Durban’s homeless find their green fingers during coronavirus lockdown
Durban - WHILE the hard lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19 impacted on people socially and economically, there was a silver lining for a group of homeless people in Durban’s CBD.
The group have grown a thriving vegetable garden on a plot of land behind the Elangeni hotel at North Beach.
The Elangeni Green zone began as a project for the homeless who were moved into a shelter at the start of the lockdown by the eThekwini Municipality.
Sizwe Mbatha, a member of the green zone, said they started the initiative to create their own jobs, promote social cohesion and to have an additional source of food.
“Since we all know that the homeless community is known for all the wrong things around the city, we decided to take it upon ourselves to come out and show people that they should give us the benefit of the doubt. This initiative has become our rehabilitation programme and it has brought us closer to the rest of the community,” Mbatha said.
“The green team appreciates this great opportunity which has been given to us by the public, municipality and the government,” he said.
Mbatha said through their gardening they have come to realise that no one is useless and that everyone has something inside of them to offer to the world.
“During the past 5 to 6 months we have managed to live together and take advantage of having different skills programmes made available to us,” he said.
“This is our first time to be close to the municipality’s safer cities and social development disaster management programmes. We are proud to say that we have been given a new lease of life, and we are ready to participate in the economy through our initiative,” he added.
Mbatha said they wanted to grow more vegetables and create more jobs for the homeless community.
They also wanted to engage with the community to fight crime.
The municipality said in a recent report that the team started the garden in June and were growing mostly green vegetables including lettuce, spinach, chillies as well as tomatoes.
EThekwini Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela thanked the city’s Deputy Mayor Fawzia Peer for leading the programme to help the city’s homeless. “The initiative has been a rehabilitation programme for many homeless people and will result in a long term contribution to the city’s growth,” Mayisela said.
“With this initiative we have managed to reunite some of the homeless people with their families and equip them with skills that will help them turn their lives around,” he said.
Mayisela also applauded the non-governmental organisations that had assisted the municipality with the homeless shelters.