In Tsonga, the word “Kula” means “to grow”; in Swahili it means “to eat” and it is also a Sanskrit word for “community”. The word reflects Nonkululeko Britton’s core values of sustainability, health and wellness and building communities, and yet somehow, does not do her passion and her knowledge justice.
Nonkululeko’s journey started back in 2017 with a need to understand how she and her family could become more self-sufficient. She began growing seedlings in her backyard in whatever containers she had available, while simultaneously transforming her parent’s underutilised plot in Midrand into what has come to be a flourishing, sustainable food garden.
“Kula Organics” is now a thriving agribusiness, which Nonkululeko says has been a natural product of gradually scaling the project and selling produce, first to her immediate community. Through storytelling and selling fresh, nutritious leafy greens to her friends and family, Nonkululeko inspired her community to do more for themselves, while expanding her own initiatives.
Kula has grown dramatically since its inception. What was once a small vegetable delivery service has germinated into a thriving market garden and permaculture gardening training platform for the community, and especially their youth.
Nonkululeko has a passion for teaching people to become more self-sufficient in the simplest way possible. “People are of the mind-set that a small space and limited capital are barriers to creating a sustainable garden. This is not true, we teach people to start with what they have, where they are, and scale it from there,” she says.
Stories of Kula spread and in 2018, the farm joined forces with FTFA. The timing of this was fortuitous as FTFA was able to provide key resources, training and business acumen that Nonkululeko says was lacking at the time.
In 2022, Fortress REIT stepped in as a dedicated funder to help grow the project and solidify the path toward long-term sustainability. With their support, Kula has received ample resources including compost, mulch, germination pots and seedlings. Thirty grow beds have been established and a shade house has been erected. Fortress REIT also ensured that FTFA could provide numerous training sessions at Kula, and for the community. Thus far, ten out of 18 workshops have been completed and FTFA looks forward to another year filled with mentorship, exchange programmes and upskilling.
Nonkululeko says, “The garden has not been this productive since its inception. We hope to maximise its potential in the years to come, and improve the health and biodiversity of ecosystems within it.”
“We have pulled off some magic in this garden! I have really enjoyed working with Fortress REIT and FTFA,” she highlights.
Within the first six months of mentorship and planting material support from Fortress, the brassica, beetroot and lettuce production at the farm were in full swing. The food garden has been an important vehicle for creating food sovereignty within the surrounding community. Kula has regularly supplied over 120 people with fresh produce since the start of the season.
Fortress REIT’s Jodie Elinor-Dreyer notes, “Key to the continued success of this business will be the next 12 months of training. Building a sustainable farm is based on a regenerative foundation, and we are extremely pleased to see that the Kula farm project with FTFA is progressing well!”
About the Fortress REIT and FTFA Partnership
Fortress REIT is the largest owner and developer of premium-grade logistics real estate in South Africa, and the owner of many shopping centres and warehouses that were key to providing essential services during the initial COVID-19 lockdown period. Through FTFA, the company fervently continues to implement solutions uplifting vulnerable local communities from persistent socio-economic inequalities. This is achieved by rolling out several food security, environmental sustainability and greening programmes in “eco-clusters” across schools and communities in close proximity to their properties.
About Kula Organics
Kula Organics are passionate about reclaiming indigenous ways of growing food and healing people and the planet. They help people grow their own food and herbs, the organic way. Kula also provides medicinal and culinary herbal products.
Learning to farm was a huge learning curve for Nonkululeko, she sought out Amon Maluleka, an organic farmer and a member of Bambanani cooperative who ran an urban farm in the heart of the inner city Bertrams. That’s when she asked Amon for practical lessons to turn the theory into something more accessible that people could use to learn to farm either in backyards or on a larger space. The Kula Organics farm is situated in President Park AH, Midrand GP. The farm consists of a 4ha plot owned by Nonkululeko’s family.