A sustainable community gardening project undertaken by LEAP Science and Maths Schools and Mhani Gingi Social Entrepreneurial Network, funded by Pegasys, has transformed a community facility in Langa in Cape Town and given it new meaning as a source of food and income that is benefiting both young and old in the surrounding area.
In November 2020, Mhani Gingi and LEAP Schools agreed on a partnership to launch a sustainable garden project at the community-based facility situated in Zone 17 in Langa. The facility leased from the City Council has been used over 20 years by LEAP Schools for a study facility and after-school classes for learners, as well as for a soup kitchen and activities supporting the elderly. Many other successful projects benefiting the community have been enjoyed by residents of Langa at this site.
Mhani Gingi is Cape Town-based non-profit organisation committed to helping vulnerable groups to make sustainable livelihoods for themselves through community gardening projects and urban agriculture, as well as through social enterprise. LEAP Schools strives for the positive transformation of communities nationwide, by providing Maths and science-focused education to economically disadvantaged students and by undertaking other community-upliftment initiatives.
The aim of the collaborative community garden project in Zone 17 was to provide income for five beneficiaries who would be employed from the local community for a six-month contract to cultivate and maintain the garden. Food harvested from the garden would be shared with the surrounding community and hopefully enable the revival of the soup kitchen for the elderly. “We at Mhani Gingi are excited to be collaborating with LEAP and Pegasys in this project, which brings hope and restores dignity to the beneficiaries,” said Masebenza.
Building stronger communities and local economies
Pegasys, an advisory firm operating in Southern Africa who funded the project, who were looking for new Corporate Social Investment initiatives to support in the areas of Water and Sanitation, Gender and Social Inclusion, Sustainability and Climate Resilience, and Transport. The company helps to promote inclusive economies and build stronger communities, including by empowering more people to participate in local economies.
Clearing the site
The hard work of clearing the site began immediately under the supervision of Mhani Gingi. Fencing had to be moved and rubble and paving cleared. Solomon Madikane, a board member of the Leap School and the founder of Realistic, assisted with the selection and appointment of the five beneficiaries from the local community to work in the garden. Mhani Gingi was allocated a grant from the Department of Social Development in the Western Cape Province which provided a stipend for the beneficiaries for six months.
CA Wellpoints & Boreholes helped with the installation of a water well after some initial problems securing reliable irrigation for the garden. The funding from Pegasys covered the purchase of seedlings and fertilizer, management of the project by Mhani Gingi, as well as the water well and the costs of clearing the site. Garden implements were loaned or donated.
During December 2020, the garden was established The soil was prepared and the first vegetable crops could be planted. Nomawabo Damsese, from the Mhani Gingi Organic Herb and Vegetable Seedling Nursery, trained the beneficiaries in plant propagation, how to prepare the soil, and care for the plants. Seedlings of spinach, broccoli and cauliflower were planted.
In the last week of January 2021, the harvest of the first food crop took place. The vegetables picked were sufficient to be donated to an old age centre and shared with residents in surrounding community, according to Tabisa Mahlathi, Mhani Gingi Project Co-Ordinator and supervisor of the 10 community gardens managed by Mhani Gingi in the Cape Town area.
The garden has continued to yield crops of spinach, tomatoes, spring onion, broccoli , cauliflower and other vegetables being harvested regularly, with a generous amount shared with the community. Some of the produce has been sold to people outside of Langa and also used to supplement soup and some meals that are supplied to the community.
A beautiful space
“During this short space of time the place has been transformed into a beautiful space and also energy. Thank you to Lillian Masebenza and Tabisa Mahlathi from Mhani Gingi for their wonderful support and guidance with the project, and to PEGASYS who initiated the project,” said Colleen Hodge, a volunteer for LEAP Schools.
“This is a truly challenging time for so many people and the garden has been a ray of sunshine for many. The vegetables that have been distributed are so appreciated and have been of such benefit during this tough time,” she said, referring to food and income shortages in communities that have resulted from the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Sustainable project aims to keep growing
“I so hope that more people will be able to collaborate with this project and that we will be able to be sustainable and keep growing,” Hodge added. Funding will be needed in order for the project to continue and realise the full potential.
At the end of March 2021, when the Department of Social Development contracts ended, Pegasys provided the means for the co-ordinator of the beneficiaries, Nosisa Nduna, to be re-employed until the end of February 2022. The Department of Agriculture has sponsored Yonela Mnyombolo until March 2022. Other donations towards the project include a growing tunnel sponsored by the Ackerman Pick n Pay Foundation and provided by Fresh Life Produce.