Durban: One hundred fruit trees were planted in Newlands East last week as part of a programme focused on eradicating hunger in Durban.
Food & Trees for Africa and Konica Minolta South Africa sponsored trees such as nectarine, plum and pear to the Agro-Ecology Hub in Newlands East in commemoration of World Food Day.
John Ngubane, a horticulturist who runs the hub, said the trees will aid many generations, both now and to come.
He thanked the sponsors for supporting the city-run project, which aims to empower communities to become small-scale farmers and become self-sufficient.
Through the programme, the city finds suitable candidates through advertising in its paper as well as identifying organised groups in communities such as schools, clinics, orphanages and hospitals. They are trained and given the necessary equipment to grow produce.
Fruit and vegetables reaped off the land can be either sold or used to feed their families.
Ngubane said in Newlands there were 15 gardens, which included those at Bright Future Special School and Hillgrove Secondary.
At Bright Future Special School, the fruits and vegetables that are grown form part of the school's nutrition programme, while at Hillgrove, farmers use the land at the school for their benefit.
The Newlands hub is one of seven agro-ecology hubs in eThekwini. Ngubane said: "I started here in 2016 when the Parks Department took over the privately owned land. At the time, Parks was having trouble cutting large pieces of vacant municipal land and hence came up with an idea for people to plough these lands for free."
He said there were now 350 gardens, growing spinach, carrot, madumbe, lettuce, beetroot and onion as the main produce.
"Every day, we get people who are interested in the farming programme and want to start gardens. But before we say yes, we go and see the land. Then there is paperwork that needs to be filled.
"If it is in a rural area, and the Nkosi give land, we need proof. We need a letter from the Nkosi or Induna. We also want the councillor's letter."
Those who are chosen are provided with tools. Gardens are planted, fenced and irrigated.
"The only issue we have in the north, especially in the townships like Kwamashu, is water, but our water is not 100% good for the vegetables because of the sewer. The sewer gets into the stream."
He spoke of a local farmer at the Inchanga site who has now died but has passed his farming business to his family.
"Twenty years ago, he started covering his one-hectare land with fruit trees. He only planted mango trees, and every now and then, when there was fruit, he would go to the market. Since he has passed, his kids and wives are still supported by this."
He said the aim was that farmers become self-sufficient.
Bharathi Tugh, branch manager for Food & Trees for Africa, explained that their aim was much like the city's but extends to different parts of the country.
"We've trained tens of thousands of people across the country to grow food naturally. We've created economic employment, skills development, all related to food security."
In the last 30 years, with Konica Minolta alone, the organisation has planted in excess of 60 000 trees across the country, from Robben Island to the deepest and most rural areas of the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.
"We had the opportunity to plant at the Nelson Mandela capture site."
She said it was not just planting trees, but growing people.
"There are five million people under the age of five in SA that go hungry every day. It is not just about the 100 trees today. Together with Konica, we have distributed 620 trees that are going to extend throughout the eThekwini region, throughout the gardens Ngubane mentioned. This initiative has changed the landscape of our country.“
Ashwin Ramlall, Durban branch manager for Konica Minolta said: "An additional goal is to educate the community around the issue of food security. As we celebrate World Food Day, let us spare a thought for those for which hunger is a daily reality. Let us also consider how best to use food with minimal wastage."