This article was written by Barbara Dourley, one of our current CIDA IYIP interns based in Durban, South Africa. Her work there focuses on the green economy. The Durban project was partially inspired by the City of Vancouver’s urban garden project, which has 30 plots on City Hall grounds. Nice to see the cross-pollination in our member cities!
The eThekwini Municipality Parks Department has paired up with a local youth resource centre to start a food garden in Durban, South Africa’s inner city.
The District 10 Food Garden began in October 2010 after Cyril Nhliziyo, a horticulturalist in the district’s Parks Department, approached the Umthombo Children’s Resource Centre with the idea of starting a food garden in the empty lot just across the street from their drop-in resource centre. Inspired by a food garden program at City Hall, a demonstration project initiated by Imagine Durban and inspired by a similar program at Vancouver’s City Hall, Nhliziyo saw an opportunity for his department to follow suit.
The lot where the food garden now rests used to be a desolate open space where locals would dump their household refuse. The space is now a thriving food garden that produces vegetables which are contributing to the Centre’s nutritional programme. Umthombo encounters an average of 70 drop-in cases per day, with several children spending more than one night at the Centre and so the vegetables are a welcome addition, bringing variety and nutrition to the meal programme. The garden had a good first harvest this year and everyone working on the project is optimistic about future harvests.
The garden also serves as a vehicle for skills development, with several of the children receiving lessons on how to start and maintain a food garden. Halalisani Hlophe, a volunteer at the youth centre who helps to coordinate the garden, received permaculture training when the project first started. He now organizes informal training sessions for other children and youth at Umthombo. Ashika Pramlall, the Programs Director at Umthombo, cites skills training as one of the main benefits of the program, saying “The team working on the garden has not only assisted in giving us food but also in imparting skills to these children.”
Umthombo took over management of the garden on the 1st of April, 2011. Nhliziyo explained that this was the plan when the project was started. “We will continue to provide technical support in the form of disease and pest control,” commented Nhliziyo, “but the garden will now be with Umthombo.” He is moving on to another food garden project in association with a vulnerable youth organization called ICARE. The plan is for the Parks Department to initiate more projects of this nature in the future, partnering with children and youth organizations with the goal of giving young people the opportunity to learn new skills and engage in a healthy living activity.