LANGA-CAPETOWN, South Africa - A food garden project led by a 70-year-old in Langa, South Africa has become a primary source of food and employment for thousands of residents in the area and those nearby.
Inspired by the need to alleviate poverty through lasting solutions, community leaders Nompumelelo Ngoqo and the late Nosipho Sikutshwa founded the Urban Rural Development and Capacity Building project 19 years ago, with the sole aim of feeding the impoverished community of Langa.
“Initially, through the project we aimed at alleviating poverty in a comprehensive and compassionate response through community development by implementing food gardening projects in the poorest areas in our society, not knowing it would grow into something bigger,’’ said Ngoqo.
The project started with only one garden in 2000 and the founder';s hopes to raise the community';s standard of living. It now has more than 22 gardens in Langa and surrounding areas and two nutritional food kitchens and employs 200 staff in the gardens and as cooks on a permanent basis.
Co-founder Ngoqo said their food gardens project ensured that the community had access to nutritious food and the ability to create sustainable gardens for the social and economic development of the community.
The gardens are in vacant land in local schools, churches, clinics and police stations.
“The impact of the food gardens in health clinics is that they administer HIV support services to affected individuals who often obtain their only meal of the day from these clinics,” Ngoqo said.
“Community members are trained to cultivate the land, harvest and sell the produce to improve the overall health of the community,” she said.
Ngoqo is still passionate about community development after more than 40 years of service.
She said good governance of the organisation had sustained it, allowing the expansion of diverse services offered to meet the growing and changing needs of their community.
The expanded programmes include home-based care where beneficiaries conduct daily visits to sick and disabled patients at home and places of safety, sewing classes, early childhood development, a bakery and an after-school care programme.
“Our services have also expanded to include HIV and Aids counselling in clinics. TB and HIV-positive patients report more frequently and complete their full course of medication as they are assured of nutritious food in our food kitchens.”
Ngoqo said these services had a significant impact on the community, as they addressed the poverty situation and created community services to assist people living in poverty to survive with independence and dignity.