In a collaborative community initiative, St. Cecilia Orphanage, a beacon of hope for vulnerable and homeless children in Ha Buasano, Lesotho, is bolstering food security with the support of Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA) in partnership with Shoprite.

Established in 2009, St. Cecilia Orphanage has been a steadfast refuge for children affected by the harsh realities of poverty and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. A significant number of these children, orphaned either from birth or a young age, were brought to St. Cecilia to ensure they could remain within their home community, close to family members, rather than facing displacement. The orphanage not only provides shelter but also empowers its young residents with education, vocational training, and essential life skills.

The St. Cecilia food garden, established in 2019, spans 2.3 hectares and serves as a vital source of vegetables for the orphanage. In 2022, FTFA and Shoprite embarked on a transformative journey with the organisation, providing crucial food garden support over a 12-month period. This marked FTFA’s expansion beyond South African borders for the first time, symbolising a significant milestone in their outreach efforts. The initiative equipped the organisation with essential food production resources, including tools, seeds, seedlings, compost, trees, and comprehensive training.

The partnership between St. Cecilia, FTFA, and Shoprite continues to thrive and is poised to extend its impact by implementing home-linked garden projects. Building upon the groundwork laid with St. Cecilia, ten members of the Beria community in Lesotho were identified as active gardeners who could benefit immensely from similar support. Thus, they are recipients of Gardens in a Bucket (GinBs), with St. Cecilia serving as a pivotal link to these food initiatives.

Minenhle Sikosana of FTFA shares, “Shoprite’s seedling garden campaign presents an opportunity to further empower and cultivate community farmers associated with the St. Cecilia Community. It aims to demonstrate how agriculture can uplift their community and foster long-term food security in Lesotho. With St. Cecilia acting as the nucleus for food security efforts, we’ve been able to extend support to more deserving community members, fostering a culture of farming and communal sharing.”

“We encourage recipients of our training and support to share their knowledge and resources with neighbouring communities, creating a ripple effect of food security. These home gardens, linked with St. Cecilia Orphanage, exemplify the power of collective action in ensuring everyone has access to nourishing food,” adds Sikosana, underscoring the importance of community collaboration.

The seedling garden campaign marks the expansion of Shoprite’s sustainable practice initiative beyond South Africa. By providing essential resources, the campaign empowers small-scale interventions to flourish and thrive.

Beneficiary selection for the campaign follows a rigorous process, utilising FTFA’s innovative FootPrint database, considering factors such as proximity, garden size, and commitment to food security. Gardens receive varying levels of support based on their needs, ranging from intermediate to major assistance.

Among the current beneficiaries is Masebueng Molapo, a resilient farmer who, despite the challenges of age and climate, perseveres in her commitment to growing nutritious produce. Through methods like sack gardening, Masebueng maximises limited space to contribute to her family’s well-being and generously shares her harvest with others in need.

A recent member of Grouping for Success Nutrition, Thakane Mpheu, is also among the growing number of farmers venturing into cultivating soya beans. Moreover, she prepares and sells Dipadi, a popular traditional food consisting of toasted ground mielies mixed with sugar and salt. In addition to these endeavours, her garden yields a diverse range of vegetables, including spinach, beetroot, carrots, Florida broadleaf, and English giant. She exemplifies her dedication to promoting nutrition and entrepreneurship through her multifaceted agricultural activities.

Mookho Letshokgohla, one of FTFA’s ecopreneurs, conducted training sessions for the 10 identified community members on April 29th and 30th 2024. She will return to Lesotho after three months to assess their progress. Based on the evaluation, they will receive further support to sustain their efforts.

Concurrently, St. Cecilia plans to integrate the children into agricultural training sessions, providing them with essential life and entrepreneurial skills. The orphanage aims not only to cultivate vegetables for its own use but also to explore opportunities to sell produce to the community in the near future.

The partnership between St. Cecilia Orphanage, FTFA, and Shoprite exemplifies a holistic approach to addressing food security in Lesotho, rooted in community empowerment and collaboration. By nurturing home gardens, the initiative provides sustenance and fosters a sense of dignity and resilience among beneficiaries.

Community Development, Community Gardening, CSI, farming community, food security, Shoprite, sustainable agriculture, VOCs, vulnerable and orphaned children
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