Many people and communities run food garden projects as a means to provide food security, but eight select candidates from across the Cape Metro had the opportunity to participate in a specially designed graduate programme to take their garden projects to the next level.
The innovative Grow SA Learnership Programme ran for six months and saw the eight participants receive mentoring and skills development, and acquire business acumen in order to upgrade and upscale their garden/project operations within their communities.
The participants will graduate at a special ceremony at the V&A Waterfront on Thursday 2 December. The V&A is the programme sponsor.
David Green, CEO of the V&A, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic had a devastating effect on the vulnerable and the homeless and we witnessed incredible work being done by community action groups, soup kitchens and feeding schemes to alleviate some of the need. This motivated us to look for ways in which we could engage better with food producers, processors and distributors and – where the Waterfront has the largest impact – the market.
“Using the market within our neighbourhood as the platform, we hope to match production from small-scale farmers through the establishment of a Food Distribution Hub. This will serve as an aggregator, ensuring quality and consistency of fresh produce supply to our restaurants, hotels and broader consumer base. The next step from there would be to ensure that no excess food goes to waste.
“But today we are celebrating the first step in the process, and we are incredibly proud to be part of this first graduation of cohorts from The Grow SA Farmer Education Programme. We look forward to seeing the role they will play in creating future sustainable food systems.”
Two days of the programme were spent within the V&A’s edible gardens section where the candidates learnt about the planting of new beds, brewing worm tea from worm farm castings, as well as how to propagate plants from existing plants.
Two of the candidates also spent their month-long internship within the V&A precinct at two tenants, the Den Anker restaurant and OZCF Market, which both resulted in ongoing job opportunities.
According to Henry Mathys, Senior Manager for Social Impact at the V&A Waterfront, the Grow SA Learnership Graduation Programme was formed out of a desire to address food security through a comprehensive skills development programme.
The programme is run by GrowSA, comprising of a number of organisations functioning in the food security and skills development, as well as the hospitality spaces. These include Sheryl Ozinsky from the Oranjezicht City Farm Market, Rejeanne Vlietmann from Den Anker Restaurant, Margolite Williams from SA Harvest, Kurt Ackermann from the South African Urban Food and Farming Trust, and Ian Dommisse from EcoBrick Exchange.
“The intention of the programme has been to strengthen and enhance small-scale urban farmers and community kitchens,” Mathys said. “This programme has so many facets to it and really equips graduates to make a meaningful difference.”
“We know that with the Covid-19 pandemic the impact on livelihoods has been devastating, but we also know that sustainable food gardens provide a safety net in terms of food security and even income to vulnerable households and communities,” he added.
Participants were taught recycling including how to upcycle plastic into ecobricks to be used in their gardens and furniture pieces and together the project team has been able to generate two harvests of produce for the Homestead night shelter in Cape Town.
Dommisse said the initiative had evolved from the establishment of the garden project at the Waterfront, initially as a “training platform for urban farming”, into producing skilled and knowledgeable graduates who are “passionate community change-makers”.
Dommisse, a landscape architect by profession, has been deeply involved in the project which has seen the key roleplayers come together around shared values to impart knowledge and experiences in order to hone the programme syllabus.
“We all have diverse experiences and we have played to our strengths in order to pull together a holistic programme,” he added.
The impact has been rewarding with several of the programme participants landing jobs in the green economy, while others have been able to positively impact their communities and surroundings.