Creating jobs, promoting social cohesion and having a source of food

When good news spreads, its spreads really quickly.

And that has been the case of the vegetable garden that has sprung up behind Durban’s Elangeni Hotel on the beachfront.

Luscious lettuce, spinach, chillies as well as tomatoes are being sold by the group of 15 gardeners who used the lockdown to get growing.

The Elangeni Green zone started as a project for the homeless who were moved into a shelter by the eThekwini Municipality at the start of lockdown.

Under the guidance of one of them who has farming knowledge, the group has successfully grown vegetables which they sell to the public.

Resident and journalist Sue Derwent paid a visit, got herself some spinach, cabbage, lettuce and carrots, and was overwhelmed.

“Now THIS, people, is buying fresh, straight out the ground, and local. And seasonal. And it’s not run by some cute, trendy NGO doing an “urban farming project to help the homeless.

“Honestly, you can’t believe what these guys have achieved. Without any chemical sprays or any such things. Just with their bare hands, a couple of spades, and the assistance of the most delightfully unassuming homeless guy who just happens to have an agricultural diploma,” she said on facebook.

In an interview with The Mercury Sizwe Mbatha said the idea was to start something that could create jobs, promote social cohesion and have a source of food.

“This initiative has become our rehabilitation programme and it has brought us closer to the rest of the community,” Mbatha said.

A bunch of baby carrots straight out of the ground. Picture: Sue Derwent

eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said the programme had been led by city’s Deputy Mayor Fawzia Peer.

“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.

Mbatha said they were grateful to the public and the municipality for the opportunity to prove themselves, as well as learn how to work together as a cohesive unit.

The green team has plans to offer a service where they will establish vegetable gardens at suburban homes or offices, providing seedling and know-how.

The entrance to the garden is in Molyneux Road.