HARVEST TIME AT BELLVILLE’S FIRST URBAN FOOD GARDEN
The first urban food garden in Bellville is ready to be harvested, yielding a nutritious crop of vegetables for a soup kitchen serving homeless and vulnerable people. The Greater Tygerberg Partnership, in collaboration with social development NGO, MES, has created a 300sqm food garden at the Safe Space in the Bellville CBD. The project was conceived during the hard lockdown in 2020 by one of the clients at the Safe Space as a means to grow nutritious food, improve health and food security while enabling Safe Space clients to earn a small income.
Horticulturist Paul Barker was appointed to run a 10-module training programme which started in February 2021. Under Barker’s guidance, the team learned to manage and sustain the food garden. Their training will continue, enabling project members to address the challenges of growing food in urban environments, and to help the project expand.
Currently holding 16 beds, the garden will be expanded over time to around 600sqm. The project was initially started with the aim of supplying fresh produce to support a soup kitchen and feeding scheme for MES. Surplus produce will be sold to enable the team to earn money. The first crop will be harvested around the third week in May. Swiss chard, spinach, celery, turnip, spring onions, beetroot, kale chou molier and bush beans are among the first vegetables to be grown in the garden.
Monique Muller, Project Manager at the Greater Tygerberg Partnership, explains the importance of the garden to the Bellville community: “The lockdown last year highlighted the importance of food security in cities, especially for the more vulnerable members of our community. This garden is the first step towards addressing this issue. But, more importantly, it offers people the opportunity to develop skills that empower them to build more dignified lives.”
Ilse Maartens, MES General Manager, says: “The main benefit for our clients at the Safe Space is the training and mentorship that the guys are getting. This will add a lot of value to their knowledge and could potentially empower them to become horticulturists in their own right.”
The Safe Space was devised by the Voortrekker Road Corridor Improvement District (VRCID) and MES as a place for vulnerable and homeless people to find support, safety and hygienic facilities off the street, and to help them start their journey towards rehabilitation, reintegration into the community or reunification with their families. It was opened in 2017 and has become a model for other similar facilities across Cape Town.