More and more South African city slickers have got a green thumb. For some, it’s a reaction against the environmental impacts of industrialised commercial agriculture. For others, it’s a chance to reconnect with nature, teach kids about where their food comes from and reduce food miles.
With more than half of the world’s population now calling urban areas home, the city has also become a new battleground for food poverty and malnourishment giving this trend even more significance. And spreading that word are a handful of initiatives using city spaces to grow hope.
Abalimi Bezekhaya is one such group. With a Xhosa name that aptly translates to ‘Farmers of Hope,’ the organisation has been designing green lifestyle opportunities for those in the Cape Flats since before the urban farming fad in 1982.
One of the oldest and biggest community farm growing projects in Cape Town, Abalimi supports areas of high unemployment by supplying about 3,000 ‘micro-farmers’ a year with the tools they need to train, cultivate and establish a home garden. Some of these growers develop into field works, who coordinate community gardens and train future micro-farmers, says Abalimi co-founder Robert Small.
“Our mission is to eliminate food and nutrition insecurity, create permanent grassroots jobs among the poor, while conserving and reviving nature within and around every home and community garden,” he says.
Supplementing the food cycle of these communities is a true value of Abalimi, but the benefits don’t stop there. Small says the micro-farmers also exhibit improved health, renewed dignity and social connectedness, as well as vital additional income. In some cases, he says these community gardeners can earn up to R3 000 per month.
With a 90% success rate, these Abalimi-supported projects are creating real, sustainable solutions for the challenges faced in South Africa’s communities and lay the groundwork for their applications elsewhere in Africa and the globe.