From 2008 until 2013, a number of RDP houses were built in Witsands Phase 2 Informal Settlement near Atlantis. Residents were keen to move in and politicians arrived for the handing over. However, residents soon faced issues related to the fundamental nature of the area: the weather.
“The problem was soil erosion: the houses are built on a sandy foundation and there wasn’t a proper apron. When the wind blows, the sand wears away at the foundation and some of the houses collapse,” says Lizette Swanevelder of Green Communities. Funded by the Western Cape Government Environmental Affairs and Development Planning and managed in conjunction with the City of Cape Town, Alison Coertos, Renelle Jordaan and Swanevelder set to work. The top line goal was to stabilise the sandy soil.
“Because we started with the idea of soil stabilisation, we planted ground cover and grass. Then with the help of the community we started planting veggie gardens.” In a few months’ time, residents were eating out of the gardens. Inspired, other community members came forward to find out how they could be a part of the greening project.
“People began digging their own gardens, asking questions and getting involved. We needed an educational component then. So we put together training and workshops, teaching about healthy soil, propagation and seeds.” All beneficiaries received kits, as well as a uniform, daily meals, additional support and mentorship.
“There’s also been huge support from other NGOs. GreenPop donated a tree for every house. And Reliance Compost donated compost, which is vital for the soil. Without the compost the sand blows away again. We were also helped by the nurseries in the area: all the seeds and greenery were donated.” The gardens are now stabilised with healthy soils. Produce such as vegetables and fruits contribute to the home table. The gardens have benefited over 2?400 people.
“We aimed for soil sustainability and realised that we’ve helped achieve food security. The residents are upskilled now. There is also social upliftment: to know how to grow your own seeds and irrigate using grey water if there aren’t any taps in the garden is empowering,” says Swanevelder.