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Household food gardens project a great hand-up

Katy Rhode (74) of Groenheuwel in Paarl East is thrilled to be feeding her friends and family freshly picked vegetables.

This is thanks to the Impilo Household Vegetable Garden Establishment and Grey Water Harvesting Project of the Western Cape Department of Agriculture, in cooperation with the Great Commission Networks (GCN) NPC.

The aim of the project is to create 100 household food gardens in the Cape Winelands and Cape Metropole districts.

To reward Rhode for her commitment and participation in the project, she received a bicycle as part of a Qhubeka programme to benefit 70 Cape Winelands vegetable garden project participants.

The bikes will allow her and others like her to plant and water their gardens and make sure they get their produce to market as quickly as possible, using their own transport.

The initiative promotes the educating about and importance of a cost effective way to grow vegetables, such as the use of a grey water system for instances such as the continued drought.

The distribution of the bicycles to Cape Winelands beneficiaries is funded by Nederburg Wines which is home to Qhubeka’s bicycle assembly facility in the Western Cape.

Here, a number of previously unemployed women from the Drakenstein community are trained to build bikes for countrywide distribution.

Qhubeka’s programme participants earn bicycles in various ways, for example through learn-to-earn and work-to-earn projects. The aim in this instance is to support the Western Cape Department of Agriculture and GCN initiative, which promotes healthy eating and improved food security among marginalised communities.

The recipients of the 70 Qhubeka bicycles are from Paarl East, Stellenbosch (Cloetesville) and Franschhoek (Groendal), with the first 20 (from Paarl East) receiving their bikes at a ceremony at Nederburg on 25 October.

“We picked the first veggies a few weeks ago, and my family and friends are loving it. I even had enough from the first crop to give to our Seniors Club. A lot of those people lack the right nourishment, so I’m glad that I am able to help them. Even my son, who lives in Darling, is so excited by this project he has started his own vegetable patch at home. This thing is catching on, I tell you! Now, having the bike, it’s easier to collect the seeds, to transport the grey water I use and then get my produce to the market. And I’m getting so fit,” Rhode says.

The reality is that people go to bed hungry and for young mother Sadia Abrahams (36), this is something she will continue to avoid.

“I never knew that one could save so much money by planting and being able to make food with your own vegetables,” says Abrahams who grows spinach, lettuce and peas.

“I want people to be able to look up to us and see that we can make a difference in the community and lives of others. It should also encourage people who are in the gardening industry to come out and see what we do”.

Another participant, Frederick Muller (70), spends every day tending his vegetables. He says: “I began with spinach and lettuce, as part of the starter kit I got from the department. Now I’ve got maize and green beans and more, and I’m making a bit of money from what I sell. This project is going so well, I’m talking to my municipality about using the open plot next to me to plant more.”

The participants receive a starter kit from the Western Cape Department of Agriculture through Casidra (Cape Agency for Sustainable Integrated Development in Rural Areas). It includes a hoe, rake, watering can, grey water harvesting and irrigation system, organic compost, fertiliser, some vegetable seedlings and seeds.

They are also sent to attend basic business workshops where they are encouraged to share recipes and engage in cooking demonstrations.

GCN secretary, Carl Schmidt, says they have trained the project participants in the theory and practical aspects of household vegetable farming and grey water harvesting. They also have been given business skills training by GCN treasurer, Benita Alard, to help them turn their gardens into self-sustaining ventures.

To keep the momentum going, coordinators meet the gardeners and visit their gardens once a month.

Schmidt says the programme includes not only the elderly but also farmers across the age spectrum, even those in their 20s.

Nederburg’s Thandeka Matsoha says of her brand’s involvement: “This is not a hand-out but a hand-up to members of the local community. It’s a great way to impart information and skills that extend from nutrition and micro-enterprise management to eco-sustainable farming and could even lead to contributions to tourism one day.”

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