A total of 17 community gardens in Gauteng, ten of which are situated in Soweto, recently benefited from a large donation of seedlings by the Shoprite Group.
“This kind of support means the world to our (garden) project. We have zero budget and therefore depend completely on such aid, which means we can get to our ultimate goals faster,” says Tsholofelo Molatlau (40), a beneficiary and founder of the Sgangala food garden in Orlando West.
“Our first priority is to bring hunger relief. In order to do so, we plan to plant pavement gardens all the way up to the Hector Pieterson Museum and document our story on the walls behind these gardens.
“Ultimately we want to establish an eco-tourism hub, which we will call the Garden Route, that will hopefully serve as a catalyst for economic development in the community,” explains Molatlau.
This is the first time the Group has supported so many projects at once: “Since the lockdown we have been inundated with requests for assistance,” explains Shoprite’s CSI Manager, Lunga Schoeman. “We therefore decided to roll-out more gardens, on a slightly smaller scale, specifically to build resilience in communities at a household level.”
As a food retailer, the Shoprite Group is best placed to address the problem of hunger through its support of food gardens.
It has since 2015 invested over R26.5 million in 128 community food gardens and 578 home gardens. This support includes 18 months’ training in permaculture methods and financial management, and the donation of plant material, gardening infrastructure and tools amongst others.
Another community garden, situated on a former dump site on the corner of Mtipa and Tambo streets, used its donation from Shoprite to plant gardens in the backyards of homes they usually donate vegetables to.
The garden was started in July 2020 by school friends Njabulo Kubeca (26) and Ayanda Madlopha (25). After clearing the dump site, originally so that Kubeca could set up his snack bar next to it, they discovered rich, fertile soil.
Together with three other young people from Orlando West they started growing cabbage, spinach, tomatoes and beetroot, which they donate to elderly people in the area.
“Our vegetables normally go to between 20 and 30 households. There wasn’t space on our 40 m2 plot for more plants so we used this donation to plant gardens at homes we normally give our produce to,” explains Kubeca.
Their dream is to establish a farming enterprise as they believe this is the best way to bring about change in their community. “We’re working on the plan to secure funding for our farm, but until then we’ll keep on tending the garden here and providing for the most vulnerable in our community,” says Kubeca.