The COVID-19 pandemic has left many without a source of income. This has had devastating effects on household food security, a disastrous reality which prompted the University of Pretoria’s (UP) Community Oriented Primary Care Research Unit (COPC), to start an initiative to raise funds, source nutritional food sustainably, and educate informal settlement residents on supporting their families through gardening.
Earlier this month, COPC, in collaboration with various partners including the UP departments of Family Medicine, Public Health, Dietetics, Architecture, Engineering, Veterinary Science and Agriculture, the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) Centre of Excellence in Food Security at UP’s Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), Tebelo NPO, Living Word, and SA Cares launched the Imvelo Urban Food Systems at Living Word Pretoria East Congregation.
The launch of the Imvelo Urban Food Systems at Living Word Pretoria East Congregation earlier this month.
Imvelo Urban Farms aims to serve as safe havens and a source of food security for vulnerable communities. The lifestyle these farms support is inclusive, provides training, promotes holistic living, and empowers people while creating a sustainable food production and retail model which can be replicated all over South Africa. The ARC has developed a farming plan to be implemented for food production for revenue, and training on how residents can grow their own food.
The incubator project taking place at Cemetery View informal settlement in Woodland is based at Living Word Church where the food system has been implemented on the church grounds next to the village. SA Cares will sponsor a borehole and will implement a programme called Power of the Father, as well as a cluster-care worker programme to develop and support the residents of Cemetery View.
Each household at Cemetery View received a home garden starter kit which contained a net pot, compost, fertiliser with seedlings and seeds. Residents from the community also received training on how to plant and take care of their crops.
“The Imvelo Urban Food System at Cemetery View is an exciting interdisciplinary initiative which aims to bring academic, business and community stakeholders together. COVID-19 has taught us that we have to rethink how we organise core functions for health and living. Health, nutrition and education should devolve to community level,” said Dr Ellenore Meyer, Primary Research Investigator and Project Lead, COPC Research Unit.
Residents also received training on how to plant and take care of their crops.
“The involvement of ARUA Centre of Excellence will help alleviate food insecurity by assisting in the implementation of urban agriculture towards a sustainable food system. The community will be trained on the benefits of consuming a diverse diet and encouraged to participate in establishing community and home food gardens,” said Professor Hettie Schönfeldt, Co-Director at ARUA Centre of Excellence and Co-Research Investigator.
A resident of Cemetery View, Litsoanelo Lephaso, said she is very thankful to the Living Word Church pastors and all the partners involved in putting this initiative together. “We are now empowered through education to create a better life for ourselves, and we have also received resources to create our gardens,” she said.
In collaboration with LIFT, a community development non-profit organisation, the Department of Family Medicine opened a clinic four years ago on the Moreleta Church grounds for residents of both Cemetery View and Woodlane Village. Now, a training centre and kitchen will be built on the grounds to ensure the food system, with its training centre and kitchen linked to the agricultural developments, will address the last two components of UP’s triad focus on health, supporting education and nutrition in informal settlements.