Urban Harvest, a Cape-Town based organisation that creates inner-city, sustainable food gardens opened a new garden at Hangberg pre-primary school. The garden is part of the school’s ambitious aims to create hope for a new generation in Hangberg.
The children of Hangberg are no strangers to violence. Just last month the seaside neighbourhood erupted into protests over fishing quotas, and the shooting of a teenager by police sent shockwaves into the wider community. Scenes like this are commonplace in this neighbourhood hard hit by unemployment, drug abuse and perlemoen smuggling syndicates. Yet, in the midst of the tension, there are tendrils of hope.
Children who had the chance to work in a community garden also benefit from positive bonding experiences with adults. This is crucial in Hangberg where many children have been traumatised by abusive adults. Drug dealers openly peddle in the streets. Because it is relatively cheap, Tik (or methamphetamine) is the drug of choice for many. Studies show that children born to tik-addicted mothers are prone to moodiness, aggressivity as well as poor concentration (similar to ADHD). This is just one of the challenges teachers face at the school.
The garden, uniquely crafted into the shape of a mandala, has been designed by Urban Harvest’s Ben Getz to help instill a sense of tranquillity and peace in those who spend time there. Studies have shown that school gardens can boost life skills and help children to work cooperatively. However, this patch of green will not just nourish the spirit, but hungry bellies too.
The garden project, which was sponsored by the Real Thing Supplements, will provide organic produce for the school’s kitchen which prepares two hearty meals for the children daily.
The city’s crippling water crisis has not put a brake on the project. Getz’s team also installed a grey water system that will sustain the garden through the dry months ahead.
Research has shown that people’s dietary habits are developed in childhood and persist throughout their lives. According to a leading study conducted in the UK, a school garden, especially one in which the community is involved, can significantly boost children’s’ daily intake of fruit and vegetables. At the end of the day the garden project is part of a holistic approach taken by the school to provide children with the tools they need to be successful later in life.