Entire Tembisa community benefits from school garden

Namhla Tshisela

Namhla Tshisela

The community of Tembisa in Ekurhuleni is reaping the fruits of an organic food garden at Zitikeni Secondary School.

The garden was started last March and provides fresh cabbage, spinach, beetroot and herbs for pupils at the school, the community and the Are-Boekeng Hospice for people living with HIV-Aids.

The project is supported by Food and Trees for Africa, an organisation dedicated to a greener and healthier environment and the Deutsche Bank Africa Foundation.

The two organisations trained the township's residents, teachers and pupils in permaculture, an environmentally friendly and inexpensive form of agriculture.

Aspects of permaculture are the mixing of vegetables and herbs that grow well together and the avoiding of fertilisers and harmful pesticides.

Thereza Maimela, a teacher at the school said: "This method of planting is also linked to the school curriculum and has taught us soil and water conservation."

Pupils, teachers and members of the community maintain the garden. They work during school breaks, weekends and school holidays.

The vegetables and herbs contribute to the school's feeding scheme which provides soup for the pupils.

Michael Mabuya, the deputy principal, said: "No meal is cooked without vegetables and best of all, our pupils are getting a balanced and healthy diet which has improved their concentration."

The produce is also sold in the community and a portion is donated to the hospice.

Maimela said: "The profits from the vegetables are ploughed back into the feeding scheme. Our plot is small and we are hoping for more space to plant."

She said that the teachers and pupils had benefited from a science laboratory built by the foundation, and from its bursaries and training courses.