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Durban’s pavement ’plaases’

Stuck on an island ‒ a traffic island ‒ urban food gardener Philip Collyer is surrounded by food growing in front of his home in Glenwood. Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)

Stuck on an island ‒ a traffic island ‒ urban food gardener Philip Collyer is surrounded by food growing in front of his home in Glenwood. Shelley Kjonstad/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Oct 9, 2021


It’s a month and a bit before the legendary Cabbage Bandit is scheduled to appear in court soon.

Djo Ba Nkuna is up for obstructing a pavement by growing vegetables on the verge outside his home, and he plans to seek relief for a R1 500 fine.

Nkuna’s brush with the law has got many South Africans into a veggie gardening on verges mood as the country faces its woes. President Cyril Ramaphosa has himself said he favoured the practice.

Wooden pallets find a second life in the food garden outside Ocean View Montessori School in Durban North. Duncan Guy

During the ANC’s election manifesto launch in Djo Ba Nkuna’s home city Tshwane recently, the president said the ANC would ensure the unrestricted development of urban and pavement gardens where crops can be planted to increase food security.

Gardening on verges and on pieces of public land is not new in eThekwini where gardeners do things their own way, each with their own challenges.

Motorists may notice a traffic island “prettier than a grass patch” as they approach a curve in Alan Paton Road, Glenwood. There, Philip Collyer raises a range of edible foods, from geraniums to flavour tea to pumpkins with leaves that can be eaten with starches, granadilla, carrots, New Zealand spinach, lamb’s quarters (not meat but a salad ingredient!)

“The monkeys leave us enough and passers-by help themselves too. It’s not a problem if they take food before me because that’s what’s it’s there for,” said Collyer.

“I don’t mind if I get anything or not.”

He started the garden about seven years ago to protect a lemon tree from lawn mowers and it grew from there, hopping across the traffic island to a piece of park land across the road where banana trees dominate and sunflowers are emerging.

On the other side of the city, in Durban North, children from pre-school up to Grade Three at the Ocean View Montessori School have grown veggies on a verge since 2016, on land used under the city’s Adopt-A-Spot programme.

Among the innovations are wooden pallets used to grow seedlings and eco-bricks (cooldrink bottles filled to a certain weight with plastic waste) used as barriers.

Avocado, banana and naartjie trees grow in the food forest and a baobab tree, a species that can live for many years, can be seen as the school’s long-term investment. One day they may produce cream of tartar in their seed pulp.

“The idea is that the community can help themselves. We also sell and buy money for seeds,” said co-principal Rose Lowry.

At Sutton Park Swimming Pool, near Windermere Centre, community members are waiting for the city to reopen the facility so they can resume working on a vegetable garden they started before lockdown.

Delwyn Pillay said the community benefited from it. It also proved to be an example: a lesson learned about monkeys was that they did not eat indigenous food plants as much.

“African horned cucumber is spikey. They also left amaranth alone.”

Pillay added that the community garden also served as a positive example.

“A security guard saw what we were doing and started his own garden,” said Pillay.

In Umbilo, next door to another pool, the city has denied resident Mark Kritzinger permission to grow vegetables on a patch of vacant land between his house and Tesorerie Swimming Pool, which has been closed to replace ageing piping.

He said that for years he has held the keys to the property and cleared it of bushes to prevent crime, in the absence of the city doing so effectively.

A small section of the property has an electricity sub-station.

The city turned down his Adopt-A-Spot request because of its use to the municipal electricity entity.

The Independent on Saturday

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