Peter’s Gardening Projects is the inspirational tale of a young man who recognised a need within his community in Limpopo Province and did not rest until he was able to provide a solution.

Food security and nutrition are major problems in communities across South Africa, as is a growing gap between younger generations and traditional agricultural knowledge. 

Peter Molepo recognised this gap in knowledge, and decided to use his passion for agriculture and permaculture to teach people in the community about farming and fight back against poverty and food insecurity.

Where it began

Molepo says he was motivated to do something when he saw the major lack of this important knowledge within his community. “I realised that in my community, school-going children were not being taught about food production, so I started to engage with schools and other community members to share agroecological and permaculture skills with them,” he explains.

Molepo approached the schools in the community with the suggestion of setting up food gardens on their premises, having previously set up his own food garden at home. His plan was to provide schools and their learners with the dual benefits of supplementing school feeding schemes, and teaching learners how to grow their own food. He says that the schools didn’t need much convincing. “It was so easy to start working with them. They had a lot of unutilised land, and when they heard about my idea, they immediately jumped at the chance to get started!” he elaborates.

Including youth is essential for future food security

School food gardens can play a critical role in ensuring food security. “Since the cost of living is too high, it makes a huge difference if learners can have access to produce from their own food garden,” Molepo stresses. “We use natural resources in the food gardens, and its also really important that the children learn where the food they eat comes from.”

School gardens provide a formative practical learning environment, allowing learners to “get their hands dirty” and see tangible end results from their efforts, and Molepo says that the children really enjoy learning about how to produce their own food. Through the support of Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA) and funders Public Investment Corporation (PIC), Molepo was also able to extend the project scope into the surrounding community to set up a number of community gardens.

“FTFA helped me a lot through their workshops and infrastructure provision,” says Molepo. “They also helped further by providing seedling trays and planting resources, allowing me to establish a nursery in my community.”

A fruitful partnership

FTFA’s Mini Sikosana says the organisation is proud to have enabled Molepo to keep transferring his skills and knowledge to the community members he works with. “One of the things that makes Peter’s Gardening Projects so special is the community aspect he’s cultivated: there’s a real entrepreneurial spirit and a community development aspect that is so important,” she emphasises.
“This is the story of someone who saw a gap in the community and chose to bridge it. It’s the schools that benefit from the produce being grown; Peter didn’t ask them to pay for his services, he did everything for the betterment and benefit of others,” she continues.

Molepo says that his favourite memories since starting his food garden initiative come from the connections he has made with his community and school-goers through farming. “Seeing them get seedlings to start their own food gardens was a moment that told me Peter’s Gardening Projects is really a beacon of hope in the community,” he beams.

Even when he has faced challenges, Molepo has shown incredible commitment. “Peter has always ensured that he makes as much of a difference as possible. He has taught others how attainable a nutritious lifestyle can come from being self-sufficient, at a time when many people struggle to afford nutritious food and live a healthy lifestyle,” Sikosana says. “Teaching people something new and bringing communities together isn’t always easy, but Peter has always shown complete devotion to uplifting his community.”

Molepo hopes to see more and more families in the community and further afield start to establish their own food gardens, especially using natural, sustainable farming methods. He also hopes to expand the community nursery. “There is a huge demand for vegetable seedlings—both for backyard gardeners and smallholder farmers—so hopefully we can meet this demand,” he elaborates.

Sikosana adds that the exposure Molepo has gained by being interviewed in print, radio, and television media has been helpful in opening people’s minds and fostering community development: “This helps community members understand that sometimes we may think certain things are unimportant, but we can actually use them to create employment opportunities, better our lives, and better our futures.”

agriculture, Community Development, community gardens, farming, Food garden, food security, permaculture, school gardens
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