Food garden supports feeding projects

Imran Hamza, 18, checks on the carrots he harvested.

A Bonteheuwel food garden started in June is already putting fresh produce on people’s tables, thanks to the efforts of young people in the neighbourhood.

It’s one of 17 food gardens the Bonteheuwel Development Forum (BDF) started on Youth Day, June 16, this year, and the spinach, carrots and beetroot harvested from it have supported feeding projects. Some produce was sold to buy gas and more seedlings.

Imran Hamza, 18, was the first to volunteer at the Pampas Street vegetable garden. His neighbour, Riedewaan Salie, a BDF member, recruited him.

Since then, Reece Andrews, 16, Storm Bull, 19, Ziyaad Bardien, 15, and Ur-Faan Hamza, 17, have also started tending to the garden.

Another neighbour, Nazeema Jones, offered her backyard for them to grow their vegetables.

Mr Salie said they had decided to set up the food gardens because donations to soup kitchens, which had been plentiful at the start of lockdown, had dried up.

Imran agreed to be part of the garden project because there was little for him to do during lockdown.

“This was one way of keeping us off the street, but also an opportunity for us to learn about where food comes from,” he said.

“To be honest, it also gave us an excuse to spend time together. We can also be more independent now by growing our own vegetables for our families.”

He thanked his grandmother, Janap Hamza, 83, for showing him the ropes.

Ms Hamza said she still enjoyed gardening because it kept her active.

Imran said vegetables from the garden had been given to some as payment for their labour.

“We are planning to grow onions, radish, tomatoes and potatoes next, and we are waiting to harvest our cabbages.

“We have also done some research on worm farms and all our vegetables are organic,” he said.

Henriette Abrahams, the founder of BDF, is proud of how Imran and his peers have cared for the garden.

“Food security is not just about supplying our food kitchens but taking our children back to what it means to grow your own food,” she said.

“It is about getting as many people as possible, especially our young people, involved.

“A lot of women also got involved and are growing indigenous medicines and herbs. Among our street committees, we give each other advice – we are really taking everything to heart and putting it into practice.

“It is mainly women heading up our community gardens. We have learnt such a lot that we can now advise others. It’s not just about handing out food; it is about developing our community and learning.

“Collectively we have about two-and-a-half hectares of land, where we have planted 30 000 seeds and seedlings. We agreed that 20% must be herbal, medicinal and edible and 80% food. We have also been blessed with over 100 fruit trees.”

Ms Abrahams has appealed for help with the herbs. Call her at 076 378 3842 if you can assist.