The garden box that's generating R5k per month for poor households

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Reel Gardening has started providing gardening boxes to vulnerable households for subsistence and to generate an income of R5 000 from just one box of seeds.
Reel Gardening has started providing gardening boxes to vulnerable households for subsistence and to generate an income of R5 000 from just one box of seeds.
Reel Gardening
  • Claire Blackenberg started the idea of gardening reels when she was a Grade 10 student, wanting extra pocket money from her parents.
  • In 2010, she opened Reel Gardening, providing seed strips that take 80% less water to grow into vegetables.
  • Now, together with Nedbank, she's providing gardening boxes to vulnerable households for subsistence and to generate an income of R5 000 from just one box of seeds.
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If you are into gardening, you've probably seen some of Claire Blackenberg's boxes on Gardening.co.za, Faithful to Nature and Yuppiechef. At first glance, you wouldn't think much about the Reel Gardening boxes until founder Blackenberg starts dropping the statistics:

The boxes containing biodegradable seed tape or reels help families grow food with 80% less water. The R450 household food garden box only requires 16 square metres of fertile land and two litres of water a day to keep a family of four fed for an entire year, with four servings of vegetables a day.

And it all started with the then 16-year-old Blackenberg wanting to get extra pocket money from her parents. She thought she'd grow and sell vegetables to them. But with no experience, it was a disappointing start until she turned her frustration to a school project, creating seed strips with newspaper and paste made from flour and liquid fertiliser. When her project began winning multiple awards, including the International Stockholm Junior Water Prize for South Africa and the United Nations Environmental SEED award, she eventually opened Reel Gardening.

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Blackenberg has now partnered with Nedbank to create an agrihub in the Cradle of Humankind. The aim is to use the household food garden boxes not only to improve food security in most vulnerable households, but also to create an income stream for them. The agrihub will also offer training for aspirant farmers. It has already distributed the boxes to 1 000 households.

"First they get their household garden [box] to be food secure, and then they get a second box, which is an income garden. The income garden is going to give [them] the income of R5 000," explained Blackenberg.

But because farmers don't always get the best deal when they sell their fresh produce and sometimes struggle to move it until it goes to waste, the agrihub has guaranteed these households the R5 000 income if they bring all their harvest to it. The hub will process and sell the produce on their behalf. It is negotiating offtake agreements with the business sector.

"If this grows, you bring it to us, and it's guaranteed [that] we are going to buy it back because we've already got someone lined up to buy it," said Blackenberg.

"Five thousand [rand] may not seem like a lot of money to you, but to somebody who subsists on a social grant, it's a ton of money," she added. 

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