Being a freelance photographer, Kate Pesendorfer had the opportunity to join Vatiswa Dunjana and Liziwe Stofile, two urban agriculture fieldworkers from Abalimi, on a day tour to see their trainees. I had the privilege to meet six extraordinary people, who inspired her. Rob Small, Resource Mobilisation Manager and his crew, showed her through their work – how they not only train people but how the seeds they plant are nurtured by them.
Lucky strikes luck in ‘Garden Eden’
Coming from a farm in a rural area of the Eastern Cape, unemployed Lucky Solofute (28) was diagnosed with TB. After his treatment at Phumlani clinic in the township Philippi in Cape Town, he found out he was also infected with AIDS.
One day, he saw an old lady working in the garden of the clinic. Lucky felt sorry for her and wanted to help Maggie with the strenuous work. Reaching out a helping hand to Maggie, Lucky started working voluntarily in the garden for two months. Maggie retired and Lucky gladly took over her duties. Fresh air and eating his own planted vegetables, says Lucky, are supplements to his medication. Exercise makes him feel strong and confident instead of sitting at home, which makes him tired. He reports health benefits and strength. The clinic helped Lucky to receive a government grant for his HIV sickness and he in turn supports his sister and her three children. The produce of the garden is used for his own needs, his sisters and the people at the clinic.
Lucky enjoyed a four-day course with Abalimi, where he learned to manage and fertilise soil properly. In the Eastern Cape, you can only plant during the rainy season, whereas in Cape Town, crops can grow continuously. Lucky is now supported by the NGO Ikamwa La Bantu with R600 monthly, which might last until he is self-sufficient and has his own business. Lucky’s dream is to extend his space at the clinic garden but the others, who have the other part of the ground, won’t let him – he doesn’t give up.
One plot – two stories
At the crèche ‘Kumbulani Educare’, in Section I, in the township of Khayelitsha in Cape Town, a social development scheme has been initiated by ‘old’ people to utilise space to create a garden. Senior citizens were advised to find a location for this garden. This project was started in 2005 by Ikamwa La Bantu and Social Development (?).
Vuyisile Qotoyi (67), a member of the old-age group, says old people should not sleep all day but exercise. Vuyisile thrives on working outside, exercising and staying healthy. He joined in 2006 and did a course with Abalimi the same year. He loved learning how to work with vegetables. Melons and pumpkins were, at the time, all he knew from farming in the Western Cape. Vuyisile is so proud that, beside the garden at the crèche, he has his own at home. Vuyisile’s wife is unemployed and he supports four. He receives a pension from the government and is hoping for a stipend (from Ikamwa La Bantu).
Mzukisi Vokwana (50) is the ‘doctor’ of the garden – he wears surgical gloves at work. He always wanted to plough and when Mzukisi came in 1985 from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town, he fulfilled his dream. In 2005 the founder of the crèche recruited Mzukisi and today he is one of the two main co-ordinators of the garden. Six men and one woman work the garden, which belongs to them. The produce is for their own usage, parts of it is given to the crèche, the old-age home and the rest is sold to HIV/Aids. They raise between R 50 to R100 with the sales. None of the group is infected but they are all affected by the garden in being able to produce for their own livelihood.
Mzukisi did a course with Abalimi and is proud to work his first own garden. He loves eating his own fresh veggies.