The food garden project, established by Nompumelelo Ngoqo, has been changing lives for 19 years. Picture: Supplied
Cape Town - A food garden project in the impoverished township of Langa has been a lifesaver to hundreds of TB sufferers and unemployed people.

Through its collaboration with the local clinic, the Urban Rural Development and Capacity Building food garden project has been changing lives for the last 19 years.

Nompumelelo Ngoqo, founder of the NGO that administers the 22 food gardens and two targeted feeding kitchens in Langa and surrounding areas, said the project had truly lived by its mission of alleviating poverty through community development and thereby restoring dignity.

“More than 80 people receive nutritious meals from these kitchens daily - the poor and destitute, TB and HIV-affected patients referred by local doctors and social workers.

“About 200 people, including the youth, work as gardeners, mostly referred to by the social workers.”

Ngoqo, a qualified nurse, said her commitment to community service was instilled by her late mother, an avid “community servant”.

Nontombi Ndiyane, 58, originally from Worcester, came to Langa working as a domestic worker but lost her job and has been struggling since, as she was deemed too old to work but too young for a government grant.

“Through the kitchen, I’m guaranteed a warm and healthy meal every day, and that motivated me to work in the garden,” she said.

Phumzile Bango, 53, a destitute TB patient, said he had been eating from the kitchen since last year, after he was referred by a doctor. Since his referral, he said, he had been consistently taking his medication and noticed an improvement in his health.

Ngoqo said all their services were offered for free.

“The patients’ folders and information are kept and administered at the organisation, where weight and blood pressure are monitored every month, to keep track of improvements in the patient’s health.”

She said the kitchen was a start-up programme where new referrals began. Once they completed their course of medication and were deemed fit to work, they were recruited to work in the gardens where they received a monthly stipend.

Dr Themba Mthebe from Langa Clinic said only HIV and TB patients who did not qualify for medical grants, but were too sick to work and had no form of employment, were referred to the organisation.

“TB patients start at the kitchen in the morning for breakfast, then go swallow their medication at the clinic,” Mthebe said. “They don’t get food if there’s no proof of attending the clinic. The kitchen helps keep patients to complete their treatment, as they’re guaranteed a nutritious meal before taking medication,” he said.

Mthebe said patients who defaulted on treatment were mostly those who abused alcohol, “because they stop treatment when they feel better”.

Ngoqo said the dedication of the of the garden workers was evident as most of them would work even when their stipend was delayed.

@Mtuzeli

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Cape Argus