It’s World Food Day on 16 October, yet many of South Africa’s pressing issues remain the same – food security, malnutrition, and hunger – while the impact of climate change presents an enormous challenge. Although South Africa is ranked as the most food secure nation in Africa, this food is not equally distributed and many South Africans don’t have access to nutritious food. Coupled with a 55.2% youth unemployment rate (between the ages of 15-24 years) in 2019, 31% of whom are graduates, isn’t it strange that there aren’t more youth in Agriculture?
Fortunately, Agriculture in South Africa, and Africa as a whole, is starting to experience a revolution. College-educated millennials are dropping cushy office jobs and starting to farm, combining technological know-how and scientific approaches to increase yields and prove that farming can be a successful career. Food & Trees for Africa’s EduPlant programme is a school-focused food gardening and greening initiative that has partnered with the Woolworth’s Trust over the last 15 years to spearhead this movement.
Through EduPlant, we hope to inspire youth at hundreds of schools and communities to grow their own food and know where their food comes from. By starting from the ground up, we can educate youth about career opportunities in Agriculture, and remove the stigma of farming as an unprofitable, unglamorous profession. Here’s some of the ways that EduPlant helps inspire youth in Agriculture:
1. Resources and training to enable a “produce to sell” mindset
The EduPlant programme trains teachers and learners to set up sustainable permaculture gardens to support school feeding programmes (and decrease malnutrition). Any surplus produce can be sold to their local communities to make a profit or raise much-needed funds. This “produce to sell” model helps learners see how farming can create both income and opportunity, inspiring an entrepreneurial mindset. In 2015, Woolworths launched the School Market Day initiative which saw two schools (Hout Bay High School in Cape Town and Pula Madibogo Junior School in Polokwane) selling their produce at their local Woolworths, experiencing the market potential of organic produce firsthand. What’s more, the EduPlant programme teaches learners to think about (and develop a solutions-based approach) to wider social and environmental issues such as sustainable development, environmental consciousness and climate change.“We believe school gardens can be more than places of food production; they can serve as platforms for social, environmental change and sustainability.”– Tshepiso Senetla, EduPlant Programme Coordinator
2. Connecting the garden to the classroom
The EduPlant programme connects the garden to the classroom and offers a practical, real-world application of the school’s curriculum. By teaching learners about farming and gardening from an early age, young learners can begin to develop a sense of responsibility and interest in farming that may lead to them choosing farming and permaculture as a career. “We want to remove the disconnect from farm to fork that comes from pre-packaged food bought from a spaza shop or supermarket. Younger generations don’t know where their food comes or how it’s produced. There’s nothing like growing, harvesting and eating their own fresh, organic produce to give learners and appreciation of how plants need to be nurtured with healthy soil, sun and water to grow into the healthy fruits and vegetables that feed us.” What’s more exciting than growing spinach from seed or pulling a carrot from the ground, rinsing it and eating it right there in the garden? Playing with the soil, discovering insects and animals and learning about the value of fresh, organic food? This can inspire a deeper love of nature and connection to the earth that is essential in today’s technologically-driven world.– Tshepiso Senetla Hands-on experience in growing food can make learners more eager to try new foods, develop an understanding of nutrition and form healthier eating habits, while also learning about the environmental benefits of growing food organically, sustainably and locally. In addition, young learners can discover the history of food and its nutritional value by comparing the food eaten today with food produced 100 years ago.
3. World Food Day volunteer activations
As part of the EduPlant Programme, every World Food Day we hold volunteer days supported by the Woolworths Employee Community Involvement Programme. This activation on World Food Day 2019 brings Woolworths employees to ten EduPlant schools to help expand their gardens and boost food production. Working side by side with educators and learners, Woolworths staff will help dig new beds, mulch, compost, plant seedlings and water the gardens; discovering permaculture from the learners themselves who share their learnings and achievements in the garden.