Veg­gie gar­dens sav­ing lit­tle lives

Project helps com­mu­nity to grow, make own baby food

Go! & Express - - Front Page - MADELEINE CHA­PUT

IN AN ef­fort to help com­bat mal­nu­tri­tion in chil­dren, the Small Projects Foun­da­tion (SPF) has es­tab­lished sus­tain­able veg­etable gar­dens at needy homes and Early Child­hood De­vel­op­ment (ECD) cen­tres in ru­ral New­lands. The gardening project was started in Novem­ber last year.

Headed by the SPF’s Alan Wild, the SPF team iden­tify homes and ECDs where nu­tri­tion is­sues are preva­lent and, through var­i­ous phases, help es­tab­lish veg­etable gar­dens for them.

The team also teach moth­ers how to make baby food from the fresh veg­eta­bles they grow, in or­der to cut the trans­port and com­mer­cial costs in­volved in buy­ing food from su­per­mar­kets.

This gardening project forms part of SPF’s Ca­pac­ity for Ac­tive Ci­ti­zen­ship Pro­gramme funded by the Euro­pean Union (EU).

“Through this pro­gramme, we’re try­ing to give peo­ple the nec­es­sary skills to em­power them­selves and em­power their com­mu­nity.

“Nu­tri­tion and food se­cu­rity play a big role in this,” SPF di­eti­cian Shawn McLaren said.

Ini­ti­ated by ex­pe­ri­enced gar­dener and caterer, Ruth van Kets, the project has changed the lives of, not only chil­dren, but their moth­ers as well.

“The idea came to me when I was in the shops one day. I saw a Xhosa woman bat­tling to pick a Pu­rity baby food prod­uct for her lit­tle one.

“I went up to her and of­fered to help. I sug­gested just mak­ing your own baby food from fresh veg­gies as it’s much cheaper and more nu­tri­tious, but she had no idea how to make it,” the gardening guru said.

Van Kets even­tu­ally found SPF, who were will­ing to im­ple­ment and sup­ply fund­ing for her idea.

To­gether with the SPF team, con­sist­ing of so­cial worker, Zandile Maty­ila, McLaren and Re­hab Nat­u­ral Farm­ing worker, Nondyebo Makapela, they taught women in the com­mu­nity how to plant and grow veg­eta­bles in a sus­tain­able man­ner.

Van Kets also gave demon­stra­tions on how to make nu­tri­tional baby food from home­grown veg­eta­bles.

“Through the demon­stra­tions I show moth­ers how to make baby food with noth­ing more than what they own. The first time I did a demon­stra­tion I didn’t bring any­thing with me; we made a fire out­side and used a fork to mash up the veg­eta­bles,” Van Kets said.

Soy­olise Kwaza, one of the many moth­ers who have ben­e­fit­ted from SPF’s project, said: “I am so happy I don’t have to buy food for my boy any­more. It was very dif­fi­cult be­fore.”

Chronic mal­nu­tri­tion in young chil­dren of­ten causes stunted growth, lim­it­ing a child’s life in nu­mer­ous ways.

McLaren said: “Stunted growth and cog­ni­tive de­vel­op­ment re­ally go hand-in-hand.

“A mal­nour­ished child will not de­velop as fast as a healthy child will and this means they of­ten fall be­hind in school, bat­tle to fin­ish school and ul­ti­mately bat­tle to find jobs.”

“Proper nu­tri­tion is im­por­tant through­out life, but a child’s first two years of life are vi­tal, it’s an ex­tremely cru­cial time where chil­dren need to be fed proper nu­tri­tious food in or­der for their growth not to be stunted,” he said.

McLaren said many moth­ers did not re­alise the vi­tal im­por­tance of proper nu­tri­tion for chil­dren be­tween the ages of six months and two years old.

SPF’s project di­rectly tack­les this knowl­edge gap by teach­ing and giv­ing the com­mu­nity the nec­es­sary skills to sup­ply their chil­dren with nu­tri­tional, healthy foods.

Although the project is aimed at com­bat­ting mal­nu­tri­tion in chil­dren, the house­hold gar­dens are an em­pow­er­ing tool for the com­mu­nity as a whole, es­pe­cially for women.

“Em­pow­er­ing women in this area is so im­por­tant and these house­hold gar­dens are do­ing just that,” Van Kets said.

Pic­ture: MADELEINE CHA­PUT

SELF-SUS­TAIN­ING: The Small Projects Foun­da­tion has started veg­etable gar­dens to en­sure chil­dren in ru­ral New­lands grow up with proper nu­tri­tion. From left, Zandile Maty­ila, Siy­olise Kwaza with her 15 month old son, So­phumelela, and one of the heads of the project, Ruth van Kets, at Siy­olise’s house­hold gar­den

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