Nourishing the nation with food gardens, orchards and household fruit trees planted across South Africa.
Every year, more and more food gardens are springing up across the country, whether in schools, communities or homesteads. These food gardens help improve food security in the context of climate change, when water shortages and changing seasons are increasingly affecting the food supply.
Food gardens are vital solutions for the 1.7 million households in South Africa who go to bed hungry every night. A third of the children in Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal and the Free State are stunted due to chronic malnutrition and the Western Cape and North West province are home to the highest percentage of underweight children.
“Our food system is not designed to support the most rural or poorest of children. Eating healthy, fresh vegetables should be a choice – yet they’re not available or affordable,”said Robyn Hills, Programme Manager of Food & Trees for Africa’s Food Gardens for Africa programme.
Through Food & Trees for Africa’s partnerships with corporate sponsors, small-scale farms are created, supported and mentored. Apart from the several thousand EduPlant gardens across South African schools, FTFA’s Food Gardens for Africa Programme implements 105 gardens per year. Each garden receives an average of 30 trees including fruit and indigenous shade trees as wind breaks. Approximately 1026 mini orchards have been planted across the country.
Emily Jones, Trees and Carbon Programme Manager at FTFA, feels that many community members lack key nutrients in their diet, such as those found in fruit. “Fresh fruit is rarely available in low-income communities – and when it is, it’s usually more expensive than unhealthy snacks. Planting trees at food gardens and households provides better access to highly nutritious food.”
By establishing food gardens and orchards throughout South Africa, as well as planting fruit trees at the household level, FTFA provides greater access to markets, income generation opportunities and a more robust food system. This leads to a diverse supply chain and a more inclusive economy. “About 45% of our food gardens find additional sources of income along the value chain, and many projects, including Limpopo’s Valoyi Traditional Authority, have started bottling and pickling their surplus vegetables. This provides them with additional income and the added health benefits of fermentation. Another food garden, Sthembile Community Womens Project in Gauteng, has recently started packing their own dried herbs,” Robyn shared.
Tiger Brands has been nourishing the nation with Food & Trees for Africa since 2017. Through this support, FTFA has set up numerous vegetable and fruit producing hubs across 7 provinces. Together, they’ve planted 8145 fruit trees, supported 27 food gardens, and positively impacted numerous beneficiaries (with about 7900 beneficiaries impacted in the 2018/2019 financial year). This support has seen 4000 households receiving fruit trees, 1500 of whom also received household food garden support.
In Gauteng’s Soweto, Tiger Brands provides monthly, nutritious food parcels to community members. However, it was important to Tiger Brands that community members didn’t become reliant on these parcels. With the help of FTFA, they invested in training community members at Thulani Dlamini Home Based Care to grow their own food and become self-sufficient. In Stellenbosch, Kayamandi-based Love to Give is another beneficiary of Tiger Brand’s food parcels. Love to Give has managed to reduce child malnutrition in Kayamandi from 75% to 2%, and with the support of Tiger Brands, created a thriving food garden used for demonstrations and training.
“Our programmes enable people to grow their own food – on any scale. You can nourish your family and community through fruit, vegetables and herbs you put in the ground yourself. By harvesting produce from an organic garden without chemicals, artificial processing and ripening, you gain all the vitamins and minerals that make food dense and satisfying.”Robyn Hills