Orange Farm Community Seed Bank launch

Perspective is a powerful tool in overcoming feelings of despair.

It’s part of the reason why I started this blog.

I wanted to tell more stories about people solving problems related to food security and climate resilience. These days this kind of storytelling is being referred to as “constructive journalism.”

Urban farmer farmer Tim Abaa has an inspiring way of observing the world around him.

“Orange Farm a suburb – a land of milk and honey. It’s not a township.”

Orange Farm is about 45km south of Johannesburg. People first started living there in the late 80s. According to Joburg.org.za, the first residents were laid-off farm workers.

It’s home to about 41,000 people, with about 33% of households residing in informal dwellings. This is double the amount compared to the rest of the country, according to Stats SA’s 2011 Census.

“I’m obsessed with community farming,” says Tim, who lives in Orange Farm.

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Tim Abaa facilitating a discussion on seed saving at the Arekopaneng Centre

“Orange Farm is more of a disadvantaged community so when I see the open spaces, I only see the potential for farmers to do something productive there.”

Tim says that when he visits small-scale farmers he has noticed that there is often a shortage of seeds, with many farmers having to buy them.

“We don’t know how to save seeds and store them, which is key for a farmer to survive,” he said.

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Chilli seeds to share with urban farmers

On Wednesday the 15th of November Tim launched the Orange Farm Community Seed Bank. This initiative aims to empower small-scale farmers with seeds and knowledge of how to harvest, clean, store and grade their own seeds.

“We’re not here for business and there’s no cash involved, it’s all based on trust,” he says.

Aside from receiving training, farmers and activists will be able to either trade for seed or borrow and return double the amount when they have harvested their own produce.

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The launch took place at the Arekopaneng Centre and was attended by more than 30 small-scale urban farmers from nearby Soweto, Lenasia, Ennerdale and Eikenhof. People shared their own knowledge of storing seeds and health benefits of different plants.

“The person growing food next to you is your best teacher, you can learn what you are doing right or wrong from them,” says Tim.

One piece of advice I took home from Tim for my garden is on how to decide which plants we should save seeds from.

Tim says you should harvest produce from unhealthy looking plants and allow the best plants to flower and save seeds from those.

The next step is to dry seeds in direct sunlight for a week, then store in a cool dark place. Seeds can be stored for up to 100 years says Tim.

“To be able to be a farmer today you need to produce good seeds, and focus more on producing your own seeds rather than buying,” he says.

Thanks to Tim for welcoming me to the seed bank launch. It was great to hear what all the other farmers had to share about their own experiences of growing food, using traditional practices, and working with what they had to grow and provide food for their families and communities.

I left feeling inspired and hopeful, which I think is a great perspective to have about life in South Africa.

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