The Greater Tygerberg Partnership (GTP) in collaboration with MES – Safe Space, GrowZA and Xylem yesterday officially opened Bellville’s urban food garden, known as the Life Changing Garden, with its first spring harvest now available to the community.
For Bellville, the second metropolitan node of the City of Cape Town, the food garden is most definitely changing lives, by supporting the nutritional wellbeing of homeless and jobless adults in the area. The food garden is providing water and food security, developing urban farming skills, and providing affordable healthy produce for sale to the community to raise funds for the urban gardening project.
From Wednesday 6 October 2021 the local community has been able to purchase fresh produce daily at MES Safe Space for just R10 per item – there’s been lettuce, spinach, Chou Moellier kale, turnips, leeks, celery and spring onion.
The Life Changing Garden was first developed by a resident at MES (Mould Empower Serve) which is a Christian Based Organisation (CBO) with branches nationally. MES is an important refuge for the homeless and vulnerable of the Bellville CBD that helps individuals start their journey towards rehabilitation, reintegration into the community or reunification with their families.
Their mission is to empower people holistically to live independent, sustainable and meaningful lives. The objective with this urban food garden project is to generate income, improve health, nutrition and food security at the MES – Safe Space and to encourage and empower the surrounding community to start their own food gardens.
“With the devastating global pandemic affecting communities, the importance of water and food security in cities and helping the poor has been glaringly highlighted,” says Warren Hewitt, CEO of the Greater Tygerberg Partnership, a development facilitation agency charged with a mandate to unlock Bellville’s potential as a sustainable, prosperous and inclusive leading African city.
GTP joined the garden initiative in February 2021, generously funding a support and mentorship programme undertaken by Horticulturist Paul Barker. Paul has been working with the beneficiaries at the MES – Safe Space with a 10-module training and mentorship program.
Together, the Greater Tygerberg Partnership, MES – Safe Space, as well as Xylem (a water solutions company) and GrowZA (a non-profit organisation that facilitates Economic Growth and Enterprise Development), aim to develop a thriving urban agriculture and learning centre that benefits the entire community.
Chetan Mistry, strategy and marketing manager at Xylem adds, “Our contribution forms part of Xylem’s Watermark CSR initiative where our goal is to create water security, and we partnered on this project to provide water and food security for the homeless and the wider community.”
Craig Kensley, director from GrowZA Social Investment Agency says, “The work of the GTP is critical as a catalyst to change. GrowZA also works to accelerate social progress, giving people practical access to opportunity and services. That is what the GTP is in the business of and what MES delivers; they have accelerated what they are doing from a step up, job opportunity and economic perspective in a practical step forward.”
The borehole, which also went up today, is important to ensure a sustainable source of quality water for the food garden’s success.
Kensley adds, “The water solution is a gamechanger for the project; the garden gets all the water needed without the weight of the overhead which impacts pricing and quality of the market.” GrowZA funded the compost, borehole installation, as well as contribution to the garden launch to the value of R144,000.00.
Currently holding sixteen beds over 300sqm, the garden will be expanded over time to around 600sqm. “Our vision is to develop and manage the site using organic and sustainable practices throughout, and where possible, to incorporate a social enterprise business model in order to operate successful programmes,” says Hewitt.
“The urban farming training programme has been a wonderful success,” he explains. “The project is an ideal skills development opportunity for homeless people, and an opportunity for the wider community to get more involved in the future. Here, they learn to plant, grow, tend and harvest, and, in the process, gain vital life and work skills that can lead toward a new, more positive direction in life.”
The food garden has the ability to grow into a larger urban farming initiative as there is more land on site and there is space to plant trees. The open space includes a variety of uses that will benefit the residents of Bellville and the surrounding community. For example, the space can be used as a field trip destination for local students as an outdoor learning lab where they can learn about permaculture and land management.
The GTP is committed to working closely with the City of Cape Town and to foster effective partnerships with community groups and residents and to establish a spirit of openness, inclusion and capacity building. This project is one of many exciting projects and collaborations to be spearheaded by the GTP.