In Africa, and South Africa, more than 50% of families have probably found themselves unable to provide enough food for their families, at some time during the last year. Our children are going hungry.
“One in three people in sub-Saharan Africa suffers from chronic hunger,” says Evelyn Tagbo in an Oxford University study. Food security is under threat in many parts of the world, and this threat is escalating as the climate changes.
Healthy nutritional intake is vital for growing children. It aids their physical and mental development, can help ward off the risk of diseases and gives them the vigour and alertness to learn and thrive in the classroom.
While public or private job creation and socio-economic investment may help to improve these stats, the bottom line is that healthy food, and sometimes even fresh water, remain unaffordable or unavailable for too many. Donations only provide a short-term solution to the status quo.
This is why Nedbank is demonstrating the long-term value of environmental sustainability in the area of food and nutrition. They have changed the old hand-out approach to a ‘hands on’ one, together with the communities they serve.
Caring for our communities
For the last three years, Nedbank’s Caring for our Communities and Saving our World programme has been passing on their sustainability expertise to young learners, their teachers and parents in some of South Africa’s poorcommunities.
Through serving 150 schools across the country, they have touched 150 communities in need. Nedbank seeks out the schools most in need of aid, and also encourages staff to identify schools in their area that could benefit. Wherever new Nedbank branches are opened, the sustainability opportunity is filtered into the surrounding community.
These workshops demistify sustainability. It illustrates that, with a little know-how and assistance, anyone anywhere can save water, reduce electricity consumption and generate an ongoing healthy food supply for their school, workplace or community. They take learners through an interactive workshop with characters and stories, including tips and activities as to how they can make a difference.
The programme has so far involved 3 000 Nedbank staff volunteers and touched the lives of over 5 000 learners and 1 500 adults.
4 Pillars of sustainability
After each workshop, learners, teachers and family members emerge having gained an appreciation for the four pillars of sustainability:
- Environmental – ‘understand the importance of sustaining and protecting the environment and managing environmental sustainability threats, like pollution, habitat destruction and water contamination’.
- Economic – ‘become equipped to achieve and maintain economic sustainability for yourself and your community through entrepreneurship and income generation’.
- Cultural – ‘discover how to preserve and enrich your culture by embracing diversity, and understanding and accepting language, religion and traditional differences’.
- Social – use social sustainability principles like education, healthy living, respect and concern for others, to improve your quality of life and that of your community’.
All hands on-site
Nedbank doesn’t move on to the next school before adding practical know-how and a lasting passion for sustainability to the knowledge imparted.
The workshop is followed by a project build day in which learners, educators and community members, together with Nedbank staff, get their hands dirty on-site and construct a vegetable tunnel, solar cooker, rainwater harvesting tank, or indigenous erosion control garden – depending on the needs identified. These projects help the schools address immediate environmental issues they may be facing, like access to clean water or fresh produce. At the same time it provides a new community focus for recycling, renewable resources and healthy living.
Nedbank continues to monitor and liaise with all schools assisted, but ownership of the sustainability projects is effectively passed over to learners and teachers. Ultimately for the good of the whole community.
The benefits are manifold:
- Food grown in vegetable tunnels and gardens contribute to many of the schools’ feeding schemes.
- After school, kids from very poor families can take home produce to put on the table.
- Sometimes extra produce is sold outwards into the community, to generate funds for the school.
- At the same time, the school reduces electricity costs thanks to new solar cookers.
- Or saves on water costs with the efficient rainwater harvesting tanks installed.
Nedbank has a small army of staff volunteers on the programme. Their biggest reward for their actions at grassroots level might be the shy smile of a young learner, the air of renewed energy that permeates the classrooms, or one of the many heartfelt messages that flow back from the principals of schools where hope has taken root.
Here are some examples:
- ‘We are grateful to Nedbank who came at a time when help was needed. Learners used to come to school with empty tummies, not having had a well-balanced meal at home, but now we are able to provide them with fresh vegetables from the vegetable tunnels, all while saving water by harvesting the rain.’
- ‘The Nedbank-faciliated projects have proved a great help in desperate times.’
- ‘The projects have generated a thirst among our young people, to develop practical skills.’
- ‘300 Learners are now benefiting from our feeding scheme. They also sell fresh spinach once a month to some local vendors; this helps the school buy much-needed supplies as well as new plantable crops. The gardens are expanding beyond the vegitunnels and the learners want to go out even if it starts raining.’
- ‘Thank you God and Nedbank for all the blessings and abundance in our lives!’
- ‘More than just a gift of nutrition, this has uplifted their minds and souls.’
- ‘Many of our learners are orphans and have grown up with little in the way of resources to sustain them or opportunities to thrive. The new vegetable tunnel has helped provide them with healthy nutritious food, particularly needed when the school is not externally supplied with fresh vegetables or fruit. Many of them also show a lightness of spirit that I have seen all too rarely.’
- ‘Our school would like to extend sincere gratitude to Nedbank, for shining a light on sustainability and bringing joy to our children’.
- ‘When South Africans all help one another, everybody wins.’
- ‘Before, we never had enough. Now, we always have more.’
The Caring programme dovetails with Nedbank’s ancillary involvement with the Nedbank Eco-Schools Volunteer Programme – a partnership between Nedbank, WWF-SA and the Wildlife & Environmental Society of Southern Africa, through which all three organisations work together to tangibly make a lasting difference in disadvantaged communities.
By bringing the sustainability message to communities in need in a practical and hands-on way, Nedbank is illustrating that green is not an elitist concept, as many South Africans still seem to think. In delivering solutions to communities they show them how to carry those solutions forward for themselves.