Can’t afford veggies? Grow your own
The pensioners working on the Dihwayi tsa Phomolong Clinic Food Gardening Project love their vegetables so much that they water them while singing gospel songs, and change the lyrics to sing about the names of vegetables.
Atteridgeville aunties Madichaba Mudumela and Sabrina Baloyi began their vegetablefarming project in 2010. The City of Tshwane allocated a hectare of land to them, and vehicle manufacturer Nissan donated 60 shadecloth tunnels in which to plant the crops, along with farming implements, fertiliser and training.
Now they and 31 other residents – mostly women and pensioners – grow spinach, green peppers, tomatoes and green beans, which they donate to patients at the nearby Phomolong Clinic, as well as to needy community members. They also get to take some of the veggies home.
Mudumela was taught to grow veggies by trainers from the department of agriculture.
“At least now people get to have something to eat. We are passionate about what we do and most of us are pensioners,” says Mudumela.
They also grow vegetables in discarded tyres, which reduces the amount of water needed.
Dihwayi tsa Phomolong project member Margaret Mohlala (50) says growing her own vegetables means she spends R900 less of her monthly budget on food for her family.
Mohlala, a single parent after her husband left her last year, lives with her six children and a grandchild. Only her eldest son has a job, as a petrol attendant. Her two youngest children are still at school.
She grows vegetables for the project, and at home as well.
“The project helps me because it gives me peace of mind. I’ve learnt from it that you need to work hard to fend for your children. Sometimes I take vegetables from the project and sell them here at home after work so that my children can eat,” she says.
“At the end of the week, we’re also given vegetables from the project to cook and eat at home, which is a great help.”
Mohlala earns about R400 every two months from sales at the centre itself. Before she started growing vegetables, she used to spend R2 400 on groceries a month. Now she spends R1 500.
“I used to spend a lot of money on food before the project, buying vegetables very expensively from supermarkets. Sometimes I’d get food from soup kitchens provided by the municipality. This project has saved me from walking long distances to get food, and the grant money I get for my two smaller children helps me here and there, because we get to buy meat and maize meal.
“At the project, everything is cheap. You get a bunch of spinach for R7, a pack of tomatoes for R5, and so much more. We are able to eat a bunch of spinach for three days, because it is not a small bunch like in the supermarkets.”
Mohlala protects the vegetables in her garden at home from pests by using an effective home-made mixture. She mixes garlic, chillies and dish-washing liquid with water, soaking the solution overnight. Then she sprays the mixture on her plants the next day.
“I was poor, but now when I look at myself, I am better than before. I survive with my kids.”
PROUD Project member Margaret Mohlala (front right) and her family