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A home gardening programme that creates ‘patches of salvation’ with waste

At the kernel of Soil for Life’s (SFL) Home Food Gardening Programme is the old proverb about a man and a fish (give a man a fish and he eats for a day; give him a rod and he eats for life). Working with 16 low-income communities in the Cape, SFL teaches young and old how to grow food while simultaneously conserving water, building soil fertility and using all the available resources.

“The Home Food Gardening Programme creates a unique opportunity for communities to transform the abundant waste that surrounds them into valuable, cost effective resources, which they can literally use to feed themselves while changing their often barren surroundings into small, green and growing patches of salvation: oases for their physical, economic, social and spiritual growth,” says Cindy Buske, spokesperson for the initiative.

Trainees are taught how to grow their own food using natural, water-wise farming techniques, and how to identify and use the waste around them in their gardens. They learn practices such as composting, trenching, mulching, sheet mulching, close planting, drip irrigation and water harvesting to conserve water, and how to use finely-chopped waste such as sawdust and cardboard as soil cover to feed the soil and reduce evaporation.

Organic waste — from teabags to hair clippings, shells and natural fibres — is returned to the soil to build humus and soil fertility, and other waste is transformed into materials required for productive gardens. To ensure maximum impact SFL provides trainees with ongoing support for a period of four years.

“Between 2010 and 2015, SFL equipped 2 874 home gardeners with the skills and confidence [required] to consistently grow a wide variety of food in extremely limited spaces,” says Buske. “This training and support has provided the potential for approximately 17 244 people (the gardeners, their families, friends and neighbours) to benefit from having access to healthy, nutritious vegetables.”

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