NATIONAL NEWS AND VIDEOS - A vertical urban farming pilot launched in Mossel Bay last weekend could spearhead food security around the country.
The pilot project was deployed threefold, involving a micro-farm of 60 kits at Child Welfare SA in Tarka, multi-kit installations at a church and crèche, as well as 30 household kits spread across KwaNonqaba, D'Almeida, Joe Slovo and Luthuli.
The initiative is the result of a partnering of Child Welfare SA and Agri Urb, thanks to a generous corporate sponsorship.
"Since the lockdown started in March," explained Michael Carelse from Child Welfare, "we had no choice but to increase our soup kitchens from eight existing ones to more than 30." Carelse approached Cameron Dugmore, MPL for Mossel Bay, also incidentally a funder of Child Welfare, expressing the need for a sustainable solution.
On average, Child Welfare has been feeding 1 800 people.
Having had previous discussions with former organic farmer and now CEO of Agri Urb, Shaun Cairns, an innovative solution was at hand.
An attempt to access funding through the Solidarity Fund brought Adrian Enthoven, executive chairman of Yellowwoods, a European- based private investment group, on board.
Enthoven agreed to sponsorship, provided that a reputable community partner such as Child Welfare acted as the champion for the rollout.
Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperarion, Alvin Botes, appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa as the champion for the Garden Route, visited the project on Monday, 3 August.
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Botes praised the initiative and the selection of a reliable NGO such as Child Welfare. "We need more credibility in our society. People should do more for others, with genuine intent and integrity.
"The skills involved in this project directly relate to Covid-19 and food security. It has great potential to expand. If this works, we can tap into funds of national government to expand this project."
Shaun Cairns explained that the plants were selected based on a specific need to fuel soup kitchens. "The beneficiaries were selected carefully and will be trained and supported weekly in the use of their kits.
"Through WhatsApp groups, the farmers can communicate, ask questions and compare their progress. This way, we can track, assess and learn together." The project will be assessed thoroughly in three months' time.
Cairns showed the Mossel Bay Advertiser a home installation in Joe Slovo Village, where a garden which would require 3sqm to grow, was installed against a wall.
"We developed this system with water security in mind. This garden, growing vertically at 2m x 1,2m, has 25 pockets of plants. Each requires one cup of water every second day, which totals an average 20 litres of water per week."
At the launch, Dugmore said that apart from the vertical gardens, an overall land audit by municipalities could prove to be useful. He suggested that municipalities should develop an urban agricultural policy in support of initiatives to boost food security.
For more information, contact Michael Carelse (Child Welfare SA - 079 697 3272) or Shaun Cairns (Agri Urb - 082 435 0778).