Earth Mother urges women to dig in

Vuk'uzenzele - - Women's Month - Dale Hes

DUR­ING WOMEN’S MONTH a Cape Town woman will be spread­ing the food gar­den mes­sage to help al­le­vi­ate the bur­den of poverty.

Ten­jiwe Kaba from Cape Town is a hero. For the past 30 years, Mama Kaba has been chang­ing the face of town­ships around Cape Town, turn­ing dusty pieces of land into flour­ish­ing veg­etable gar­dens which feed hundreds of peo­ple.

Kaba (69) grew up on a farm near Kok­stad in the Eastern Cape where her par­ents worked as farm work­ers.

“From as young as 14 years old, I went into town ev­ery day to sell the farm’s veg­eta­bles on the street,” said Kaba.

Al­though she re­ceived lit­tle re­ward for her hard work, the ex­pe­ri­ence es­tab­lished Kaba’s knowl­edge and pas­sion for veg­eta­bles.

When she moved to the township of Khay­al­it­sha in Cape Town in the late 1980s, she re­alised that she could use her knowl­edge to im­prove the ter­ri­ble liv­ing con­di­tions that many were faced with.

“There were many empty pieces of land which were not be­ing used – this pre­cious land was just be­ing wasted. I knew that I could make some­thing out of it.”

With as­sis­tance from com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions and govern­ment, Kaba and sev­eral other women be­gan grow­ing veg­eta­bles on a tiny plot in the township. Over the years, the com­mu­nity gar­den steadily grew, with fresh veg­eta­bles be­ing sold at mar­kets around the township.

“I also wanted to spread this through­out the area, and soon other com­mu­nity mem­bers were be­com­ing grow­ers of their own gar­dens. To­day there are more than 30 gar­dens here, pro­vid­ing the grow­ers with an in­come and also feed­ing our com­mu­ni­ties,” Kaba ex­plained.

Kaba’s orig­i­nal com­mu­nity gar­den, which be­came known as Moya we Khaya, which means spirit of home in IsiXhosa, is to­day a thriv­ing one-hectare gar­den.

Mama Kaba has also man­aged to train more than 30 dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­nity mem­bers to be­come grow­ers, and her cur­rent team com­prises eight peo­ple.

The grand­mother of three has won nu­mer­ous awards and has been in­vited to give talks around the world.

But Mama Kaba said that the awards are not what is im­por­tant.

“What is re­ally im­por­tant is the mes­sage that we can all do some­thing to im­prove our­selves and others.”

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