Nelson Mandela said that education is the most powerful weapon an individual can use to change the world. Sadly, within the South African context, poverty can often stand as a barrier in the path of pursuing education. For example, effective learning cannot happen when learners come to school with empty stomachs; yet sadly, this is the status quo in many South African schools. In KwaZulu-Natal the Department of Education runs a schools feeding scheme in hundreds of schools around the province.
The community of Maphumulo is one of many where learners are benefitting from this scheme. But they are not the only ones who benefit: the department of education is procuring locally produced vegetables to feed schoolchildren, thereby creating massive economic opportunities for the community.
However, the tonnage of locally produced vegetables is unable to satisfy the demand, which means that tonnage must be augmented through external procurement, thereby giving communities in other poverty-stricken wards the opportunity to participate in the programme.
A cluster of co-operatives drawn from the targeted wards is already producing vegetables in open fields along the river.
The project is run by a cluster of co-operatives and already involves communities from three traditional councils; the aim is to incorporate more.
The garden is about 50 hectares in size, and only 10 hectares have been cultivated to date. An additional 50 hectares have been secured for further cultivation. Plans are underway to provide a hydroponic tunnel, which will mean that 2 500 square metres will be under cover, and the tonnage of fresh produce such as tomatoes will increase.
Enterprise Ilembe — the economic development agency of iLembe District Municipality — has supplied seedlings and mechanisation to commence the cultivation of the additional hectares. Enterprise Ilembe is the conduit through which the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education procures fresh produce cultivated by local communities. The organisation uses various forms of promotional material including banners to encourage local communities to increase their supply to schools.