Cape Town – A community garden initiative in Harare, Khayelitsha, encourages households to abandon fast food for healthier, more affordable home-grown meals.
The Ujamaa Communal Garden is an initiative that benefits the community of Dlalo Crescent in Harare.
It also serves as a “private chemist” for sangomas who harvest and pick plants and herbs for their practices.
This unfenced communal garden serves the whole community and is based on a model in which no one is left behind.
Nkosi Gola, a member of Ujamaa, said: “Ujamaa was born out of seeing that food has become a privilege, that some have access to food and some do not.
"Putting a price tag on food is to put a condition on who should eat, and therefore who should live.”
“Ujamaa”, a Swahili word, refers to an economic co-operative system that operates with a collective ownership approach to resources.
Qaba Mbola Mhlaba, who is also a member, said that as a community-based organisation, Ujamaa was born from the need to respond to socio-economic challenges.
He said they worked towards an alternative, self-reliant and communal socio-economic system.
“We would rather have the food gardens in front of the fences of the yards because the ethos of Ujamaa is ‘food is free’. This is not just one person’s garden, but for the community, where people are free to harvest without any hindrance,” he said.
The spot where the garden is located used to be a dump site and Mhlaba said they decided in 2016 to clean the space and start the garden.
“We realised that the neo-liberalism of ‘me, myself and I’ was dividing the community. The garden is not fenced because we want people to access the garden when they pass,” Mhlaba added.
“With these gardens we hope to fight poverty and negate the idea of buying chemical, poisonous food. We are also inspiring community members to set up their own nutritious gardens,” he said. “Everyone should be able to eat, and the only way is to ensure that food is available in abundance, hence we have these gardens planted all over the community.”
“Our idea is to pilot with 150 houses in the area where the garden is and convert it into an urban eco village,” he said.
Mhlaba said the idea of food gardens had gone viral, as more houses in the area now had food gardens and people exchanged crops and shared experiences and advice on cultivation.