Backyard vegetable gardens are a common sight in rural Vhembe, Limpopo, and has become a way of life which eases the burden of food scarcity and insecurity, and rising food prices

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), hunger and food insecurity is increasing in many countries where economic growth is stagnant, particularly in middle-income countries and those that rely heavily on international primary commodity trade.

Organic farming

Ipfi Rakhadani from Matavhela Village, outside Tshilamba says she values her backyard vegetable garden as it encourages her to eat healthy foods, while ensuring that she never goes to bed on an empty stomach. 

“I believe that having a vegetable garden at home is one solution for the hunger problems we often face in rural communities — as well as promoting healthy eating habits among rural villagers. I have been helping my community with organic tomatoes as well as cabbages from my vegetable garden,” says Rakhadani.

Vegetables and fruit are important sources of vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre, plant, protein and antioxidants. WHO says that eating at least 400g, or five portions, of fruits and vegetables per day reduces the risk of non-communicable diseases and ensures a sufficient daily intake of dietary fibre. Most commonly ploughed vegetables in backyard gardens includes: spinach, cabbage, carrots, onions, tomatoes and potatoes. 

The Lancet Planetary Health published a study in 2019 which showed that major gaps exist between fruit and vegetable production and demand, and recommended consumption is consistently low because of insufficient supply of fresh produce.

“Historically, fruit and vegetable availability has consistently been insufficient to supply recommended consumption levels. By 2015, 81 countries representing 55% of the global population had average fruit and vegetable availability above WHO minimum target,” the article notes.

‘We are fortunate in Vhembe’

Muvhuso Mbedzi from Thohoyandou says that his vegetable garden helps him save money as he no longer buys vegetables from the shops. 

“I have a small vegetable garden at home which has been handy especially during the lockdown as I am able to get vegetables, such as spinach, fresh from my garden. The most important aspect that I love about having a small vegetable garden is that it helps one to eat healthy — which also helps one live longer,” says Mbedzi.

Mbedzi further says: “We are fortunate enough as people of Vhembe to have so much land at our disposal which we have to take advantage of and plough fruits and vegetables as much as we can.”

Handy gardens

Food insecurity occurs when access to food is minimally adequate and citizens have trouble meeting their household’s basic food needs. While South Africans are being encouraged to stay at home to help minimise the spread of Covid-19, backyard vegetable gardens are proving to be handy in terms of addressing food insecurities and encouraging healthy eating. 

According to Statistics South Africa, the country is food secure at national level, while the country is food insecure at a household level, because not all households have access to food. According to the census data, almost 20% of South African households had inadequate or severe inadequate access to food in 2017.

Vhembe-based agricultural farmer, Lindelani Maraganedzha of Delta Racklers, says that he encourages fellow residents who have land to start cultivating vegetable crops, to address food insecurity in rural areas. 

“As farmers, we are negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, and that might make it difficult to keep up with current demands of freshly produced fruits and vegetables. Having a backyard garden can help rescue many families from food insecurity and protect them, as they will not be forced to go out and look for vegetables,” he says.

“I always preach about the advantages of having a backyard garden — such as saving money, helping to keep one busy and fit especially during this time when people are encouraged to stay at home,” added Maraganedzha. — Health-e News.