The vegetable gardens at the Noordgesig Primary School are a first step toward changing the culture of living in Noordgesig, a part of Soweto where unemployment is reported to be at 85 percent. The project serves as a model for improving the area’s food security: it encourages people from the wider community to participate, to learn, and to grow food for themselves. It started from the basic idea that children can be at the heart of food awareness: they can teach their parents how to garden. The food security program, which is part of a larger government initiative, raises food awareness and responsibility with regard to the source and quality of the vegetables consumed by the community.
We have already completed the first steps in a chain of events that are part of a slow process of attaining a sustainable, resilient society. The schoolchildren cultivate the garden; their teachers make gardening part of the school curriculum; the food grown on the school grounds is prepared and distributed within the school. All these things have been done. Then the parents enter the process: they take over guidance of the schoolchildren and the management of the gardens (this is now happening); a gardening committee is elected who are responsible for maintaining and organizing the garden; the parents start growing vegetables at home; and, the last step, a micro urban farm is developed and the gardeners sell their vegetables. You must not skip any one of these steps. It’s a slow process. We have already identified a location for the future urban farm – we did this with the help of area residents and the Food Resilience Project, which is part of the Office of the Mayor of Johannesburg and is trying to change the culture of living in Soweto. The city put out posters with the message: “Grow your food! Eat it! Share it! Sell it!”