Mdu Ngcobo is one of the volunteers assisting at the Lighthouse Community Centre in Bruntville township, Mooi River, and he believes encouraging residents to start their own vegetable or plot gardens is the way to go.
The community centre feeds hundreds of hungry people in Bruntville five days a week, and Mdu, with the assistance of Mooi River dairy farmer James Kean, has started a vegetable garden at the centre, with the aim to use the veggies in the meals served.
The vegetable garden is a combined effort of Lighthouse and a partnership of uMati (Upper Midlands Agricultural Transformation Initiative), Weston Agricultural College and Sutherland seedlings.
But Mdu sees a bigger picture and hopes he can encourage locals to join the vegetable gardening movement. He has started a community organisation/movement.
“It’s a NPO called Mpofana Community Development Society. We are trying to assist with gardening and plot gardens. People like James Kean are helping us but we also need to be able to help ourselves. Like this one now (vegetable garden at the Lighthouse), we will go and ask for more seedlings, then we will give to individuals to make their own veggie gardens.”
He said once he realised the seriousness of Covid-19 and the crisis it would present to the community, he decided to volunteer to help at the Lighthouse centre. Mdu noted the impact the lockdown had on employment in the area and said the past few months had been difficult.
“We (Mpofana Community Development Society) are an agricultural development non-profit organisation. We believe that in the long run you can’t rely on donations for ever. Right now we are still looking for funding, even social development, they say they don’t have funding. So that’s another reason I came here to work, that and to make a difference during this crisis. We really need donations in terms of seedlings and equipment.”
He really believes his project has the potential to help people in the community. “If you look around, so many of these houses and plots, there is nothing. People can learn to feed themselves. People are not doing this at the moment, not because they are lazy but because they don’t know.”
Mdu admits that he himself is still learning, but with James’s advice has already come a long way. He is also trying to encourage the idea of volunteering and the rewards this can bring to community members.
“It’s not always easy because after a couple weeks the young people say, ‘We are working but we are seeing nothing in return’. I am trying to teach them that with hard work you will see results, you need to remain patient.”
How you can help
Among the edibles he is currently growing in the centre’s vegetable garden are beetroot, spinach, cabbages, brocolli, cauliflower and spring onions.
**If you can help, call Mdu on 065 284 0630 or email The Meander Chronicle – firstname.lastname@example.org