School children maintaining a food gardenFood Gardens Foundation dates back to the June '76 riots, when Joyce Niland, a farmers wife, and Pauline Raphaely, a geologist, realized just how serious the food shortage was in Soweto. The two ladies decided to pool their knowledge for the benefit of the children and communities in the stricken township.

School children benefiting from a food gardenThey started the organization with R100 Pauline borrowed from her husband and, escorted for their own safety, began work at Sowetan schools, which seemed relatively secure. Their concept: the creation of easily maintained vegetable gardens on a very small scale, using the trench-bed method. This calls for a trench of up to 500 mm deep, which is knee high, measuring one metre by two metres - the area of a normal domestic door.

School children maintaining a food gardenThe trench is partly filled with organic material including newspaper and other rubbish that will decompose. The soil that was removed is then shovelled back on top of the organic rubbish and planted with up to nine rows of seeds. Food Gardens Foundation makes affordable seed available so as to keep the cost of the food garden as low as possible. Since there is no need for fertilisers or pesticides, costs really are minimal. In fact, it costs between R50 and R80 a year for a family garden of four vegetable beds, and this can include the cost of a spade. Plastic shopping bags and bottles, tin cans, orange bags, cardboard cartons and newspaper all have their place in food gardening.

Perfect red and green pepper grown in a food gardenAccording to Food Gardens Foundation, the method is very easy and environmentally friendly. Each trench bed can be used for about five years before it needs to be re-dug and started over. The gardens are ideal for people who have very meagre resources, and they provide very nutritive organically grown vegetables such as spinach, carrots, tomatoes, squash, and many other fuss-free crops. Grain amaranth, beans, beetroot, brinjal, cabbage, chillies, cucumber, green pepper, lettuce, marrows, leaf mustard, leek, lucerne, mealies, parsley, pumpkin, radish, squash, soup celery, sweet corn, and turnip are ideal. Furthermore, the gardens require very little water and can be established in the smallest of township gardens.

Where the homeowner has a little more space to spare, these food gardens can even provide self-employment and an income. Naturally, the method is equally suited to rural homes as well as community groups such as women's organisations, youth, health workers, schools, churches and men's groups. In addition, many companies use the Food Gardens Foundation concept for the training of workers who are retiring, those who might be retrenched, or to improve the workers' skills base and enable them to transfer these skills to other people at their homes and within their communities.

Food Gardens Foundation services

Food Gardens Foundation offers numerous services including a support network for fieldworkers and facilitators, educational information and material, and training in the form of workshops and follow-up visits. The body also offers information on nutrition, food preparation and processing, and menu planning as well as support and training for small-scale entrepreneurs and urban agriculturalists.

As for the management of this non-governmental organisation, the Foundation is driven by a management committee which includes all internal stakeholders including staff and directors. The committee meets on a six-weekly cycle (probably 10 times a year). It receives reports on each of the eight activities identified on the management structure chart. This committee sets and monitors goals. The overall control of the organisation is in the hands of the Board, which meets separately only when a need to do so is identified.


1Business Initiative DirectorsInternational Arch of Europe Gold Award2007Quality and Excellence
2Clover SAAward for Ukhwakha Isizwe2006Recognition of our valuable contribution to the Clover Mama Afrika project – Ukhwakha Isizwe
3The Impumelelo Innovations Award TrustCertificate of Excellence2001Innovative, dedicated work in the fields of poverty reduction and community development both in public life and civil society.
4The National Productivity InstituteNational Productivity Gold Award2000Outstanding achievement in productivity improvement
5Strategies for Children ConferenceBest of Show19991st Prize
6Department of Arts and CultureParticipation Certificate1998Contribution in the North West province Science and Technology Awareness Week.
7Department of Arts, Culture, Science and TechnologyCertificate of Participation1998Contribution to the Gauteng Celebration of the Year of Science and Technology.
8Peace Gardens SensorAchievement Award1998Acknowledgement of exceptional performance in the field of Non-Government Organisation
9Department of Environmental Affairs and TourismNational Conservation Award1995Outstanding achievement towards effective conservation and sustainable utilization of the environment to ensure a better quality of living for all South Africa

Food Gardens Foundation was also part of The World Summit on Sustainable development held at the Sandton Convention Centre from 24 – 28 March 2007. In addition, Food Gardens Foundation CEO Hilda Pheto was invited to the Food and Agriculture Organisation Conference 2006 in Zimbabwe.

Danone Clover

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