FEEL GOOD | WATCH: 'There is money in the soil' - Women empower their communities with small-scale farms

2020-02-07 09:17

A string of community gardens in Khayelitsha have helped change the lives of a group of women, with a ripple effect on the surrounding community.

The initiative first started in the back gardens of these women's homes to help fight poverty and unemployment before the Siyazama Community Food Gardens was created on what used to be a dumping site.

"The reason people started gardens at that time was poverty. People they want something to eat for their homes, to sell locally to get something maybe to buy electricity, maize meal to add to your veggies. But now, people they feel like they are employed, they are self-employed, they are able to make money, they've gained also a lot of experience," said Liziwe Stofile, farmer and trainer at the Siyazama Community Food Gardens.

The project was launched in 1997 by 30 unemployed women on the back of the AgriPlanner Programme, a joint initiative with the SA Institute for Entrepreneurship and Coronation, who sponsor entrepreneurial training programmes.

"Over the last 15 years we've managed to support about 5 000 farmers and 2 000 co-ops," said Anton Pillay, CEO of Coronation. The project extends across the city and into other provinces.

'When you empower women, you empower everybody'

Of the farmers involved in the project, 65% of them are women. 

"On average, you're looking at about four to five dependants for every female farmer. So just do your sums and that gives you an idea in terms of the stretch of the impact," said Ernst Boateng, COO of the SA Institute for Entrepreneurship.

"People erroneously say men are the head of the household, which is not necessarily true. Women are, they make things happen! So when you empower women, you empower everybody," he said.

The programme has helped address issues around money management, dealing with markets, record keeping, crop management, as well as business and sustainable practices.

According to Coronation, the farmers have reached livelihood-level farming and earn an average income of between R8 000 and R12 000 a month.

The organic vegetables are sold on the local market - such as hotels, schools, restaurants. The surplus is sold to neighbours and whatever is left over, is given to the sick and elderly.

Stofile says that working in the gardens is therapeutic and healing. She feels young again, like her life has only just begun.

"There is money in the soil, if there are markets there is money in the soil... It's like you are investing, putting money in the bank. And then in the long run you will be withdrawing that money," she said.

Read more on:    cape town  |  food gardens
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