Love, this time of cooking and kitchen equipment,  has boosted Mhani Gingi’s efforts at three Soup Stations which are feeding hungry people nutritious meals to provide food security in the greater Cape Town area in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Danny Diliberto, Founder of Ladles of Love, delivers sparkling new equipment to the Mhani Gingi Community Food Kitchen on 18 June 2020.

Mhani Gingi Social Entrepreneurial Network is a non-profit organisation which for the past 15 years has pursued a mission to alleviate poverty and hunger through providing sustainable livelihoods for vulnerable communities, mostly situated on the Cape Flats and in the Cape Town area.   The need among these beneficiaries of Mhani Gingi has been impacted by the lockdown necessitated by COVID-19 virus in the country.

Sparkling new pots and two cookers from Ladles of Love.

Founding Director of Mhani Gingi, Lillian Masebenza, was overjoyed on Thursday 18 June 2020 when a delegation led by the founder of the Ladles of Love organisation, Danny Diliberto, delivered a generous donation of two cookers, two large cooking pots, soup ladles and other kitchen equipment and utensils to assist Mhani Gingi’s soup kitchens that are preparing and distributing food in Cape Town communities presently.

Lillian Masebenza, Founding Director of Mhani Gingi, thanks Danny Diliberto for another generous donation.

Since May 2020, Mhani Gingi has received welcome twice-weekly donations of vegetables, rice, maize and other supplies from the Ladles of Love initiative. These donations have boosted the efforts of Mhani Gingi’s three Soup Stations situated in Mannenberg/Athlone, Uitsig Community, and at Blouvlei LSN School for Learners with Special Needs in Retreat.  Each of the food stations feeds about 200 people, totalling about 600 vulnerable individuals being assisted by Mhani Gingi.  This amounts to about 1 200 people being fed per week.

Targeting vulnerable groups

The three Soup Stations represent the target groups of Mhani Gingi, which include vulnerable women and children, people with disabilities, and youth with special needs.

Mhani Gingi network member, Gladys Gobodo, feeds vulnerable children in the Mannenberg/Athlone area of the Cape Flats.  A group of 25 people with disabilities under team leader, Vanessa Baadjies, maintains community food gardens at Uitsig Primary School and at the Uitsig Community Centre, supervised by Mhani Gingi.  The group also provides a community soup kitchen which feeds elderly and hungry people in Uitsig, Ravensmead.

The support from Ladles of Love will help Mhani Gingi’s efforts to provide nutritious food and combat food insecurity among vulnerable communities.

“These are not just once-off soup kitchens but a continuation of our work with vulnerable groups in our communities,” said Lillian Masebenza, Founding Director of Mhani Gingi.  “I am so thankful for the donations from Ladles of Love which goes so well with the work we are doing on a daily basis.”

The supplies from Ladles of Love are distributed by the team from Mhani Gingi Organic Herb and Seedling Nursery, led by Project Co-ordinator, Tabisa Mahlathi, to the cooks preparing food at the three Soup Stations.

Ladles of Love supplies soup kitchens and shelters, supporting more than 100 beneficiaries and non-profit entities in Cape Town, according to the organisation’s website.  Ladles of Love has expanded its activities significantly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the website said. The Ladles of Love initiative started in 2014 when Diliberto was inspired to reach out to homeless people.

For further information contact Founding Director, Lillian Masebenza, on mobile phone +27 082 465 4687.


Aligned with our environmental efforts under the Flagship Programme, Mhani Gingi is championing the spekboom in its vision as a fighter against climate change specifically because of the plant’s exceptional carbon storage capabilities. 

By Mhani Gingi Trustee Dr. Earl Starr

Commonly known as ‘spekboom’ (directly translated as ‘porkbush’), the wonder plant, Portulacaria Afra, is indigenous to South Africa. It serves as food for elephants and other wildlife in its native habitat of the Eastern Cape and can grow up to  6 m tall. Once considered just an ornamental bonsai plant outside of its home range of South Africa, the shrub is rapidly gaining attention for its exceptional carbon storage capabilities.

Aligned with our environmental pillar under the Flagship Programme, Mhani Gingi has championed the spekboom in our vision as a fighter against climate change specifically because of its ability to store more carbon than tropical rain forests.  Looking at more short-term benefits to our network members, we will build on the existing model of community vegetable gardens to further empower communities towards sustainable livelihoods.

The support from funders for seedling tray donations to our community gardeners will in turn provide a steady supply of spekboom into the two resale channels of 1) bulk seedling sales for private gardens and public open spaces and 2) potted mature plant sales in handcrafted baskets from crafters with disabilities at the Uitsig Community Centre.

Baskets to hold potted spekboom were made by crafters with disabilities from Uitsig Community.

FIVE reasons to adopt a spekboom

  1. This proudly South African plant is easy to grow … with excellent soil binding properties to reduce erosion.
  2. It is water-wise and super resilient … even in extreme weather conditions!
  3. It is rich in basic nutrients … yes, that’s right, it is edible and also has known healing properties.
  4. Known to live up to 200 years old, spekboom stimulates biodiversity, enabling other plants to grow and live near it … and it is an important fodder for local herbivores.
  5. More importantly, it helps to fight climate change … acting as a carbon sponge to improve the quality of the air we breathe.

Spekboom products for private and coffee shop table applications


SpekMania is taking off in a BIG way … so don’t get left behind on the ‘hot climate’ seat!  Place your order now before stocks run out. 

For further information contact Founding Director Lillian Masebenza on mobile phone +27 082 465 4687.