What is the social problem they are targeting?
In the marginalized communities of Cape Town there are different groups of vulnerable people, who, because they are not necessarily accompanied and cared for, can contribute to making the community a difficult place to live, but also do not have a good quality of life themselves. Among these groups, Lillian includes abused woman, disabled, elderly, children and young offenders.
The problem according to Lillian – the founder of Mhani Gingi – is that programmes for this vulnerable groups do not consider the human being as a holistic entity. This meaning that the parts of a person are inextricably interconnected and contribute individually and commonly to the whole’s well-being.
“What you need to understand, which most people don’t understand about Mhani Gingi is that a human being is not a single thing. It’s made of holistic parts, and those parts how do you fit them? Look at you, young people, if the young people are not looked after, when they get to adulthood you won’t have continuity.” (Lillian, Mhani Gingi founder)
What solution do they provide?
As there are not sufficient organizations that takes care of this vulnerable groups, since 2004, the non-profit organization Mhani Gingi’s main aim is to encourage them – especially women, youth and disabled people – not to wait for something or somebody but to use what they have at their disposal to create economic and human wealth for themselves.
By having a holistic vision Mhani Gingi provides a solution with several fields of action: the member initiatives (beading, pottery, manufacture and sale of handmade soaps); the flagship projects (nursery and gardening); and the social responsibility (early learning centers and elderly centers). We will only focus here in the flagship projects that concern the food system. For Lillian, her programme is also holistic because it is ongoing through the beneficiaries’ lives and it is not a project that have an end.
The flagship project promotes healthiness via food by giving an opportunity to vulnerable communities to start their own community food garden with the purpose of eating of selling the vegetables. Therefore, they have several assistance methods: they help finding the good place to start the garden and if there is no ground they help with doing vertical gardens (that are also more suitable for disabled); they do urban agriculture workshops and teach the individuals how to clean and pack them to sell their produce; they donate organically propagated seedlings, provide well points or donate money to buy fences. Even if they focus in shelters for abused woman, they also guide early learning centers, prisons, disabled centers, schools, churches, among others.
“We go to the church, or to the police station, or to the hospital, we talk to people to say ‘look, don’t be waiting for the big land because it might not come while you go in hungry, use that little space that you have, if you have water then everything will grow.’. So, that’s what we started here.” (Lillian, Mhani Gingi founder)
What are their current and potential social impacts?
Mhani Gingi’s core impact is the empowerment of vulnerable groups through assistance in developing a business and therefore improving their livelihoods. As other small-scale farmers like Ubuhle Bendalo, Mhani Gingi has also an impact on propagating responsible (organically propagated and local) vegetable production and therefore contributes to provide nutritious food to food insecure communities (they do not only sell their vegetables in to the upper-class social consumers). The Mhani Gingi Herb and Seedling Nursery supplies about 30 community gardens in the Cape Flats. Moreover, they also create awareness about the importance of our food’s origins.
“So, even if we are not showing, I am not a millionaire or the people that I am working with, but I have improved what they call human capital, social cohesion. So, this people can work together and build what they call human capital. Over and above the economic wealth that we are promoting, we are also promoting the human wealth.” (Lillian, Mhani Gingi founder)