A small group of conservationists, food growers and environmental activists have started the Mpophomeni Conservation Group under the auspices of Midlands Conservancies Forum. They host regular walks and talks, screen environmental movies and hold discussion groups on environmental issues. Their own organic food gardens are living/working examples of sustainable living.
In South Africa, an estimated 1.5 million children suffer from malnutrition, 14 million people are vulnerable to food insecurity, 43% of households suffer from food poverty. School children who are hungry cannot concentrate or perform to their potential. There are 35 000 residents in Mpophomeni, the HIV rate is over 60%, and Unemployment about 80%.
The Global Green Grants Fund have provided funding to start this process. To begin with, low energy cooking equipment was purchased. Ntombenhle Mtambo was so delighted with the Wonderbag and Sunstove "We can do other things while our food cooks, we don't have to watch it all the time and it will save so much electricity." That evening Penz Malinga made vegetable curry on the Istofu and was amazed at how little wood it needed to cook "It's unbelievable", while Tutu's neighbours all snuggled around hers as it kept them warm indoors - no smoke!
A week later, some of the garden equipment arrived. Penz had the most fun spraypainting red symbols so they would be identifiable. Ntombenhle Mtambo is absolutely thrilled. "I have never owned so many tools, before my hands were my tools. I love them all! Now we have to go out there and educate people about how to grow food and help each other."
Members of the Mpophomeni Kidz Club (also an MCG initiative) are also excited by the abundance of tools and cannot wait to start helping in one another's gardens. The hosepipe is their absolute favourite! Penz has already planted peanuts and rhubarb, a tree tomato, peas, onions and spinach and built a compost heap.
MCG plan to inspire others in their communities to think about their lifestyles with regards to sustainability, resilience, climate change, biodiversity conservation and animal rights. Leading by example MCG intends to help and influence their neighbours , one garden at a time by hosting workshops and gardening parties (known as ilima in Zulu culture) to assist people to improve their gardens, grow indigenous plants and food plants.
The idea being that being that while they work, they informally chat about recycling, sustainable living and environmental issues. Their own lifestyles, homes and gardens will provide the inspiration to share their vision of a better, greener, kinder and more sustainable future for their community.
Next up: water tanks and gutters to harvest rainwater, fencing to stop chickens and goats from helping themselves, a brushcutter and plenty of old hay to mulch the gardens and build more compost heaps.
Ntombenhle and Tutu have approached the uMngeni Municipality to turn two areas of wasteland into community gardens. "We would like to help the community we live in. We would like to see them learn to understand the importance of nature and caring for the environment where they live in their daily lives, every day. Learning about these things will open their eyes, save money, water, energy and give them opportunities to earn money out of waste and gardening.
We would love to get rid of all the dumping sites because they cause misery for those who live near them, the rubbish blocks the storm water drains, rotting things smell bad and can cause disease. We need to teach the community that much of the waste is useful so they stop dumping and causing problems. Education is key for people to take advantage of opportunities to grow food and improve their lives. Programmes like "One Home, One Garden" fail because although they are given trees and seeds, most people do not have fences or information on how to make a garden or plant a tree. We would like to help people to start gardens and be able to sell surplus or donate to those in need.
Previously, we have approached the Municipality, but despite promises, nothing has happened. We are still standing and proud to carry on doing the things we believe are most important – growing food and helping the community."
News and pictures kindly supplied by Nikki Brighton