Community gardens help to reduce food insecurity, improve dietary intake and even strengthen family relationships. This is according to Ma’ Christina Kaba (73), a woman on a mission to breathe life into Khayelitsha with her organic community garden, Moya We Khaya.
Kaba founded the garden in February 2014, with the mission to empower women and men in her community through a 1.5 metre vegetable gardening plot near Bonjour in the Cape Town township.
“We do this because we love gardening, some of us are unemployed some of us don’t have a husband or family to take care of us. But we don’t lack anything because the money we make from our garden sustains us,” Kaba told our sister publication, Food For Mzansi. Eight whole years later and the vegetable garden has grown into a sustainable community development project in Khayelitsha.
Landmark of hope
Kaba currently works with two men and eight women seven days of the week. Her own passion for growing food had always run deep. So much so that she had tried since 1995 to secure a space for her community garden. Eventually she contacted co-founder of Abalimi Bezekhaya, Rob Small, a social farming entrepreneur from Cape Town for help. He assisted her with land and fundraising so she could get her garden off the ground.
In 2014 her community garden came to life, and Moya We Khaya (“the spirit of home”) was born. Kaba and her gardeners have not missed a single day of work since.
Not an easy road
The road travelled has not been an easy one, Kaba says. The gardeners were met with many challenges including growing vegetables in very poor soil. It took compost and a lot of hard work to whip the garden into its current glory.
Back then, all ten members were working together as a big group, but they soon decided to divide the space so everybody could have their own set of plots.
With this change in structure, their harvest improved immensely as everybody could now work at their own pace. To extend their knowledge, the community took part in training courses through the Western Cape department of agriculture and Abalimi Bezekhaya, a non-profit community organisation that promotes small-scale urban farming in Cape Town townships.
Although the garden is divided into individual sections and plots, the group still works as a team. When one member is facing challenges, everybody steps up to help. Only two of the members have vehicles, so they will help the other members to collect needed materials and seeds.
A bright future ahead
The members are glad to regularly get support from unemployed young people, who come to help in the garden to earn some money. Inspiring and supporting the youth to grow their own vegetables is an important goal for the farmers. Kaba says that her granddaughter has even expressed interest and grows food on her own plots.
Now their biggest dream for the future is to have their own community centre and packing shed.
“This would provide us with space to properly prepare our veggies to send away to the clients. It would also allow us to set up our own market to provide market days to sell to the community,” she says.
The Moya We Khaya members would like to present training courses for the youth and get the community more involved. One concept they would like the community to understand is the importance of organically grown vegetables.
“It might take the vegetables longer to grow, and they may be more expensive, but the result is better tasting and healthier produce,” she says.