WATCH | Passion for planting: Joburg inner city farmer's quest to alleviate poverty in her community

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  • Refiloe Molefe founded the Bertrams Inner City farm in 2009.
  • The lush green farm sits in stark contrast to the dull buildings which surround it in the middle of Johannesburg. They produce and sell freshly squeezed juices, sauces and vegetables. 
  • Every Tuesday and Thursday, since the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown, Molefe has provided meals to the homeless and vulnerable.

One Johannesburg farmer has dedicated her life to farming, education and feeding her community to reduce poverty. 

Refiloe Molefe a former Early Childhood Development (ECD) practitioner told News24 that she started the Bertrams Inner City farm in 2009 to provide food for the children in the community. She had been running a creche from her daughter's garage in the years prior, and witnessed the children's lack of nutrition first-hand. 

Molefe initially approached Blue Ribbon to assist her with food, but she realised that bread alone was not a healthy solution for the children. 

"Blue Ribbon gave me a lot of bread, about 450 loaves per day. I realised bread alone is not food," she said.

"Food is medicine, you have to eat well so you can have good health."

Food for thought

Molefe turned almost one hectare of land previously used as a bowling green, into a sustainable farm, that grows and sells its produce for profit. 

"Planting is like looking after children, they need the same attention and time. Whenever you have a passion for whatever it is you are doing, anything is possible," she said.

She added:

I love it. This is my gym. After I started, people started supporting me.

The farm sells freshly squeezed juices and sauces and vegetables produced are available for purchase. 

Since the beginning of the nationwide lockdown, Molefe used the food from her small farm to help feed the homeless and those who struggled to feed themselves during the pandemic. Her soup kitchen provides meals to the homeless on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

Ploughing back

The farmer's tireless efforts haven't gone unnoticed. Molefe has won numerous awards over the years and has ploughed her prize money back into the farm.

In 2011, she entered the provincial LandCare MTK Awards hosted by the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD). The entrepreneur came out on top and won the first prize of R25 000 and used the prize money to install taps around the farm.

Molefe also invested heavily in the youth, as she saw the value of transferring her knowledge and skills to the next generation.

With the help of the Agricultural Sector Education and Training Authority (AgriSETA), the Bertrams Inner City Farm founder managed to enrol herself and 13 young people from the community in a course on plant production. It's a four-year accredited certificate.

"I registered a co-operative, the Fountain of Youth Entrepreneurs Project, which caters for all the youth in the nine provinces. Also, I have engaged with the primary schools and ECD centres in the area. So, the children come here and learn how to farm and make juices," she said. 

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