Urban Farming in Soweto – Sibahle Community Food Garden

South Africa’s population is growing at almost two percent per year. The World Wildlife Fund for Nature projects that South Africa’s population could grow to more than 80 million by 2035.

With this massive rise in population expected, there is now a greater need than ever to encourage more independent food gardens in our communities.

Soweto urban farmer Calvin Makgaila says local food gardens will address a number of challenges facing communities in South Africa.

“I believe that each and every community should have a garden because if you look at the food prices now they are going crazy,” he says.

“If there is a farmer in the community, we should be able to support them, to go into their farm and see what they have and buy locally.”

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Tladi Clinic in Soweto. The Sibahle Community Food Garden is on the far right behind that white car.

Calvin, or Cali, as his colleagues call him, is soft-spoken and gentle but incredibly passionate about growing food at the Sibahle Community Garden at Tladi Clinic in Soweto.

I was lucky to spend a morning with him last week and he explained why community farms are crucial to healthy living and sustainable local economies.

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Calvin is growing some special blue potatoes at the Sibahle Community Food Garden

“That not only supports the farmer but we are strengthening the economy of our community and then we are empowering each other in that way,” he says.

The Sibahle Community Garden grows food organically which is cooked by Linda Nhlapo and her team into a delicious stew from Monday to Wednesday.

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The team behind the nutritious meals for patients at Tladi Clinic in Soweto

“I use food from the garden so that we can keep feeding our sick people because they need to eat before they take their medication,” says Linda.

If there is extra produce from the food garden it is sometimes sold to staff and members of the community.

For Calvin, his introduction into growing food came from his work as a community health worker with Tladi clinic.

“Our state of health is determined by what we eat,” he says.

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Healthy rainbow chard at Sibahle Community Food Garden

Calvin was visiting patients with TB and diabetes and noticed that after taking medication for some time that they were still struggling with their health.

“I asked some patients what they were eating and they told me they eat mostly pap, meat, magwinya (fried dough), coke, and chips. Some said they rarely eat spinach, maybe once a month.”

Calvin says he thinks this is because this is what most people see in their neighborhoods.

“In the community there are more fast food restaurants and if that’s only what you see, then that’s what you want to eat.”

“But people are waking up and starting to do something,” he says.

There are a lot more people starting to grow food than before but a big challenge is access to land.

“Here (in Soweto) are people who need food most but don’t have space to grow. Yards are really small in the city which means that its not easy to grow food,” says Calvin.

He has not yet reached 30 but already has big dreams for the future, such as inspiring others to grow food, especially the youth. Calvin says he would like to do this through workshops with young aspiring urban farmers.

Everything at the community garden is grown organically, and this sums up how Calvin thinks about our role as humankind with the environment.

“We must understand that we are in this world to be part of it, not to control it as if we are owning it. Mother Nature wants us to be part of the world.”

“That’s how I feel,” he says.

If you would like to donate to the Sibahle Community Garden project contact Calvin on 078 813 3632 or Rachel on rprince62@gmail.com

They also offer tours of different urban farms in the area. Contact them to book.

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