The AgroEcology programme at the Sustainability Institute is producing passionate and driven young people changing the way their communities eat. Three of our students, Bonga Ngceni, Mlondolozi Mnxeba and Simlindile Patekile, have built from the ground up an inspiring urban vegetable garden project in Kayamandi.
The students, or young farmers as we call them, each receive a transport stipend of R1600 per month. These young farmers have taken this money to buy seedlings and composting material and by the end of 2017 they were ready to start two gardens: one at a local church and the other on the premises of the NGO, Kuyasa. At the beginning of 2018 they planted spinach, beetroot, carrot, onions and other vegetables and their harvests are enthusiastically received by the community.
It’s a beautiful sight. When the harvest is ready, the three pile these fresh vegetables straight from the ground onto a trolley and wheel it through Kayamandi selling their produce. The locals love it. They can clearly see a difference in quality between these vegetables and what they find in their shops. The trolley quickly returns to the gardens empty.
Their success has gained some interest beyond Kayamandi as well. The Stellenbosch Waldorf School at Spier and some staff members at the Sustainability Institute happily purchase these organic vegetables whenever they can.
The three entrepreneurs have much bigger plans beyond the two vegetable patches. They have already secured another half-hectare of land from Kuyasa to expand their project. They are passionate farmers and they envision themselves becoming even better farmers as they learn and grow their business. Their Co-operative is in the process of becoming registered and they already have a bank account where they keep all their earnings.
Beyond growing vegetables, the three are also passionate about nutrition in their communities. The philosophy is to help the people of Kayamandi to eat wholesome foods rather than the processed foods found in the shops, which are filled with chemicals and preservatives. They also regularly donate vegetables to the orphanage at Kuyasa in order to aid the nutrition of these children. They are motivated to continue supporting Kuyasa beyond food, hopefully one day finding a way to aid the education of these children too.
By working from the ground up, these food activists and entrepreneurs are changing the way the people from Kayamandi eat. They are educating their community about the benefits of organic, wholesome foods and showing them how fresh vegetables are supposed to look and, more importantly, taste.
We wish them all the best for the future aspirations and we can only hope that the AgroEcology programme continues to produce such driven and grounded human beings.