Through Soil for Life’s programmes, tiny green islands develop in what were once bleak and barren environments, making a difference to the people that we train as well as their families and the broader community. As people learn how to use waste, grow their own food, prepare nutritious meals and live a healthier life, they reconnect with the earth and their fellow man. We see a growing sense of goodwill towards others and a genuine interest in improving and protecting the environment.

A total of 6,048 people were trained through Soil for Life’s community-based Home Food Gardening Program between 2009 and 2020. Here are just a few of the people whose lives have been impacted through Soil for Life.

Nicola Maputa (Langa/Gugulethu)

Nicola is a woman with great strength of character, determination and extremely green fingers. Since completing her initial training with Soil for Life in Langa in 2009 she’s gone from strength to strength, creating prize-winning gardens wherever she goes. Nicola won our Home Food Gardening Competition two years in a row and grows an incredible variety of vegetables and herbs as well as making compost and keeping earthworms.

Her success is all the more incredible when you know the challenges she has overcome. Some years ago an accident had left Nicola paralysed and unable to walk. Through sheer determination she started walking again and now works in the garden every day, in spite of the chronic pain she still lives with.

Nicola went on to complete our Train the Trainer programme and has proven to be an excellent mentor and trainer. When she moved to Gugulethu in 2013 she took the community by storm, inspiring the people on her street and beyond to set up productive home vegetable gardens, several of which have won Best Home Food Gardener of the Year.

Ridhaa & Fazlin April (Bishop Lavis)

Ridhaa (Rudi) April had always had an interest in gardening but his attempts were fairly unsuccessful before he completed our Home Food Gardening programme in 2014. He and his wife Faizlin went on to create an abundant vegetable garden and win Best Home Gardener 2015. Their garden was created using home-made compost, fertilizers and pesticides and designed so that almost everything was within easy reach for Rudi, who was using a wheelchair at the time.

Rudi says the training gave the family healthy food to eat and share as well as a new lease on life. After Rudi was forced to stop working, he had become depressed and withdrawn. The training gave him a fresh perspective and connected him with like-minded people.

Rudi says the most important ingredients for a healthy garden are motivation, support and the ability to improvise. He loves sharing his knowledge with other people, including children at the local primary school. His plans are bigger than his own small premises – Rudi hopes to eventually start a larger, community-owned garden.

Dickson Symons (Elsie’s River)

Dickson grew up in Elsie’s River, a poor suburb of Cape Town, where food insecurity is rampant and there is little hope or perspective for young people. He struggled at school and was eventually sent to a school for children with learning difficulties where he learnt to weld. Thereafter he began a skills development programme with the Industries Education and Training Institute (IETI) and joined Soil for Life for his six month practical.

Dickson thrived working and learning in our gardens. He was introduced to a variety of gardening activities, from planting all kinds of vegetables and herbs, to composting and working around ponds. He also learned about the creatures living in the garden and how every species has a purpose in nature. He learned lots about nutrition and how to live a healthier life.

Dickson was inspired to start his own home food garden and said he feels good about showing his work, answering questions and encouraging others to grow their own food.

“Soil for Life is a place where I felt comfortable working and found peace of mind, in spite of my learning difficulties. The other workers were patient and I could ask as many questions as I wanted.”