We’ve written about the role food gardens can play in improving food security in South Africa, but what about the role of the private sector and CSI? We know that malnutrition is the single greatest cause – and result – of poverty. So, what should South African businesses be doing to alleviate it? 

We believe that businesses have a key role in meeting the challenges of food insecurity and malnutrition. Rather than seeing corporate social investment (CSI) as charity, we regard it as an opportunity to create real, sustainable change by partnering with communities to empower them to become self-sufficient. The debate shouldn’t be about whether companies should get involved, but how they should get involved. 

The impact of clustered programmes 

We have seen the benefits of implementing some of Food & Trees for Africa’s (FTFA) programmes jointly. Based on this, we decided to start clustering programmes within communities for greater impact. This  “eco-cluster” of programmes includes Food GardensTrees for All, Trees for Homes and our EduPlant school gardening and nutrition programme. These initiatives all teach under-resourced communities environmentally sustainable food-security and planting techniques. Just two of the takeaways: The benefits of permaculture and the use of mini-orchards to improve nutrition. 

Since February 2019, FTFA have partnered with Fortress REIT – a property group and real estate investment trust – to roll out several clustered programmes. These programmes, which are linked to locations in which Fortress operates, provide tangible resources such as seeds, herbs, trees and gardening tools. They also provide educational materials, training and mentorship to help communities become self-sufficient and food-secure. 

Creating relationships every step of the way 

It’s a pioneering concept. Instead of merely distributing a CSI budget, Fortress has become an important part of the process. For example, FTFA’s Food Gardens for Africa programme will help establish a food garden; from that garden, we will distribute trees to the community through the Trees for Homes programme. The community members who come to the garden to collect their trees form a positive association with the garden (and the community centre or co-operative running it). As a result, we see increased local buy-in and support for food-gardening activities. When the community is involved in this way, rates of theft and vandalism decrease. 

Through the Trees for Homes distribution, and associated foot traffic, the garden can grow its local customer base. With Trees for Homes, FTFA trains community members to maintain and care for their trees. This, in turn, creates employment opportunities in the community. Fortress staff also help prepare the gardens for planting or distribute trees through volunteer days. By doing this, they form relationships with the communities living around their flagship properties.  

Promoting systems thinking  

“As these gardens are usually on school properties, they support the school feeding scheme, while fruit trees planted at homestead gardens provide fresh fruit for households throughout the community. The community benefits from fresh, organic fruit and vegetables; indigenous trees planted as windbreaks attract beneficial insects, create shade, clean air and help sink rainwater; and educational programmes support a greater understanding of the local environment and food systems.”        

– Emily Jones, Trees and Carbon Programme Manager 

Clustering these programmes allows communities and school children to see the impact of a healthy environment and ecosystem first-hand – one they helped to create. 

Impact that can be measured

Together with Fortress, we’ve initiated cluster programmes across the country, greening Evaton and Sebokeng in Gauteng, Vredenburg in the Western Cape, Cornubia in KwaZulu-Natal and Sterkspruit in the Eastern Cape. In Mpumalanga’s KwaMhlanga, we’ll be implementing a clustered programme in November 2019, which includes an enterprise orchard of 2 100 trees. By conducting thorough needs assessments in these areas, we’ve identified opportunities for greater impact. In Evaton, for example, Fortress is exploring the opportunity to support high schools through extra maths programmes.  

Between February and November 2019, Fortress donated and planted 11 550 trees across our Trees for Homes, Trees for All and enterprise-orchard programmes. The total reach of the Fortress interventions includes: 

  • 8 long-term food gardens established
  • 103 community members trained
  • 4 500 households impacted
  • 24 390 people reached (direct beneficiaries)
  • 3 892.99 tons of CO2 offset

“It is an honour for us to roll out such positive food-security and environmental programmes. We believe in building strong communities, and where better to start than in the schools and homes of our learners? The ability to plant, grow and harvest your own produce can be a sustainable way to promote food security and poverty alleviation,” said Jodie Ellinor-Dreyer of Fortress.  

Yes, CSI can make a difference!

As we’ve seen with Fortress, socially-orientated businesses can engage with communities to create measurable impact and change lives. These businesses can use their CSI budgets to improve nutrition and alleviate poverty through FTFA and our cluster programmes. It is clear that, working together, we improve environmental awareness and create productive, green environments that contribute to sustainable socio-economic development.

For more information on our cluster programmes and solutions for CSI, contact FTFA now.

community food gardening, Community involvement, Corporate social investment, CSI, Eco-cluster programmes, Food Security Tag, fruit-based nutrition, Greening of community spaces, nutrition and poverty, Sustainability
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