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Soweto school garden feeds 500, reduces malnutrition

Written by Lungile Thamela

The food garden at Vukuzenzele Primary School in Mofolo North, Soweto has done more than just feed learners, it has reduced malnutrition in the area, according to Dr Bongani Ngema.

Mofolo Clinic doctor Bongani Ngema says he believes the garden has reduced local cases of malnutrition

Mofolo Clinic doctor Bongani Ngema says he believes the garden has reduced local cases of malnutrition

The school’s garden feeds about 500 learners. Ngema works at the nearby Mofolo Clinic and says the garden had led to better health among learners.

“We, as doctors, do see a big difference in as much as reported cases of malnutrition are now rare unlike before,” he tells OurHealth. “These food gardens are a very good thing as they helps to reduce…not only malnutrition but also other common infections in school children,”

Mofolo resident Thabiso Rathebe, 23, has been volunteering at the garden for about seven months. He says he takes pride in donating his time and thinks more youth could benefit from helping feed communities.

“There are children that are from homes that don’t have enough food or any food at all,” Rathebe said. “(Knowing) that gave me a passion for working in this garden – I feel that I am helping the community as a whole.”

“Government must assist (schools) to expand this project…to reach out to school children facing malnutrition…but also youth who have nothing to do and end up smoking nyaope,” he added.

Fellow volunteer Johnny Ngwenya, 29, said he knew nothing about gardening until he received lessons as part of life skills classes before working in the garden. He is now one of five local volunteers that tend the garden.

“Our government needs to make more contributions in educating other people about food gardening,” he told OurHealth. “Food garden projects eradicate poverty and hunger, which leads to good nutrition and healthy life styles.”

But Thoko Tshabalala, who sits on the local Ward 24 Committee, says community members are not interested in food garden projects.

“We believe that this is the better way of resolving our problem of malnutrition in school, but the challenge is that our community is not showing interest in food gardening,” said Tshabalala, adding that the project also battles to find solutions to pests and money to cover rates.

About the author

Lungile Thamela

Lungile Thamela is an OurHealth Citizen Journalist reporting from Gauteng's Johannesburg Health District.