In February 2019, Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA) partnered with Fortress REIT, a property group and real estate investment trust, to develop six community gardens across several schools in Evaton and Palm Springs, Gauteng, where two of Fortress REIT’s properties are based, Evaton and Palm Springs Mall.
Combining several of Food & Trees for Africa’s key programmes, including Food Gardens, Trees for All, Trees for Homes and their school gardening and nutrition programme, these eco-cluster programmes teach permaculture, sustainable gardening and the benefits of planting mini orchards to under-resourced communities.
Training and resources such as water tanks, gardening tools, planting and educational material will be provided over a two-year period to boost the gardens’ productivity. While it’s been less than a year since their inception, each of the six eco-cluster schools have received a rainwater tank and started showing promising results.
Ed Mashabane Secondary School: A success story
Based in Evaton, Ed Mashabane Secondary School has 863 learners, among whom over 80% are vulnerable. Here, most learner’s parents are unemployed and reliant on the SASSA grant, and many grandparents are sole caregivers. With the training and resources provided by Fortress REIT through their implementation partner FTFA, Ed Mashabane started their food garden in March 2019. For every member of the newly formed Eco Club, comprising learners, their English teacher Mr. Carl Phanuel, and one parent from the school governing body, it was their first time to plant or grow anything.
“I started the garden purely to teach learners to appreciate what Mother Earth can provide to us,” said Mr. Phanuel.
Unexpected benefits of the food garden
Learners work in the garden before and after school, transforming the space from a sandy pit into a thriving vegetable garden and green oasis. Apart from harvesting fresh vegetables to take home for supper every Friday, the Eco Club quickly found that the garden provides even more benefits. “It provides a form of therapy because learners find it easier to open up when we do gardening. Male educators become father figures to our learners, many of whom live with their grandparents. In addition, the school’s nutrition programme is supplemented with fresh vegetables from the garden. Learners are also given seeds and seedlings to plant at home, sharing their passion for gardening with their families and communities,” said Mr. Phanuel.
The garden is integrated with the curriculum, becoming an outdoor classroom where Economic and Management Sciences (EMS), Life Science, Language and Mathematics is taught, providing valuable experiential learning.
Sowing the seeds for success
Ed Mashabane has received training, seeds, seedlings, fruit and indigenous trees through the Fortress Evaton Greening Programme. They aim to grow their garden and plant even more trees by 2025. “Our long-term goal is to plant 2000 trees (one square kilometre) around our school to fight global warming. We want the broader community to be part of this project and we can only achieve this goal if organisations and private companies donate trees to our school,” said Mr. Phanuel.
No matter what the future holds, this teacher is a force to be reckoned with. After founding a girls’ mountain bike club, Mr. Phanuel’s team participated in the 2019 Spur Mountain Bike Girls League. He’s also trying to promote healthy living and eating through the food garden, as he believes this will encourage learners to be more disciplined.
Ed Mashabane Secondary School is testament to the success that can come from linking corporate social responsibility to community initiatives. 1300 trees were planted across 20 schools in the Evaton/Orange Farm area, while 2000 trees, an enterprise orchard (with an additional 100 trees) and two long term food gardens were planted in Palm Springs, impacting a further 20 schools.
The overall impact of the Fortress REIT and FTFA partnership over 2019 has been significant:
- 11550 trees
- 8 long-term food gardens
- 88 beneficiary organisations
- 24 390 direct beneficiaries
- 4500 households
- 103 trained community members
- 4261.99262 tonnes of carbon offset
About Food & Trees for Africa
Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA) is a leading Section 21 Non-Profit Social Enterprise that addresses food security and environmental sustainability. FTFA highlights education and skills training integrated with sensitive mentorship and phased support. With initiatives that address climate change and greening, promote natural resource management, organic farming and food security and sustainable enterprise development – FTFA has been in South African Social Development for 27 years and understands what it takes to achieve real, long-term sustainability and to make a positive difference to the lives of all South Africans.