Family food garden feeds community

Indigenous corn
Indigenous corn
Laura Lopez Gonzalez

As drought and a weaker rand conspire to raise food prices, families in the North West may be among the hardest hit. 

Feeding a big family

Dinnertime at the Morake household can be chaos. With eight mouths to feed, preparing the nightly meal can be daunting – even more daunting were the grocery bills.

"We realised we had to do something to feed our big family," said family member, Mphafudi Johannes Morake.

With some farming experience behind him, Mphafudi took to the soil outside the family home and established a family food garden.

Read: DJs for Bread and helping hands made a difference in Phillipi, helping out in a local vegetable garden

The garden's first harvest of vegetables like carrots, spinach and beetroot also held a pleasant surprise for the Morakes: There were leftovers. 

"After we were fed, there was always food left over," Mphafudi said. "As a family, we got together and decided to help support the disadvantaged people in our area by donating vegetables to them."

Support from government?

Now the Morakes' potatoes, tomatoes and pumpkin go straight from the soil and into the hands of neighbours like Mmoneng Meriam Tau, who would not otherwise be able to afford fresh vegetables. 

"I appreciate the food they offer me, as I can't afford to eat this healthy food myself," she said. "It would be great if government could support them to grow it even more."

In a 2014 Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) survey, almost a quarter of South African households nationwide reported having run out of money for food in the previous year. Families in the North West were most likely to report having been short on food money with about 40 percent of families reporting a deficit in household budgets. 

Read: Good nutrition on a tight budget

The government body has noted that North West families may now be among the hardest hit by rising food prices. Consumer prices for grain-based food increased by an average of about five percent in 2015, according to StatsSA, adding that consumers are likely to feel the pinch of grain imported to offset poor harvests driven by drought.

"The drought has forced South Africa to import maize to make up the shortfall," said the body in a recent state.  "With rand weakness driving up the prices of other imports such as wheat, concern has grown over rising food inflation."

"Households that depend on grain-based products, and households already struggling to pay for food, are likely to be affected the most," it added.

A big water tank

The Morakes' garden has not escaped the drought, and when crops started to wilt, they approached the North West Department of Social Development. The department has promised to install a water tank for irrigation at the family's home.

"We…are glad to say that they will be helping us in future by installing a big water tank for irrigation so that our garden does not die."

Read: Recycled wastewater safe for crop irrigation

"Government is excited and impressed by what they are doing, and want to assist where they can," said Department of Social Development social worker Tebogo Tshukudu.

In the meantime, the Morakes' onion, cabbages and other vegetables may be a lifeline for their community in troubled times.

"It has closed the gap between survival and starvation," Mphafudi said. - Health-e News

Also read:

Patients and staff stranded in KZN over water protests

Toxic water scare rocks Cradock as several fall ill

Climate change brings infection, hunger, illness

Image: Indigenous corn, Laura Lopez Gonzalez

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