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