Jul 19, 2021

Feeding Families in South Africa

In 2019, the World Bank recognised that South Africa is the most unequal country in the world. This is because the country’s economy does not equally benefit all citizens. The devastating effects of this include high numbers of unemployment and poverty, which has led to the food insecurity crisis we are experiencing. From January - March 2021 11.2 million South Africans did not meet the minimum food requirements or have large food gaps leading to malnutrition*. This leads to many health problems malnutrition and obesity being the standout. The pandemic has worsened this problem.

 In 2020, we had set ourselves the goal to increase the number of beneficiaries of our Food Security and Nutrition Project so that we can meet the dire need for food, which had been intensified by COVID.

 Currently, we reach over 14 000 individuals, empowering them with skills and tools to have a sustainable source of nutritious food in the form of vegetable gardens and teaching them the importance of a healthy lifestyle. This is a big growth for the project which wouldn't have been possible without the support from our donors.

We also provide food parcels that contain non-perishable food to help the family get by in the three months it takes for the garden to grow. Beneficiaries are chosen based on the following criteria: a household that has children and has no income; that is child-headed; single female and/or elderly headed household.

These are the stories of the beneficiaries empowered by Topsy through our Food Security and Nutrition Project. 

                                 Finding her purpose through gardening

My name is Emanel, I am 70 years old and live with my daughter, son and three minor grandchildren. We live in a four-roomed RDP house in Nthoroane and I am one of the recent beneficiaries of Topsy’s Food Security and Nutrition Project. I was selected by Topsy’s Community Care Workers who saw my passion for gardening. They explained in detail what their jobs are and what they do in the community. I was happy about being part of the project and was getting seeds for my garden. The fact that I could keep the vegetables and sell surplus also appealed to me. The garden has been a huge help for me as a grandmother and my family at large. It is even more difficult now to get any job, especially at my age. There aren’t many employment opportunities, even for our children. The only income we get is my old age grant which is not enough to support me and my family. At times you feel like you are failing your children by not being able to provide basic things such as food and clothes.

Gardening gives me a sense of purpose; I can wake up every day and feel like my life is worth living as I have something to do daily. My grandchildren have joined me in taking care of my garden. It is something that I hope they will continue to do even when I am not around. A garden is a great tool to use to teach young ones to take care of themselves, their surroundings, and the environment as a whole. I truly hope that I will continue to learn new things and ways on how to maintain my garden so that it can continue to feed my family.

                                   Providing a solution for a father

I am Mr Sibilwane, I am a father who has been benefitting from the wonderful work The Topsy Foundation does in Slovo, Balfour. Since I found this place for my family, I started with the gardening project and it has been many years now. I have been able to expand it, this is what Topsy taught me in the outreach and education program. They taught me how to maintain this garden and now I can put food on the table for my family. I don't work so this is the only way I can do that. I am so grateful for Topsy. The grants that we get are not enough to provide for my family. Being part of the Topsy Project has changed my life and my family's life altogether to this day. I get to sell veggies to my fellow community members and also help those who can't buy in my neighbourhood by giving them spinach. Topsy has brought me food parcels when my garden was still growing. I like that they come now and then to check on how we are

Many more people need our assistance. We need more financial support to be able to help as the situation continues to worsen.

Enamel tending to her garden
Enamel tending to her garden
Mr Sibilwane tending to his garden
Mr Sibilwane tending to his garden


Jul 1, 2021

Together we can do more

Mother and children
Mother and children

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification analysis report is an organisation that analyses food security in the Southern African Development Community. They have found that from January to March 2021, 11.8 million people in South Africa are at the crisis level of IPC ( Integrated Phase Classification), meaning they marginally meet the minimum food needs or have large food consumption gaps causing malnutrition. 

We are proud that we are playing our part in changing the statistics. To date we reach over 13 000 individuals, empowering them with skills and tools to have a sustainable source of food.


                                             Growing our footprint in EMbalenhle

Embalenhle is an area where Sasol, one of our most significant and long-standing donors, has its operations and asked The Topsy Foundation to replicate the programme we have in Dipaleseng. Even though Embalenhle is more urban than the communities in Dipaleseng, some challenges they face are similar. There is food insecurity, poor access to quality early learning, and some children not having birth certificates, meaning they do not have access to grants and other services. To get to know the communities and build relationships and trust, we have started with one of the pillars of support Topsy offers, The Food Security and Nutrition project.

We have identified 1703 new households with orphaned and vulnerable children, or that come from single parents, child-headed or elderly headed homes. We provide the families with food parcels for three months and assistance to establish food gardens with tools, seeds, training, and mentoring through our Food Security and Nutrition Project. Other gardens are established in schools, ECD centres and open spaces around the communities. We have empowered communities in Embalenhle to establish 551 gardens, providing food security and nutrition for 10,602 individuals.

According to the "UNICEF Child Poverty in South Africa" findings, 42% of children in South Africa are multidimensionally and income poor. We try to assist the families in Embalenhle with income to assist them in registering for a child support grant. We have identified 32 families to help with the lengthy process of applying for birth certificates or ID documents, to obtain social grants. Receiving this grant every month, in conjunction with maintaining a vegetable garden, will allow the families to buy other household essentials such as meat, electricity or baby items.

We are developing relationships with Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres, with the aim to partner with them in the future when we begin to implement phase two of the project in 2021, which is delivering the early learning services offered by Topsy in Emblenhle. These centres will receive food parcels; practitioners will receive training, and the children in those ECD centres will receive the five pillars of services that form part of our Holistic Early Childhood Development Programme:

1. Nutritional support through sustainable vegetable gardens and food donations

2. Educational support in the form of training ECD practitioners and educational resources

3. Growth monitoring to identify and prevent stunting

4. Psycho-social support from our nurses, community care workers and social auxiliary workers.

5. Caregiver and parental support workshops


                               Improving Access to Early Childhood Development (ECD)

ECD centres reopened on 15th February 2020, after being closed for a long period due to the lockdown. Meeting with the principals and the practitioners of the ECD partners, we planned a way forward for the new year. One of the steps we have taken is implementing ECD enrichment training to help children fall behind to catch up.

It is devastating that only 22 of the 29 ECD centres we worked with pre-COVID are fully open. Most of the centres have 50% of the number of children attending.

To provide crucial early learning and stimulation for children who are not attending ECD centres, we engage with the families through our community care workers and assist them. We provide them with African language storybooks and Duplo Lego Blocks sponsored by our partner "Care for Education" We teach the caregivers how best to use the blocks and books in our Parental/Caregiver Capacity Project.


                                                               In Conclusion 

 As the pandemic continues to create challenges in many communities in South Africa, the most vulnerable are the most affected. We will continue to make a difference through the services we provide to minimize the impact that is felt.

Family garden
Family garden
Community garden beneficiary
Community garden beneficiary
Mar 17, 2021

Turning a Crisis into Hope

ECD beneficiaries
ECD beneficiaries

Challenges faced in the last 12 months have taught us to be flexible and think out of the box. As a result, we are able to do more for the community. 

Responding to community needs 

Food security has been highlighted as a major issue in South Africa. The communities we work in are no different and as The Topsy Foundation is one of the only non-profit organisations in the area, we continue to supply food parcels to supplement existing vegetables from the food gardens we helped establish in the community. Groceries are bought by Topsy and our staff put them together. We also receive some from one of our partners,  Rise Against Hunger. Providing these food parcels not only means that the community has food security, but have also kept them safer as they were less likely to leave their homes every day, putting themselves in harm's way to put food on the table, limiting the chances of contracting the coronavirus at the peak of the pandemic. This is important because Dipaleseng has one of the highest HIV/AIDS rates (31%) in the country, thus more people in the community are at high risk.

One of our beneficiaries who receive the food parcel, Mamokete who is an 80 years old granny and lives in Siyathemba with her four grandchildren and great-grandchild. Mamokete qualified for our Orphaned and Vulnerable Child (OVC) project because she is elderly and heads a household with orphaned children. Topsy has been assisting her with vegetable seeds, rice packs from Rise Against Hunger which she says Topsy is a great help as she has no other source of income either than her old age grant. The rice packs she receives together with vegetables she grows help provide nutritional meals for her family which allows her to save as much as possible. She no longer has to ask for food to feed her grandchildren, now she picks from her garden.

The effects of the pandemic will be with us for a long time to come. As a result, we have incorporated COVID-19 relief into our Holistic Early Childhood Development programme. Increasing our beneficiaries of the Food Security Project, we now feed 7000 individuals, providing families with food parcels, seeds comprising of carrots, onions, spinach, cabbage, tomatoes and beetroot.

The criteria for choosing these families are as follows:

* Child under the age of six (6)

* Orphan

* Single parent

* Foster parent

* Persons living with a disability

* Elderly person

* Or be a Child headed family

The families receiving these food gardens are empowered through training and mentorship provided by a trained and experienced Topsy staff member.

Many children between the ages of 0-6 years old were affected when the lockdown regulations led to the closure of Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres to prevent the spread of the virus. The result of this means that the children in our community who are already disadvantage due to socio-economic issues in their communities would fall behind in their physical, emotional, cognitive and social development. Bringing early learning and stimulation to the home was one of the ways to mitigate. We have identified 900 of the most vulnerable children and provided food parcels and ECD resources which include books, Duplo Lego Blocks with a parental guide and a handout with stimulation ideas.

Now that children are attending ECD centres under lockdown level 2, we have found that a high number of them are falling behind. To help children catch up, we have provided ECD Practitioners with an enrichment training course. The course adds to their existing qualification, equipping the practitioner with more tools and activities to make learning more fun and exciting for the children. The children will learn quicker and retain information longer.

Parents are provided with support in the form of small workshops to assist them with the ECD resource kits and general parental stress they may have been experiencing. Other interventions include the provision of hand sanitisers, masks, other essential sanitary products and teaching on the prevention of the coronavirus.

The past year has shown us that together we can do more. That is the spirit that has got us through the challenges we faced.


Mamokete receiving food parcel
Mamokete receiving food parcel
Practitioners attending enrichment training
Practitioners attending enrichment training
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