The people of Eikenhof, south of Johannesburg, have become small scale farmers, using land donated by the City.
Five years since the City of Joburg allocated them 250 hectares of land to farm on, they now produce vegetables such as cabbage, spinach, mealies and tomatoes to sustain themselves.
When the project started in 2008, the City gave the 50 cooperatives seven tractors, seeds and fertilizers to use in the Food Zone.
In their recent visit to the area, Executive Mayor Mpho Parks Tau and First Lady Bongi Ngema-Zuma accompanied by members of the mayoral committee, were pleasantly surprised to see how members of the community had put the land to productive use.
Members of the cooperatives took a break from their labour intensive work to welcome the mayoral delegation, ululating, whistling and clapping as the mayor, himself kitted out in overalls and boots, toured the Eikenhof Food Empowerment Zone - ready to lend a helping hand. According to the mayor, during the City’s Growth and Development Strategy 2040 consultations, communities showed eagerness to farm for themselves but expressed frustration that they did not have land to farm on. The City allocated the 250 hectares of land to get the cooperatives off the ground.
The mayor commended the cooperatives for the progress they have made in the Eikenhof Food Zone. He invited cooperatives to accompany him to Orange Farm where a similar project is also unfolding. He said he wanted to know where there are shortcomings and how the City could assist. “As the City we commit to be a City where no one goes to sleep hungry,” added the mayor.
According to MMC for Health and Social Development, Nonceba Molwele, the City also assists the cooperatives through the Agri Resource Centre, which trains and helps community members acquire agricultural skills.
The mayoral delegation then visited the Food Resilience Project in Lakeside in the far south of Johannesburg near Orange Farm.
The Executive Mayor turned a sod in Lakeside to mark the opening of the Lakeside Community Food Garden.
The mayor said for the city to address the problems of hunger, the city has to deal with them where it matters most. “We can’t talk about hunger and not have projects that deal with hunger. The same applies when we talk about development – it’s comprehensive. We are not only talking about houses, electricity and sanitation. We are talking about projects to empower and better the lives of our communities.”
MMC Molwele said these projects were well received by communities, including the youth, who also participate in farming. In Orange Farm, she added, there is a group of ex-convicts who are now participating in farming.
According to Aron Mphafudi, a member of the Sizakancane Multi-Purpose Garden, a cooperative working in the Lakeside Community Food Garden, vacant land which was previously used by criminals is now used productively by the community.
“In 2008, a young girl was raped and murdered in the bushes. The area was also used by criminals to strip stolen cars and burn them there.”
City Parks then turned the area into a park and today, the Lakeside Food Garden uses that piece of land to produce food for families and even donates vegetables to the children’s home in their communities.