Gardeners graduate from learnership programme

At back, from left, are Waterfront CEO David Green; the City’s Mayoral committee member for economic opportunities and asset management, James Vos; with graduates Gail Cronje, Lumka Dilinga, Lukhanyo Pita; senior manager for social impact at the Waterfront, Henry Mathys; graduate Mzi Maschicila and Sheryl Ozinsky of the Oranjezicht City Farm Market. In front are graduates Rafeek Ras and Asiphe Ngwanya.

Many people and communities run food garden projects as a means to provide food security, but eight candidates from across the city had the opportunity to participate in a graduate programme to take their garden projects to the next level.

The candidates were part of the six-month Grow SA Learnership Programme and graduated in a ceremony at the V&A Waterfront last Thursday, December 2.

They received mentoring and skills development and it is hoped they will use their acquired business acumen to upgrade and upscale their garden and project operations within their communities.

The programme, run by Grow SA, was formed out of a desire to address food security through a comprehensive skills development programme.

It is run by a number of organisations operating in the food security and skills development space, as well as the hospitality industry.

They include individuals and businesses which have a long and strong relationship with the Waterfront, such as Den Anker restaurant, the Oranjezicht City Farm Market (OZCF Market) , SA Harvest, the South African Food and Farming Trust; and EcoBrick Exchange, who is a key member of the urban gardening work.

Waterfront CEO David Green said the Covid-19 pandemic had a devastating effect on the vulnerable and the homeless and the Waterfront witnessed incredible work being done by community action groups, soup kitchens and feeding schemes to alleviate some of the need.

“This motivated us to look for ways in which we could engage better with food producers, processors and distributors and – where the Waterfront has the largest impact – the market.

“Using the market within our neighbourhood as the platform, we hope to match production from small-scale farmers through the establishment of a Food Distribution Hub. This will serve as an aggregator, ensuring quality and consistency of fresh produce supply to our restaurants, hotels and broader consumer base. The next step from there would be to ensure that no excess food goes to waste.

“However, we celebrated the first step in the process, and we are incredibly proud to be part of this first graduation of cohorts from the Grow SA Farmer Education Programme. We look forward to seeing the role they will play in creating future sustainable food systems.”

Two days of the programme were spent within the Waterfront’s edible gardens section where the candidates learnt about the planting of new beds, brewing worm tea from worm farm castings, as well as how to propagate plants from existing plants.

Two of the candidates also spent their month-long internship within the V&A precinct at two tenants, the Den Anker restaurant and OZCF Market, which both resulted in ongoing job opportunities.

Henry Mathys, senior manager for social impact at the Waterfront, said the programme was to strengthen and enhance small-scale urban farmers and community kitchens.

“This programme has so many facets to it and really equips graduates to make a meaningful difference.”

Participants were taught recycling, including how to upcycle plastic into eco-bricks to be used in their gardens and furniture pieces and together the project team has been able to generate two harvests of produce for the Homestead night shelter in Cape Town.

Ian Dommisse from EcoBrick Exchange, said the initiative had evolved from the establishment of the garden project at the Waterfront, initially as a “training platform for urban farming”, into producing skilled and knowledgeable graduates who are “passionate community change-makers”.

Mr Dommisse, a landscape architect by profession, has been deeply involved in the project, which has seen the key roleplayers come together around shared values to impart knowledge and experiences in order to hone the programme syllabus.

“We all have diverse experiences and we have played to our strengths in order to pull together a holistic programme.”