Over 8,250 people have learnt how to develop and sustain productive home and community food gardens since 2002.
Extreme poverty and hunger are heart-breaking realities for thousands of South Africans.
As an organisation deeply engaged in community food-growing initiatives, we have witnessed firsthand the harsh conditions that many individuals live under. Many of the people who join our programmes do not know where they will get their next meal, how they will clothe and educate their children, or how they will recover if their homes are destroyed.
Teaching people how to grow safe, nutritious food provides a lifeline of hope that not only puts food on the table, but also empowers them to take control of their food supply, generate income, and improve their living environments.
Between 2021 and 2023, 20 schools gained access to sustainable food gardens on their premises. All of the schools have feeding schemes that collectively provide over 7,000 learners with a daily meal. Having fresh produce to add to the feeding scheme improves the nutritional content of meals and adds a level of sustainability and self-reliance to the feeding scheme.
The ability to grow food takes many people from a place where they can provide their families with meals that mainly consist of bread and maize to super-nutritious ones that include a variety of fresh vegetables, colours, and textures. Apart from the nutritional boost, their ability to provide healthier food for their families gives many a newfound sense of accomplishment and pride.
Many individuals trained by Soil for Life take food growing to the next level and generate income from their gardens and gardening skills. Some examples include providing organic gardening services to paying customers, selling produce to local shops, making and selling preserves, and gaining formal gardening-related employment.
The community-based group format of training provides a platform where people from different environments integrate and communicate through a common interest. Strong networks and support systems develop which create positive environments for poverty reduction (e.g. selling surplus food, swopping produce, bartering surplus produce for other services).
There is something transformative about working outdoors in the fresh air, planting seeds, and nurturing them into healthy plants. Through gardening, we have witnessed families rebuild relationships, individuals overcome negative life choices, and former enemies forge friendships.
Rose is a home gardener in Khayelitsha. Faced with limited space due to the concrete surroundings of her house, she planted veggies in every container she could find – ranging from plastic buckets to a discarded bathtub! The entire area around her home is now a living, breathing green oasis that is overflowing with vegetables and herbs.
Rose currently feeds her family of 6 from her garden and shares with friends and neighbours. She is an inspiration to the community and a fantastic example of how much can be re-used as containers to grow in.
Desiree is growing food at home and is also the driving force behind a food garden she started at the church she belongs to in Cafda.
She packages all the veggies from the church garden into soup parcels which she shares with needy people in the local community.
The church has provided her with additional space and she has expanded her food-growing project to help feed more unemployed people in the community.
The garden at Hopefield Primary grew from a barren space into a beautiful green oasis. With the continued encouragement and dedication of the principal who has been behind the group every step of the way, we are confident that Hopefield will continue to be a productive garden for many years to come.
In the spirit of Ubuntu, the Hopefield group inviting people from Noordhoek Primary to join their training and share their garden inputs. This is a heart-warming example of paying forward the opportunity given to them. Noordhoek has a magnificent garden and all of the veggies go into the school’s kitchen to feed the learners.
Lungolwakho (Lungile) is a shining example of how gaining skills can change a person’s life!
“Before I joined the HFGP I had nothing to do with my time except sleep.”
Today he has a flourishing garden at home which feeds his family of 6. He took gardening a step further and cleaned up a nearby dumping site which he transformed into a beautiful garden.
He is recycling waste from the community to use as tools and garden-bed borders and has an arrangement with a garden service to drop off garden waste to use in the garden and compost heap.
Xoliswa has made a beautiful garden at her home in Delft using every resource she can find. She is growing directly in the soil that she has enriched with organic materials as well as in discarded tyres, buckets, and containers that she salvaged from the community.
Vegetables from her garden are used in meals that feed an astounding 15 people EVERY day!
“My garden is my safe and happy place. I come here to get away from the noise and forget about everything going on around me. I just feel peaceful and happy in my garden and I’m proud of what I can do now.”
Nomathamsanqa wanted a bigger space to grow in so she approached a school close to her home. In return for the space that she uses, she supplies the school with some of the veggies for their kitchen.
She has learnt how to pickle onions, carrots, cauliflower, and beetroot and is selling these to small shops in and around Strand. She also sells any surplus from the garden in the local community.
Although she has no open ground at home, she is growing in every container she can find and is producing enough food for her family to eat at least 3 times a week from the garden.
Capricorn Primary is enjoying regular and bountiful harvests of fresh vegetables from their garden. All of the veggies from their harvests go into the school’s feeding scheme.
The learners have embraced the garden – assisting with watering and weeding whenever they can. The garden is being managed by the school’s Environmental Group providing them with a wonderful opportunity to truly experience natural food growing and gain first-hand knowledge of its enormous benefits to both human and environmental health.
After completing the Soil for Life Home Food Gardening Programme, Doreen shared her fascination with trench bed gardening with her family in Zimbabwe. Using this method, they started growing peanuts …. lots and lots of them.
They send the raw peanuts to Doreen in Cape Town and she works her magic and turns them into peanut butter. She has started a business called Just Peanuts where she employs two people to help her. Her pure peanut butter is currently being sold in 11 shops as well as in the Soil for Life shop.