NEWS | PIETERMARITZBURG 

From a dumpsite to a vegetable garden

Pietermaritzburg gardeners offer free vegetables to the elderly

Photo of vegetable garden
A vegetable garden project in Pietermaritzburg offers free food to those who cannot afford to pay. Photo: Nompendulo Ngubane
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Five residents of France location in Pietermaritzburg have turned a dump site into a vegetable garden, selling and donating vegetables to the community .

Mduduzi Hlongwane, 51, Nkosingiphile Chule, 22, Khethiwe Zulu, 29, Xolile Chule, 23 and Sindisile Stephanis, 24, are the brains behind the garden, which has become a much-needed source of food for elderly residents.

Hlongwane said the initiative was prompted by the high rate of unemployment and poverty in the area, and the increasing use of drugs by young people.

He said he had started the garden in February, with the four others. They had raised R200 for seeds and manure. “I don’t have much experience in agriculture but I was prepared to share the little knowledge I have.”

They grow spinach, onions, tomatoes, carrot, beetroot and lettuce.

“Little did we know that the garden would benefit the community. Some buy, but we donate most of our veggies to the needy without money. We can’t make them pay R10 for spinach which they don’t have. The elderly come to us or send children to ask and we can’t say no. You can’t refuse when a person is asking for food.”

He said the group had made a small dam and he had spent R1,500 of his savings on a pump to water the vegetables. “No one taught us. It was through brainstorming that we came up with that idea,” said Hlongwane.

“To us this is not just a garden anymore. It has become more of an agricultural course. We have learnt a lot and we are still learning,” said Nkosingiphile.

Nkosingiphile said he had passed matric but his parents did not have money for further education and he had no job. Like other young people in the area he would “wake up and do nothing”.

“Since the involvement in the garden, it is different. We all meet here at 7am and start working and it feels different. Bab’ Hlongwane has taught us a lot and our mindset is different. We want to continue with this until we reach a level where we deliver our vegetables to hospitals and prisons,” said Nkosingiphile.

Hlongwane said he hoped to raise more money for seeds, sprays, another pump and fencing. “Our garden is not fenced and therefore it is exposed to cows and goats eating our vegetables.”

Lina Mbhele, 60, who had come for two bunches of spinach, said she was a regular at the garden. She hoped other young people would join the initiative. “We are thankful. One day when I have money I will buy and support them, instead of just asking for free,” said Mbhele.

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