North West families turn to food gardens amid food hikes

North West families turn to food gardens amid food hikesLearners work in a food garden nutrition health. (File photo).

As drought and a weaker rand conspire to raise food prices, families in the North West may be hardest hit. One family has found a fix for high food prices.

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A 2014 Statistics South Africa survey found that families in the North West were most likely to report having not had enough money for food in the last year. (File photo)

Dinnertime at the Morake household can be chaos. With eight mouths to feed, preparing the nightly meal can be daunting – even more daunting were the grocery bills.

“We realised we had to do something to feed our big family,” said a family member Mphafudi Johannes Morake.

With some farming experience behind him, Mphafudi took to the soil outside the family home and established a family food garden.

The garden’s first harvest of vegetables like carrots, spinach and beetroot also held a pleasant surprise for the Morakes: There were leftovers.

“After we were fed, there was always food left over,” Mphafudi told OurHealth. “As a family, we got together and decided to help support the disadvantaged people in our area by donating vegetables to them.”

Now the Morakes’ potatoes, tomatoes and pumpkin go straight from the soil and into the hands of neighbours like Mmoneng Meriam Tau, who would not otherwise be able to afford fresh vegetables.

“I appreciate the food they offer me, as I can’t afford to eat this healthy food myself,” she said. “It would be great if government could support them to grow it even more.”

Rising food prices likely to compound hunger

In a 2014 Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) survey, almost a quarter of South African households nationwide reported having run out of money for food in the previous year. Families in the North West were most likely to report having been short on food money with about 40 percent of families reporting a deficit in household budgets.

[quote float= right]We realised we had to do something to feed our big family…It has closed the gap between survival and starvation”

The government body has noted that North West families may now be among the hardest hit by rising food prices. Consumer prices for grain-based food increased by an average of about five percent in 2015, according to StatsSA, which added consumers are likely to feel the pinch of grain imported to offset poor harvests driven by drought.

“The drought has forced South Africa to import maize to make up the shortfall,” said the body in a recent statement. “With rand weakness driving up the prices of other imports such as wheat, concern has grown over rising food inflation.”

“Households that depend on grain-based products, and households already struggling to pay for food, are likely to be affected the most,” it added.

The Morakes’ garden has not escaped the drought, and when crops started to wilt, they approached the North West Department of Social Development. The department has promised to install a water tank for irrigation at the family’s home.

“We…are glad to say that they will be helping us in future by installing a big water tank for irrigation so that our garden does not die.”

“Government is excited and impressed by what they are doing, and want to assist where they can,” said Department of Social Development social worker Tebogo Tshukudu.

In the meantime, the Morakes’ onion, cabbages and other vegetables may be a lifeline for their community in troubled times.

“It has closed the gap between survival and starvation,” Mphafudi said.

Want to start your own food garden?

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation has some tips:

  • Start small: Did you know you can grow a surprising amount of food in a one metre by one metre plot?
  • Find the right spot: Look for soil that gets lots of sun and has good drainage so your garden does not flood. Ensure you have space for a footpath to walk without stepping on the crops.
  • Get the basic tools: You’ll need flat and pointed spades to work the ground as well as a shovel, fork and hoe to move and break up soil. Prepare the soil one month before planting.
  • Good soil makes for a good garden: Learn how to compost or add organic matter such as farm animal manure to keep your soil healthy.
  • Mingle your plants: Too much of the same kind of plant in a grouping sends “eat here” messages to bad bugs. Choose a variety of plants and also remember you should rotate your plants to avoid depletion of the nutrients in the soil.- Health-e News.

An edited version of this story was also published on Health24.com