Farming for the Future takes root in Klapmuts
As the harsh impact of lockdown regulations continue to expose – and often exacerbate – the many disparities within our society, there are still diamonds to be found in the dust and dirt of the COVID crisis.
One such disparity is food security. The majority of people living in South Africa right now are struggling both to access and to afford quality food. The current pandemic may not have caused hunger in and of itself but measures to contain the virus have exacerbated a long-term pandemic of unequal access to food security. However, as ‘necessity is the mother of invention’, it is not surprising that many exciting new initiatives have emerged in response to this growing need, and the ‘new normal’ has created fertile ground for mobilising communities to support those who cannot afford food.
Planting seeds of hope
One such diamond can be found in the Farming for the Future initiative currently being piloted in the community of Klapmuts, just outside Stellenbosch, at a local Early Childhood Development (ECD) centre: Klapmuts Junior Academy.
In 2019, Ranyaka, in partnership with African Data Technologies (ADTech), launched the Farming for the Future initiative – an idea where seedlings are grown and nurtured by the children at the local centre, under the guidance of a full-time caretaker from the local community. Once the seedlings are established, these are either purchased by Stellenbosch residents to plant in their own gardens or else allowed to grow to maturity and be harvested to supplement the food provided by the centre itself. Where possible, seedlings are also donated to those in the nearby local community, who have been identified as potential ‘agripreneurs’, for them to nurture and harvest for their own income.
A brand-new home for the seedlings
The jewel in the crown of this initiative is a brand-new vegetable tunnel at the centre. The construction of the tunnel was completed towards the end of June 2020 and was co-sponsored by international donors, Nedbank and a national building supplies company.
But the real beauty of the project lies in how it can benefit both the direct and broader community in so many ways. It not only addresses food security, but it also serves as an income generator – both for the centre, as well as those ‘agripreneurs’ who grow the vegetables and herbs for resale.
Wihan Bekker from ADTech explains: “This model not only improves food security. It also empowers households by providing high-grade compost, educating children at ECD centres that farming is not about someone working in a field for 10 hours a day – you can ‘farm’ in your own back yard to supplement your dinner with nutritious fresh produce. In addition, the model assists communities to become increasingly self-sustainable and more resilient.”
A win-win-win model
Through the sale of seedlings, the centre can receive an additional income. Through purchasing the seedlings, local community members are given the opportunity to ‘make a difference’, to support the ECD and to receive something in return. Through growing the seedlings through to maturity and harvesting the fruits of their labour, the children not only contribute to the food provided at the centre but also develop a great sense of pride and responsibility from an early age.
Not only do the children learn about life cycles of a plant, but through this, they can also learn more about themselves through developing an awareness of what it takes to be resilient in times of trial. Imagine the impact of bringing up children who have such rich experiential learning in times such as these, and how they can grow the spirit of self-sufficiency, breaking cycles of dependency by becoming the farmers of the future.
The project also places strong emphasis on the way it sets out to achieve these goals. It is rooted in ‘green innovation’ techniques that focus on sustainability and waste management. To begin with, the centre is given a ‘start-up kit’ – a reusable tray of 200 seeds. Once a seedling has grown sufficiently from seed, it is replanted in a biodegradable seedling ‘cup’ ready for transportation. Organic waste (currently collected from local soup kitchens and households) is used to create the compost needed for the seedlings and locally-sourced recycled paper and cardboard are used to produce the cups (rather than the plastic trays one usually purchases from nurseries). The children themselves are not only involved in the growing and nurturing of the seedlings; they even get to have fun making the seedling cups by hand!
As the project takes root, fresh possibilities are emerging. When the vegetable garden produces surplus harvest, the intention is to donate the vegetables to local residents in need. As Bekker says, “Eventually, we want to reach a point where we can also sell the harvest not just from the centre’s garden, but also from our agripreneurs’ gardens”. With training and transport, these local agripreneurs could even become consultants to those buying the seedlings, being employed not only to deliver the seedlings but also to assist in the continued growing and nurturing of the plant.
From tragedy to transformation
What makes this project that much more special is that it testifies to the power of generosity amidst grief – and the joy of transformation despite tragedy.
When Kristin Carlin lost her husband, Todd, to illness in November 2019, she requested that family, friends and colleagues make a donation to Ranyaka to launch an initiative that would honour the memory of Todd rather than sending flowers to his memorial service. Despite her own loss, she reached out to others in need.
From New York, United States to Klapmuts, South Africa
We first crossed paths with Kristin when Ranyaka director, Johan Olivier, met Kristin’s business partner, Sandra Myburgh in 2018. We immediately realised that we were fellow travellers – pursuing the same destination, albeit from opposite ends of the world. Today, Kristin and Sandra’s New York-based investment management firm, Fern Impact Partners LLC, collaborates with Ranyaka to help bring positive and sustainable impact to South Africa. The brand-new greenhouse at Klapmuts Junior Academy ECD centre in the Western Cape province of Sandra’s country of birth is a fitting milestone in this journey – a place where new life begins. A place of nourishment and nurturing. And a place of healing.
Thank you so much to Kristin and every member of her family and circle of friends, as well as colleagues who contributed towards making this project possible. We look forward to reporting back to you and sharing the news of a harvest that was borne out of the seeds of selflessness.
For more information about this project, contact Sonya at email@example.com.