‘We will not sleep with empty stomach’- Household gardens root out food insecurity in rural areas

‘We will not sleep with empty stomach’- Household gardens root out food insecurity in rural areasRose Mhlongo (61) showing off her garden in Runnymade village (Mogale Mojela/Health-e News)

Household food gardens are helping these rural villages to fight hunger, while also bringing in an income. The project is facing challenges though, due to climate and the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Household gardens are combatting food insecurity and poverty in the rural villages of Nwamitwa, outside Tzaneen.

Since 2014, the Valoyi Traditional Authority Trust’s project  encourages and helps families grow food in their own backyards.

“At the moment we have 50 women around the villages of Nwamitwa, whom we organise workshops, give them seedlings, fencing, water cans and gardening tools,” says Ivy Mpenyane, the coordinator of Household Food Gardening.

The project began as part of the Valoyi trust’s home-based care programme, and initially assisted people who were HIV positive. The gardens allowed them to produce nutritious meals, which benefitted treatment regimes, said Mpenyane. In the six years since it launched the Household Food Gardening has benefitted more than 100 families.

Women benefitting from backyard garden

It is often women who sew, plough and tend the household food gardens in the Nwamwita villages. They grow vegetables like cabbage, spinach, tomatoes and beetroot.

Ntswaki Kamela from Runnymade village started her backyard vegetable garden in 2015.

“It helps us a lot in the family as we are able to eat nutritious food I have grown in my own backyard,” she says. “We will not sleep with empty stomach as long as we have this garden in our yard.”

The Household Food Gardening project has also helped her earn an income, adds the 42-year-old.

“Farming even if it’s in your backyard and a small scale is very important because it means you will always have food at your disposal even if you don’t have income. You can also make an income if you are selling your products,” says Kamela.

The project has also helped villages scale up their existing gardens, and make a living.

“I started this garden in 2004 though it was relatively small and improved later on when I was introduced to the trust,” says Rose Mhlongo, also from Runnymade village.

“I am able to sell the products around the village and at least be able to have something to eat from the vegetables from the garden. The garden also keeps me busy,” says the 61-year-old.

The impact of Covid-19

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Mhlongo sold her vegetables around her village. Now, with lockdown regulations and shrinking household budgets, the pandemic has affected her sales.

“Before Coronavirus I had ploughed a lot of vegetables but I couldn’t sell due to Covid-19. I think it was because a lot people had enough time to grow their own…so I couldn’t sell like I used to,” she says.

A lack of public funding has also affected the project’s ability to support the community, says Household Food Gardening coordinator Mpenyane.

“We are unable to give them seedlings like we used to in the past because we ran out of funds and due to Covid 19 we are struggling a bit to attract funds,” she says.

Water shortages

The project is also facing natural challenges. The Nwamitwa area struggles with water scarcity. Still, villagers have found some solutions.

“We encourage them to use grey water. What they do is that we tell them to store the water they used for bathing and washing clothes. They will pour in ashes to clean the water and later on use it for irrigation,” explains Mpenyane. – Health-e News