Armed with just seven hectares of land, the Vaal Youth Antivirus is on a mission to turn once painful memories into a flourishing food garden in the Gauteng kasi of Sebokeng.
Before, the patch of land was a rubbish dumping site and a hotspot for violent attacks in Zone 14 of the Sebokeng township near Vanderbiljpark. The catalyst towards cleaning the site and growing a garden happened a few years ago when a child was found dead after falling into a pit.
“We decided to combine as the youth so that such things should never happen again,” communications officer of the project, Binele Motloung, tells Food For Mzansi’s Duncan Masiwa. “However, we later thought, ‘What would happen after the site is cleaned? What would stop such bad things from happening again?’”
Making healthy foods accessible
With no permission from the local municipality to utilise the dumping site, the members of the non-profit organisation (NPO) transformed it into a vegetable garden. The local municipality eventually bought into the idea and the garden has been thriving since 2018.
The food that is currently grown is donated to the Thusong project’s feeding scheme. This program seeks to help community members who struggle with access to food and depend on social grants.
A community divided
Some members of his community have not been bitten by the benefits of growing their own foods.
According to Motloung, others still try to cause division because of their personal interests.
“But they are not much of a problem. They are getting used to the idea and seeing what we are trying to do. It is not discouraging but encouraging. It proves to us that there is purpose in what we are doing,” Motloung says.
Their goal is to expand the food garden to create local employment. “In the near future, we also want to be able to supply local markets and others that are surrounding Sebokeng.”
But a lot of work still awaits the youth-led NPO.
“Currently, we are working on a volunteer basis. An administration budget is needed – and stipends for our youth who are determined to learn and grow the community through agricultural projects.”