A STITCH in time? Residents of an informal settlement at La Mercy, who were helped to start food gardens by the non-profit organisation Vedanta, work the soil back in the days when Covid-19 was the only massive crisis. Picture: Supplied.
A STITCH in time? Residents of an informal settlement at La Mercy, who were helped to start food gardens by the non-profit organisation Vedanta, work the soil back in the days when Covid-19 was the only massive crisis. Picture: Supplied.

Home-grown food ‘now a necessity’

By Duncan Guy Time of article published Jul 17, 2021

Share this article:

ALTERNATIVES to supermarkets are springing up as barter systems established by self-sufficiency enthusiasts become stronger.

However, supply still battles to meet demand.

“We would have needed to have 10 years to prepared for what (the situation) we have now,” said Gillitts Park resident Sebastian Brogan who, two or three years ago, set himself the target of going off the grid.

In addition to having something out of the garden to contribute to his family’s meals every day, he began baking bread for orders from people on his self-sufficiency WhatsApp group, waking up at 4am and keeping busy until 9am.

On Wednesday his device went crazy.

“Everybody was asking for bread. We literally can’t keep up with demand. Now I have no idea how I would feed all these people. It sounds good but it’s actually a bit unsettling. I have only a quarter my flour supply and the future is uncertain,” Brogan said.

“There are new opportunities but there is also a void. Where is the supply?”

He said he was considering rationing what he sold.

In the Thousand Hills area, Glynnis Dirksen, who had suffered losses in the hospitality industry, started a fresh produce market. News of it spread like wildfire.

She said growers desperate for sales and people equally desperate for food flocked to her venue, where good security was provided.

The next step would be to get more produce in from further afield, using armed convoys.

In the city, Devi Munien of Asherville, who has spent recent months promoting food self-sufficiency, as well as encouraging impoverished communities to start food growing businesses, said about 200 households had been touched by her non-profit organisation, Vedanta.

Among them is an informal settlement at La Mercy.

Vedanta has held pop-up workshops at which people learn skills and collect seedlings.

“We need to get people into the mindset of doing things for themselves,” she said.

“There is so much we can do without the trappings of commercialism. It (food gardening) has now gone beyond being a culture and a passion; it’s a necessity.”

Further away from the city, in Howick, the culture of self-sufficiency and bartering has been strong for some time: the Reko system, which originated in Finland, has taken root.

“It connects farmers with consumers. You order by communicating with the farmer who harvests for the order. This means the farmer will harvest only three beetroot if that’s what is ordered, and leave the others in the ground. The buyer pays ahead and then collects,” said Midlands self-sufficiency stalwart Nikki Brighton.

She said there had been a rush of people wanting to join WhatsApp groups offering such purchases as well as a bartering system.

“At least here in Howick we have been used to bartering. People are not afraid to ask to exchange a roll of toilet paper for a cauliflower.”

Gillitts Park’s Brogan said: “I realised very quickly that it (going off the grid and food gardening) doesn’t make you independent, but actually way more connected to people. You can’t do it all on your own.”

Munien’s advice on plants worth planting in Durban at this time of year is:

Methi/fenugreek (harvest nine days from sowing)

Spinach: 45 days

Tomatoes: 60 – 80 days

Cabbage: 80 – 108 days

Broccoli: 45 days

Chillies: 2 – 3 months

The Independent on Saturday

Share this article: