Self-sustaining agroecology principles can provide a platform for future food security. To achieve this, it is vital to engage, involve, and educate all generations in these principles.
One such project is the Getsemane Agri Farmers’ Cooperative in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Established in 2019, Getsemane aims to alleviate local poverty and increase the community’s future food security through sustainable farming. The seven dedicated founding members (four ladies and three men), work tirelessly to feed the KwaXimba township community in Cato Ridge.
“The farm has approximately 10 hectares of fertile land where it cultivates various crops,” says Nkululeko Wiseman Didi, a Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA) Ecopreneur who works alongside various farm projects in the region.
Nkululeko provides FTFA training and resources to farmers: from planting and product distribution to sales and marketing. The members of the cooperative are, in turn, passing these skills down to their children and grandchildren. They are also transferring skills to the wider community, including the unemployed.
The project also takes things a step further, selling fresh vegetables to reputable businesses including Spar, Agrikool, and Fair Food.
Critical skills transfer
FTFA’s structured agroecology training programme is enriched by educational materials covering the entire food production value chain. This ranges from the essential aspects of soil and water management to production planning, crop care, market linkage, and business skills development.
Nkululeko says this theory is further enhanced with practical lessons. “Getsemane’s garden serves as a demonstration site where the next generation is shown important natural farming practices that will help to ensure future food self-sustainability,” he enthuses. “Younger community members attend all workshops and training. They enthusiastically take the lead in every task and activity.”
Leading on from these workshops, Siyabonga Mbeje, Project Leader at Getsemane, has recently been working with 20 local youth on a daily basis, mentoring them in all aspects of farming from plant production to harvesting. The ‘students’ receive a stipend on a monthly basis to cover their meals and transport fees, while they dedicate themselves to gaining essential life skills.
Siyabonga also regularly takes his mentorship beyond Getsemane gates. “I have been working with various organisations to involve the local youth in Agriculture,” he says. Siyabonga is a facilitator by profession, and through organisations such as the Mayibuye Game Reserve, he has mentored numerous students and community members on principles of biointensive agriculture and permaculture.
A platform for future food security
By following the daily farm schedule and taking an active part in day-to-day work, the youth acquire valuable skills, which they can replicate at their homesteads. “In this way, productive sites like Getsemane become an ideal platform for skills transfer, encouraging younger people to see agriculture as a viable occupation,” Nkululeko emphasises.
Getsemane is paving the way towards food self-sustainability in Cato Ridge, and Nkululeko is looking forward to a prosperous future: “Food security and a healthy environment are essential to prosperity. With 31 years of experience in social development, FTFA understands what it takes to establish and achieve real long-term sustainability,” he says. “Two years from now, Getsemane will supply tons of fresh produce to big markets and shops. Through skills transfer, the project will create many jobs for the youth, as well as supply all other small projects near them with seedlings.”
Prioritising future food security
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, food self-sufficiency and food security have been priorities for governments and communities worldwide. In South Africa, many businesses faced enormous financial difficulties, including farms like Getsemane.
“The project lost many clients struggling with financial woes,” says Nkululeko. “However, Getsemane was still able to help the community by establishing several initiatives. This included inviting community members to harvest some of the crops once a month for free and hiring people to help with farm work duties.”
Siyabonga’s personal background is testament to what this kind of support can achieve. “I come from a very poor household. While I was completing my degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, I used to come home to collect food from our garden to eat. My late grandfather was a farmer and taught me about the importance of subsistence farming,” Siyabonga shares. His desire to eradicate poverty and hunger in his community motivated him to return home after his studies and help establish Getsemane with his aunt and cousin who were also unemployed at the time. “My family is involved and they played a pivotal part in shaping the man I am today and my instilled love of agriculture.”
Getsemane’s other charitable and humanitarian initiatives include the delivery of food parcels and hampers. “In July and August of 2022, the project distributed 5,000 food hampers to several surrounding communities, working in conjunction with Absa and the Environmental Sustainability Agency,” reveals Nkululeko. “Furthermore, Getsemane continues to facilitate household gardens by providing seed boxes to interested parties.”
Food & Trees for Africa is committed to promoting local projects founded in sustainable agriculture as a way of improving food security in various communities. This is especially important with ongoing global crises affecting food security both worldwide and here in South Africa. To find out more, please contact us.