Eastern Cape vegetable gardeners ask for government’s help to sustain food security

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Vegetable gardeners from rural Eastern Cape villages say they need government assistance to sustain food security.

This follows an intervention by the OR Tambo District Municipality where 50 000 seedlings are being donated to communities to promote food production at home.

A 34-year-old upcoming vegetable farmer from Rainy village in Libode is on a quest to change the lives of fellow villagers through vegetable farming.

Emerging farmers in rural villages of the province believe agriculture can play a huge role in eradicating poverty and decreasing the ever-increasing unemployment rate in the country.

34-year-old Siyabulela Hlomendlini, employs four young people from Rainy village. He’s been in the vegetable growing project for the past decade.

He uses a five-hectare piece of land to plant cabbage, spinach and beetroot.

“I started this farming project in 2010. I divided this five hectares into two halves and fenced it. After that I fenced the whole piece of land. In 2015 I bought a sprinkler machine worth R45 000. I sought help from the OR Tambo District Municipality and in 2018 they gave me fence, three water tanks, sprinkler machine, poles and a gate,” says Hlomendlini.

The young farmer has 10 more hectares of land on which he plans to grow maize. However his strides are not without challenges.

“In 2015 they stole my engine, they stabbed and killed my mule. This year they took two of my water tanks and 11 sprinklers. They also took my wheelbarrows, spades and watering cans. This is really a huge setback because I had to buy five sprinklers so that our project does not stop,” says Hlomendlini.

Meanwhile, the OR Tambo District Municipality has embarked on a quest to assist rural communities to make use of vegetable gardens.

Vegetable gardeners like Hlomendlini are also benefiting from the municipality’s programme of seedling distribution to communities.

“This seedling intervention is to encourage people to go back to their gardens to produce food in their homes, in their yards. We are not replacing the already existing social relief programmes in terms of food vouchers and food parcels. However, we are bringing additional support to people who are finding themselves in poverty because some have lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Municipal Spokesperson, Zimkhita Macingwane.

Hlomendlini and four of his employees use their own hands to grow the vegetables. He wants assistance with machinery that will make it easy for him to grow his project.

“We need a tractor and a ploughing machine. At the moment we use our hands to harvest, so we also need a harvesting machine as well. Even when we plant cabbages and spinach we use hoes to dig up holes. I would also want to encourage young people to make use of the land to fight poverty. They must not think government will give them money. They will make money through agriculture,” says Hlomendlini.

Subsistence farmers in the OR Tambo District Municipality also believe poverty and unemployment can be defeated through the promotion of agriculture.