“A lot of food is grown and produced in our country, but when we South Africans go to the shops, we find second-rate products. The best stuff is exported. We don’t find tasty fresh fruit and vegetables, as these are sent to other countries. We are also the only country that has accepted genetic modification of our staple food, maize. Despite very little public awareness on the fact, South Africans have been eating GM maize for ten years now.
Traditional foods and crops are mainly only found in rural areas. More and more people are shopping in the big supermarkets, where it’s hard to find these products, and they are increasingly eating unhealthy food. A child who says she’s hungry will be given white bread from the store. On the other hand, if we start gardening in communities again, we can build ready access for families to vegetables, root crops and grains.
I am very excited about the Thousand Gardens project. It will be a great tool for lobbying to show that the dominant industrial agriculture is failing our people. With this project, we won’t just be saying it that there is an alternative that can work – we will actually be creating it! People need to know that that they have a right to healthy food and they have a right to choose what they want to produce. It shouldn’t be seen as government coming to try and rescue people; we want them to understand that is their human right.
In South Africa, the project is starting on the western cape, primarily through the development of community gardens. Access to land is a big challenge here, so we are aiming for group farming that brings together neighbors, friends, families and communities.
I work for the NGO Surplus People Project that supports a network of 5,000 small-scale farmers and communities. For the Thousand Gardens project, the gardens will be run by the farmers themselves with community members responsible for specific areas – composting, seed collection and so on. In total we are aiming for 150 gardens across nine provinces of the country.
The project is going to bring lots of benefits. We did a survey and discovered that people are spending 70- 80% of their income on food, and so these gardens will also play an important role to give families more ability to pay for other things like education or books. I also hope people involved in the project will revive seed collection of traditional varieties, and protect them like they would their own children.
For me A Thousand Gardens in Africa is more than just planting the seeds; it’s a movement. Its there to make noise to say that we want our environment, water, and healthy food back!”
National Coordinator of A Thousand Gardens in Africa in South Africa