Much has been written about the infamous Cape Flats. Making up the barren expanse of land South-East of Cape Town’s CBD, it is a place rich with multiple cultures and history. Historically, ‘The Flats’ was where the Apartheid government relocated people of colour, displacing them from their (thriving) communities. Compounded with the post-Apartheid migration of people from rural areas to the already over-crowded cities, The Flats became a breeding ground for gangs, drugs and crime. With the severe lack of jobs and housing, informal settlements and shantytowns now make up most of the area. Hardly anything grows there. Well, that’s what I thought before I visited Abalimi
Since democracy in 1994, Abalimi Bhezekhaya has “capacitated community groups and organizations to initiate hundreds of urban agriculture (UA) environmental action (EA) model project” in areas all over the Cape Flats. Abalimi helps people from the local community to create small pieces of green amidst dusty townships and shantytowns-gardens that provide food security to households, nutrition and a potentially a small income from the surplus. Through their building of organic gardens and skills training, community spirit is uplifted and self-esteem and worth, (which is often ignored in developmental projects) is boosted.
Apart from family gardens, Abalimi sponsors the running of larger, community gardens such as the Fezeka Garden in Gugulethu (pictured above). These gardens serve primarily as a food source for the families of the planters. To aid the sustainability of the organisation, one of Abalimi’s projects, Harvest of Hope sees the surplus from some of these gardens being collected at a central pack-house and shipped off to wealthy suburbs. These high-quality, organic, seasonal veggie boxes are distributed weekly to 200 families. The proceeds go directly back to the planters. Through this venture, 90 micro-farmers and their families are supported. Check out www.harvestofhope.org.za
One thing I personally loved about Abalimi how empowered the planters were. The vast majority of them were elderly women. They knew everything there was to know about their trade, from insects and irrigation. They were proud of the skills they had and of being able to help support their households. Apart from that, these women are healthy! They eat organic vegetables daily and educate others to do the same, often helping the sick and weak in their neighbourhoods.
One major problem though is the refusal of men and younger community members to want to join the Abalimi family. Culturally in the local Xhosa community, it is not considered a man’s place to do this kind of work, regardless of the high rate of unemployment. On the other hand, the younger generation simply doesn’t want to put in the hard work. Running a large garden can be very difficult for a small group of elderly ladies, but they know that they are reaping what they sow, and their strength shows in the smiles on their faces.
Want to get in touch, take a free tour of the gardens or volunteer?
Just get in touch with Rob Small, the founder of Abalimi and a really amazing man at firstname.lastname@example.org !
Volunteers and donations always welcome!
Live in Cape Town and would like a weekly order of organic veggies?
Contact email@example.com or call +27 21 371 1653
The cost of a medium, 4 person veggie box is R95/week (13USD) and a small, 2 person box is R65/ week (9USD).