Smell of success in Lavender Hill

2011-09-17 17:06

The poverty, drugs and gangsterism that pervade Lavender Hill on the sandy Cape Flats going towards False Bay have always been at odds with the suburb’s name.

But a group of women refused to give in to the social milieu surrounding the apartheid suburb created for coloured people and have spent a decade trying to put the flowers back into Lavender Hill. They are finally seeing their efforts pay off.

As 60-year-old Joan Everson shows off her garden and explains what each plant is and what its medicinal uses are, she beams with pride. Everson grows cabbages, cauliflowers, onions, potatoes, carrots, beetroot and strawberries.

Young plum and peach trees are starting to bloom, and lilies, roses and lavender provide dashes of colour.

Hers is one of the first Peace Gardens established in Lavender Hill

The growing of Peace Gardens was an initiative first started by women associated with the New World Foundation NGO in Lavender Hill 10 years ago.

“We went from door to door asking people what they wanted to see in Lavender Hill. Everyone agreed the place needed to be cleaned up and to look pretty, so we decided on the gardens. We needed a new Lavender Hill,” said Everson.

Greg Philander, head of the Women’s Department at New World Foundation, said: “The vision was to grow lavender gardens all over as there was no lavender in Lavender Hill. We wanted to beautify the area and take ownership of the land from the gangs. But we also wanted to grow vegetable gardens because of the poverty”

Now colourful gardens are dotted around the neighbourhood in or next to courts where gangs once congregated, providing colour and beauty in the bleak, windswept area.

Unexpectedly, some gang members began to take a pride in the gardens.

“Even if gang warfare took place, they never destroyed the gardens,” said Philander.

Said Everson: “The gangs helped us with them, though some did want money in return. It was a pleasure for them to do it.”

But for each success, there have also been failures. While the Peace Gardens have spurred on many residents to establish their own private gardens, many of the original Peace Gardens have succumbed to the downward pull
of poverty.

Shirley Nel’s garden has become a rubbish dump since her water point broke.

Gadija Joseph’s (70) tap was stolen and the water cut off, leaving her unable to water the garden she started five years ago.

But the community’s efforts are now being taken forward by social entrepreneurs.

In May this year, the Lavender in Lavender Hill project established a lavender nursery at a local school in order to grow the plant commercially and set up fields of lavender in the area.

Budding entrepreneur Marcelle van Zyl, who works with nursery manager and trainer Vuyisile Dyolotana, said they received 18 000 lavender cuttings from the public.
Five young men have been trained and are working in the first nursery.

Franklin Tamana (21) was unemployed before he came to work at the nursery. “At first I thought it was a joke, but then I became interested. This is a great job. It is also good for the people. It will help the community to think about something fresh and it will help to get gangsters off the streets,” he said.

– West Cape News

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