What a transformation! Soweto men turn a dumpsite into a lush food garden

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Makhosini Ndlovu and Miss African Beauty 2021/2022 Mbali Mendlula hand over produce from his garden to an elderly woman. (PHOTO: Supplied)
Makhosini Ndlovu and Miss African Beauty 2021/2022 Mbali Mendlula hand over produce from his garden to an elderly woman. (PHOTO: Supplied)

Two young men have transformed a dumpsite into a beautiful food garden that feeds four households. 

Makhosini Ndlovu (26) and Thobelani Sodinga (25) from Soweto transformed a trash-filled rats’ playground into something their community can be proud of. 

The area where the garden is now located was once a park, but after years of neglect by the municipality it became a place that people treated as a dumping ground. 

“When I was a kid it was a park. There were no swings though, just grass. No one took care of it and it became a dumping site,” Makhosini tells us. 

A few years ago, Makhosini and Thobelani, along with other people in the area, decided to clean the area near the Kliptown train station. The plan was to keep it clean. They did this several times but each time the park would quickly be strewn with trash again. 

gardening, dumpsite, community project
What the dumpsite used to look like. (PHOTO: Supplied)

“We didn’t know what to do after cleaning. We ended up cleaning about six times. We realised that we needed a plan,” Makhosini says.

Makhosini partnered with business development organisation Step Up SA, hardware store chain Leroy Merlin South Africa and community action group Roots and Shoots South Africa.

With their help, the park was cleaned up, fenced off and they were provided with tools to start a food garden. It took about a week for the clean-up and another day for it to be fenced. The duo started the garden in September 2021, and now it is thriving.

An area which was once filled with garbage is filled with rows of spinach, baby marrow, beetroot, chomolia, cabbage, carrots, mint, celery and herbs. 

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“We chose to grow these seeds because these are the kinds of foods the community eats the most. We didn’t want to grow food that people don't eat.” 

garden, pimville, kliptown
The garden is thriving since its inception in September 2021. (PHOTO: Supplied)
garden, food
The duo grow spinach, baby marrow, beetroot, chomolia, cabbage, carrots, mint, celery and herbs. (PHOTO: Supplied)

The food from the garden is given to four households in Pimville and Kliptown which are headed by the elderly. The remainder of the food is sold to the community. 

The duo are passionate about teaching the next generation about gardening. Children are often found in the garden planting seeds and watering plants. 

“The aim was for us to see how we can integrate this garden into the community. We want to teach people how to plant their own gardens so they can have food.”

Each day Makhosini and Thobelani tend to the garden. Although they sell produce from the garden, it is not enough to support them. 

Makhosini has to support his mother and two-week-old baby. He matriculated in 2014 and went on to do a three-year course in system development at Richfield Graduate Institute of Technology. Unfortunately in his third year, he had to drop out because he did not have the funds to complete his diploma. He now works as a videographer and photographer. 

gardening, kliptown
Thobelani Sodinga and Makhosini teach kids in their community how to grow a garden. (PHOTO: Supplied)

Thobelani, who lives with his mother, works as a hairstylist and sells sweets to earn extra money. 

The pair don’t make a lot of money from the garden but they hope they can change that and create employment for people in the area. 

“I feel good but it’s still not good enough. We still need to make it happen by getting a lot more people involved. For now, everything is going good.”

But for them, it isn’t about the money. They are happy that they could get rid of a dumpsite and create a beautiful space where they can grow food to help feed the community. 

“I hope someday more gardens will replace dumpsites.” 

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