Durban, just inland from the city bowl, is getting greener.
In Asherville, the local municipal library now not only has rows of books but also tyres filled with soil and planted with seedlings that should be ready to harvest within two to three months.
“Spinach to beetroot, chillies, tomatoes, carrots and cabbage,” Devi Munien, co-founder of the Vedanta for Life NPO, rattled off her tongue.
The initiative is a collaboration between the NPO and the library, and is the latest of Vedanta’s string of food gardens it has implemented since September 2020 at local schools, informal settlements, households and public benefit organisations.
Librarian Vanessa Reddy has long been passionate and committed to starting this project together with like-minded locals, said Munien.
As the library garden grows, additional seedlings will be produced to scale out implementation to the local schools and households, she added.
“Seeds, seedlings and free lessons were the incentives to attract volunteers to maintain the gardens while promoting a culture of self-sufficiency in households,” she said.
“A start with about 10 volunteers from the Springtown community, including four pupils from the local primary school, ensured that we were able to complete the first phase of the project.
“Community partners actively supported the team with their presence and planting their quota of seedlings. A local sponsor of flower plants allowed us to beautify the public entrance to the library.”
Vedanta’s long-term objective is to create a culture of self-sufficiency in households, schools and public benefit organisations.
Through Vedanta’s three pillars of focus ‒ community gardens, practical skills development and entrepreneurship development ‒ the programme drives entrenching economic benefit through creating entrepreneurial mindsets.
eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Lindiwe Khuzwayo said the city was also aware of another two municipal libraries with food gardens: Kingsburgh and Ntuzuma.
“Kingsburgh has a small vegetable garden in the library premises. It was initiated by staff and consumed by staff,” she said.
“Rarely do we find that other people ask or pick from the garden. When they do ask, staff happily shares what they have. The staff buy the seeds. The garden idea came about when a staff member felt that the space would be cleaner and better utilised in this way. It has also encouraged staff to maintain the space.”
Khuzwayo said the garden at the Ntuzuma Library came about in a similar manner.
“(It) helps keep the small back yard clean, and it helps control the growth of weeds and bush plants. The seeds are bought by any willing member of staff, and interested staff members take turns maintaining it.”
In Cato Manor, the Umkhumbane Schools Project is undertaking a major initiative in partnership with the Department of Horticulture at Durban University of Technology (DUT) to develop the significant green space on the grounds of Bonela Secondary School with garden installations that will serve as outdoor classrooms.
“DUT has prepared a master plan for us, and we have begun the installations ‒ planting began in three large raised beds that will not only begin to transform the visual landscape at the school, currently very rough or in need of repair, but also will serve as biodiversity teaching gardens,” said Martha Bishai, director of the Umkhumbane Schools Project.
“The Umkhumbane Schools Project has brought a climate scientist/teacher on staff to write syllabus-aligned practicals that the teachers will be able to use right outside their classroom doors.
“Planting of the whole master plan will include trees, succulents, other native plants as teaching resources, school grounds enhancement and ‒ at a later phase ‒ the possibility of a food security initiative.”
The Independent on Saturday