To combat poverty, Mam’Thenjiwe Christina Kaba and Rob Small founded Abalimi Bezekhaya, a food growing initiative that supports the disadvantaged in various Cape Town townships.
Through Abalimi Bezekhaya, Mam’Thenjiwe offers teachings in food sustainability and use of organic growing methods to empower communities to build their own food gardens.
The Eastern Cape born vegetable gardener, Kaba thinks that she was born to play with the soil, because all her life she has been a gardener and a successful one at that.
“I was born and raised emaplazini (boere farms), I never got the privilege of getting education. When I was 15 years old I started helping in the garden back at home and after getting married to a Lesotho man, years later, I moved to Cape Town and we stayed in Khayelitsha with my hesband,” Kaba says.
She says Khayelitsha was like a desert at the time, with no trees, a few shacks and a lot of sand filled open spaces.
“I took it upon myself to speak to Rob and get him to start getting this funding for us too so that we could help people build something bigger than backyard gardens and Abalimi bezekhaya was born,” she says.
What is Abalimi Bezekhaya?
Abalimi Bezekhaya is an organisation that promotes small scale urban farming. It is a development organisation and partner with active members of the community to aid their efforts in greening, growing and bettering their communities.
From the beautiful work that Mam Thenjiwe has done with Abalimi bezekhaya, a soup kitchen feeding scheme has been born among many other things, a scheme that will be fully provided with the food grown by the Abalimi bezekhaya gardeners.
“I will not be cooking for the soup kitchen, there are people from the organisation and from this street who will be hired to do the cooking, because we are not only here to feed the people food, but to make possibilities and opportunities,” Kaba adds.
What’s health got to do with Abalimi?
“The best medicine is good food,” so says the cofounder of Abalimi bezekhaya, Rob Small.
He says health forms a large part of Abalimi’s mandate, and the mission was always to get people to eat healthy, to eat organic food that is produced by themselves.
“Health is everything! As an organisation health is where we began, and it was followed by the drive to create a society that uses the piece of land that it has. Ours was to go to each house that had a yard to start planting and got the people to understand that their health was at steak and that the benefits would be greater.
Meet Abalimi’s thriving alumni
A 33-year-old Micro gardener and agripreneur who has benefited from the legacy built by Abalimi bezekhaya Nomalanga Linda Ruiters says she is very glad to have met Abalimi bezekhaya.
“I moved to Cape Town in 2019 to pursue my master’s degree in communications with no success. I then decided to grow my own crop because I was used to gardening, but with Cape Town’s sandy soil I struggled a lot and I was referred to Abalimi bezekhaya for training on how to micro farm in this kind of soil,” Ruiters says.
Getting connected with this organisation made Ruiters’ life quite easy. From Abalimi’s teachings, she managed to start her own garden which produces food that is sold to markets in Khayelitsha.
“I have a project of my own today, named Sunshine organic farm and nursery, we train people about gardening and making their own food. We believe in self production of food because the consumption of plant-based diets is very important for our health.
Whenever people are sick and head to doctors, most of the time their diets are in question and that makes us believe that our foods are our medicines. The consumption of vegetables is very important in our health.
Over the years we have noticed that many people don’t even know what foods to plant because they do not know what foods can be planted except for spinach. When we sell our vegetables, we always share some recipes of how they can prepare some of the vegetables that we sell.
Ruiters concludes, “our people are sick, and they are sick because of the food they eat, if only they knew that all they need is a small piece of land, to plant a lot of vegetables for their health.”