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Makhulong A Matala – greener pastures

Makhulong A Matala – greener pastures

Jun 1, 2013

Johannesburg Housing Company (JHC) is creating greener and healthier habitats. Two buildings in downtown Johannesburg are being developed with Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA) – one of them for green roof food gardens, a practise that has become popular in the US and is beginning to take hold in SA. 

Makhulong A Matala, a community development subsidiary of JHC, approached FTFA, South Africa`s greening social enterprise. FTFA has pioneered permaculture food security, climate change awareness and national greening over the past 23 years, and has been waiting for an opportunity to develop inner city permaculture food gardens and green roofs.

“JHC`s greening strategy has always kept an eye on facilitating greening lifestyles within our cities. In line with this strategy, Makhulong A Matala’s work focusses on the provision of development services for our resident communities, and our vision was pairing this greening strategy with poverty alleviation/food security,” says Lindi Malinga of Makhulong.

“Food gardens were the perfect choice as they provide the opportunity to keep the buildings clean through the recycling of unwanted waste and dirty water, and using those as a fertiliser for the gardens, as well as providing a source of healthy, organic veggies.”

An invitation was extended to all interested tenants at Carr Gardens and New Hampstead buildings to participate in the food gardening projects, and FTFA ran permaculture workshops with them. Now, less than five months since the first workshops, the resident gardeners are reaping many rewards.

“We save money and eat fresh organic vegetables. It also teaches us and the young people involved in the project that they can plant vegetables in the limited space we have in the flats. It is a skill that we can transfer to others here or at home.

“Permaculture encourages team work and community spirit. We save money, something many of us don’t have much of, and we now eat healthy vegetables,” says project co-ordinator Bridget Dube at New Hampstead.

Both projects have also sold produce and are working on plans to become self-sustainable. The workshops will continue over the next few months to cover companion planting, crop rotation, planting calendars, soil conditioning, vermiculture, container gardening, pest management, plant identification and uses (herbs, medicinal plants and indigenous plants).

The Carr Gardens project members are excited by their understanding of permaculture, which they describe as a branch of ecological design, ecological engineering and environmental design which develops sustainability and encourages self-maintained, horticultural systems modelled from natural ecosystems.

“The food garden brings the members of the community together. We have also been able to obtain fresh veggies which are free of harmful chemicals such as pesticides. Most of all, we have been able to save money,” says Aashia Lorgat project co-ordinator at Carr Gardens.

“Permaculture is permanent agriculture,” says Dube. “We use resources that we have, like rain water for watering, recycling organic waste material for compost, and we get the seeds from the same plants that we planted to replant.” \The two projects were competed on 23 March and a prize giving took place on 13 April. Certificates were awarded to all participants, and category prizes included: community involvement; best progress/most work done; most economically productive; best innovation; best effort; and most improved.

“They have come together as communities, tended the gardens and have harvested crops such as tomatoes, potatoes, green peppers and many herbs,” says Malinga. “The gardens have become areas of interest in the buildings, and all tenants are curious and have been watching the progress.”



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