Manenberg residents have “reclaimed” the derelict Red River Park, turning it from an illegal dump into a food garden.
The idea is the brainchild of Jonathan Jansen, a resident and founder of Love out Loud Youth Leadership Foundation.
Mr Jansen said all the park’s play equipment had been stolen and sold to scrapyards over the years and the site had become an illegal dump.
“The dumping led to this area becoming a breeding ground for rats and flies,” he said. “The children had nowhere to play and ended up playing on the rubbish dump. I started a recycling business, and this got me thinking: if we only clean it, people would just dump there again. My initial idea was to plant fynbos and succulents along the road, in order to discourage people from dumping.”
Knowing nothing about gardening, he appealed for help on Facebook. Within less than a month, with the help of local youth and children, the patch of land was cleaned. In the meantime, people started donating soil and compost, a second-hand jungle gym, seeds, and even a water tank.
The idea grew from just planting plants, to growing vegetables and creating a safe space for families to enjoy.
So far, they have planted beans, potatoes and dhanya. They also received donations of cauliflower, cabbage and green-pepper seeds.
“We want to create a space where the community can thrive,” Mr Jansen said. “We have already identified space for a five-a-side football pitch and netball court. We are also looking at a braai area. The idea is for the whole family to come and have fun and relax.
“The vegetables will be used at our feeding projects. Hopefully we will grow enough to even sell some of it, as we would like to give the young men who maintain the garden a stipend. The cool thing about this whole project is that 80% of the work done here is driven by young people.”
Resident Desmond Bratz, who knows a thing or two about gardening, said that seeing the youth maintaining the area had inspired him to also lend a hand. Now, helps in the garden as soon as he arrives home from work.
“They inspire me. They are champions in my eyes. We will not sway our youth from negative influences by fighting with them, but we will win them over by giving them opportunities. I can already see the transformation here – not just the physical transformation, but the environmental transformation as well,” Mr Bratz said.
Jadin Adonis, 20, co-ordinates the work of the younger volunteers at the park.
“If I didn’t do this, I would have just stood on the corner and checked out in which direction the wind blows,” he said.
Alvarno Marais, 19, said being active in the garden kept his mind off all the bad things happening in the community.
Jihaad Bassier, 21, another volunteer, said he looked forward to the completed project so that people in the community could meet up with one another and have fun.