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How Ubuhle Bendalo is shaping urban agriculture

What is the social problem they are targeting?

When Sophumla ended the six-month urban agriculture training programme proposed by Abalimi Bezekhaya he found himself in a situation where he had nowhere to farm and no resources to start a farm by himself. At that moment, Ria was also looking for a new project to be involved in. That is how, with a third person, they founded Ubuhle Bendalo Food Gardens in 2017.

However, besides wanting to show that you can make a living from gardening and Sophumla’s lack of available land to farm, there was another main social issue they were targeting with this initiative. Indeed, the health issue in Khayelitsha, that is linked to food security, was one of their main concerns. Moreover, they were also willing to bring “the beauty of green” to Khayelitsha with all of its health and individual benefits because there is a lack of green spaces.

“But one of the places that is booming with people every day [in Khayelitsha] is the hospitals, is the clinics. That shows that people are sick, they need something to revive them, to bring them back, to be living a quality life. […] So, we said our mission is actually grow for the people that are in the community, to help them eat the food that we suddenly know about.” (Sophumla, Ubuhle Bendalo co-founder)

What solution do they provide?

In its beginnings the main aim of Ubuhle Bendalo was to inspire people to eat vegetables and to grow their own food. However, they had to focus first on being financially sustainable as an organic production garden – they sell organic vegetables, seedlings, compost, and are planning on selling their own seeds – so they could have an income from it. But even it this was their main action, they also had the “Homegarden program”. The latter is the solution they propose to the above mentioned social issues: helping people from the community to establish their own food gardens – by training and selling of a R30 “starting pack” of compost, manure, seedlings among other essential elements – while they contribute to strengthen social ties because the neighbours are helping one another.

“When someone comes to us saying ‘help us to start a home garden’, we tell them ‘you find as many people as you can in your street that wants to join and maybe if there is not enough, in the street next door’. […] Then we get everyone of that group involved and they help to prepare the soil of their neighbour. And it’s a lovely concept that’s being forever in the Xhosa culture, it’s called ilima. It’s to help one another.” (Ria, Ubuhle Bendalo co-founder)

Moreover, they also started in August by doing outdoor classes to the students of the next door school in order to teach them about urban agriculture and to inspire them to eat healthier food.

What are their current and potential social impacts?

Even if they have a little production, and their vegetables do not stay in Khayelitsha for the moment, they are contributing to fight against the current food system that is dominated by the agribusiness industry: by being responsible producers; by promoting food gardens and awareness of the origin of our food; and by allowing Sophumla to make a living from gardening. More precisely, the main social impact Ubuhle Bendalo has at the moment is the 40 home gardens they started. It is not proven that urban agriculture helps to improve food insecurity, but at least they are reaching their main goal: to inspire people to grow their own food and to try to eat healthily.

Moreover, Ubuhle Bendalo is for the moment trying to find the best way in which they could sell their organic vegetables within the community they are settled in, to contribute to food security through the supply of affordable nutritious food in the neighbourhood. In fact, they would like to address the problem of accessibility because people do not necessarily have geographical and economical access to nutritious food in Khayelitsha: not all social strata are equally supplied by products.

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