“Plant a seed and let it grow!” These are the words that Riaan Fillies, a worker and coordinator of a communal garden based in Robertson, said about a small communal subsistence farm that is currently yielding.
“About three years ago, one morning we decided to clean up a public piece of land that was used to litter and to keep our community clean,” says Fillies. But never in his wildest dreams did he think it would be transformed into a community garden that would benefit everyone.
It was quite difficult, Fillies explained, to get the necessary assistance because they did not really identify where to get help. “After cultivating the land, we had a need to lay out a garden, but did not have the necessary knowledge or equipment to tackle the project.” With only the basic knowledge of gardening, they tackled it, but were later faced with the challenge of having no water to water their garden.
They approached a nearby resident to obtain a water pipeline where they would pay R500 a month towards expenses. It was very difficult to pay the monthly amount, as the majority of people in the community are unemployed and live from hand to mouth. People rely on the profit they make when vegetables are sold now and then. The pandemic also made it difficult to plant.
“We donate our vegetables to the community, of which a local crèche and old age home are the beneficiaries. Our vision is that we supply the local large commercial markets with our vegetables and involve more people with our project, “ says Fillies.
“We intend presenting a workshop to the youth and local schools, to teach them gardening and to become more self-sufficient. With the daily rise in food prices and our people who are suffering, we must find a way to fight this by planting food,” says Fillies.
Thanks to the organisation Mawubuye Land Rights Forum, which also focuses on small scale farming, they received a donation of a variety of seeds and general gardening equipment. Fillies explains that “at the moment sweet potato, potatoes, cabbage and onions have been planted, which is almost ready to be harvested in the upcoming weeks.”
Gideon Absalom, a coworker in the garden, says that much more can be done if they receive the necessary support from the local municipality. “We are prepared and eager to work, but at the end of the day one also does not want to work for free. We have families to support who have to eat. But it is even nicer to take vegetables home that you yourself have planted,” says Absalom.
“For now, it is from hand to mouth but as time passes, we look forward to gardening and to educate people in the agricultural sector”. As time passes he adds, we are planning to present workshops for the youth in the various communities.
“All of us on earth can supply ourselves with food daily if only we plant a seed!” Fillies added.