Sunnyside res banks on new food garden

STUDENTS making use of the Wits Citizenship and Community Outreach (WCCO) Food Bank can look forward to fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs from one of the 21 planned food gardens that will be planted this year as part of the Food Sovereignty Centre.

The third food garden was planted at Sunnyside Residence on March 11-14 by small subsistence farmers who travelled from as far as Cape Town to instruct other farmers and Wits students as part of an agroecology workshop.

The food grown in the gardens will be used in the Food Sovereignty Centre which is being established as part of a collaboration between WCCO and the Co-operative and Policy Alternative Center (COPAC). The two organisations have been working together to establish the Food Sovereignty Centre at the Sanctuary on East Campus which so far includes two food gardens and a communal kitchen.

According to COPAC Executive Manager Jane Cherry, the Food Sovereignty Centre is being established at Wits in order to be an example to other institutions of a sustainable alternative food system which will benefit students who don’t have access to food.

“We want to create a system where there is zero hunger, we manage waste from the kitchens and gardens by creating mulch, and we manage water,” she said.

Cherry said that the long-term goal was to establish a research centre on food security.

“We want to do research on agroecology, alternative food systems, host talks and workshops on climate change and food production, and establish a seed bank for old seeds,” she said.

Subsistence farmer of 12 years and resident of Philippi in Cape Town, Nazeer Sonday, said that he had volunteered to assist in planting the garden to reciprocate the assistance COPAC had given his community during the recent drought.
“I came to offer my farming experience to help them set up this food garden. We’re planting vegetables, herbs, indigenous plants, fruit and nut trees, and ground cover to make sure there is a diversity of plants and an abundance of food for people to add to their diets,” Sonday told Wits Vuvuzela.

The workshop was the second agroecology workshop hosted by COPAC. It focused on teaching sustainable urban farming methods with the aim of creating food gardens that are diverse, supply good nutrition, and reflect of differing cultures and their traditional food.

Subsistence farmers were invited to teach about indigenous plants and traditional farming methods.

Felix Donkor, a doctoral environmental science candidate and member of Wits Inala Forum, said that produce from the food gardens will give a needed nutritional boost for students who are dependent on the WCCO Food Bank. This may in turn help with their academic performance.

“It was a good idea to have small rural farmers join us because it was a rich exchange of knowledge. They contributed traditional knowledge and told us how they are growing, why they are growing, and how we can sustain [the garden],” he said.

FEATURED IMAGE: WCCO volunteers get their hands dirty to provide food for students.
Photo: Naledi Mashishi

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Faculty of Health Sciences to celebrate centenary

By Naledi Mashishi

The Wits Faculty of Health Sciences will be observing its 100th birthday through a range of activities and events in 2019. The Faculty which is based at the Wits Medical Campus in Parktown will showcase its achievements and strengths while identifying areas for growth during its centenary celebrations.

Assistant Dean in the Faculty of Health Sciences Dr Wezile Chita says that each of the Faculty’s seven schools will celebrate their individual achievements through a series of events.
The planned programme also includes a visit to Australia by a team of Health Sciences staff, led by Dean Martin Veller, to engage with alumni there.

“We want to draw our graduates from Australia and New Zealand to keep them up to date with the faculty’s progresses and engage with them on their experiences,” Chita told Wits Vuvuzela.

Included in the faculty’s centenary celebration plans is a booklet documenting the history of the faculty and its contributions to medicine and science in the country and abroad.

The Adler Museum, located on Medical Campus, will also host a dedicated centenary exhibition starting before the end of June.

Chita says that the faculty has grown over the years to become the biggest medical faculty on the continent.

“Wits is diverse, innovative, globally competitive, and locally responsive,” Chita says. “We are embedded in the development of the public health system and our students have influenced policy on [antiretroviral drugs], the sugar tax, and research on malaria and infectious diseases.”

The faculty’s plans include strengthening partnerships, reaching out to the private sector to increase student and staff involvement, and expanding and developing its rural clinical school in Mpumalanga in partnership with the Mpumalanga Department of Health.

“We are following the university’s framework in forming institutional partnerships in the United States, United Kingdom, Europe, and Africa. We want to develop further to join the top 100 medical universities in the world,” Chita says.

Precious Magane, a BHs Chemical Pathology honours student, says that although her time at Wits has been academically difficult, she believes that the Faculty of Health Sciences is among the best in the country.
“They have the best researchers and the best facilities. The academic standards here are very high,” she says.

It is estimated that 24 000 – 26 000 students have graduated from the faculty over the past 100 years. Notable alumni include: Nobel Prize Laureates, Sydney Brenner and Aaron Klug, and surgeon, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, Patrick Soon-Shiong.

FEATURED IMAGE: The Wits Faculty of Health Sciences will be celebrating its 100th birthday.
Photo: Naledi Mashishi