The Woolworths Trust has joined forces with Absa as co-sponsor of the Siyakhana Food Garden Project in Bezuidenhout Park, Johannesburg. Siyakhana is an innovative urban agricultural project established by the Public Oral Health and Health Promotion Units of Wits University. The R1 million investment in Siyakhana represents a further substantial investment by the retailer in food security programmes in South Africa.
On the 16th of October, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) commemorates World Food Day, and the 2010 theme is United Against Hunger. It comes at a time when rising food prices and looming food shortages are gaining heightened focus from different sectors of our society. Local and sustainable food production is highlighted as an antidote to a global food system that has always fallen short of food security for all.
The Siyakhana Food Garden Project is a model of community food gardening using permaculture principles and methods to produce fresh vegetables, fruit and herbs. It also serves as an education centre providing capacity-building workshops that transfer skills in permaculture design and practice, as well as showing others how to generate income from local and sustainable food production. Produce from the Siyakhana Food Garden Project is distributed to a coalition of Home-Based Care initiatives and Early Childhood Development Centres providing essential services to indigent inner-city residents.
Community food gardening is the answer
All across the world, community food gardening using natural systems farming techniques is increasingly regarded as a vital strategy to enhance food security and sustainability. Woolworths has long supported this view with its historic support of EduPlant, a national programme, co-ordinated by Food and Trees for Africa, that assists schools in developing permaculture food gardens. EduPlant involves thousands of teachers, parents, children and community members in the production of vegetables, herbs, fruit and medicinal plants on the school grounds for the benefit of learners and the wider community.
For an EduPlant school, the food garden also serves as living classroom and helps to entrench sustainable living skills in the community. The Woolworths Trust was the main funder of EduPlant for six years from 2004, investing more than R12 million in the programme over the years. In 2010, they invited Absa and Engen to join forces with them in funding EduPlant and this new partnership has committed over R9 million to EduPlant over a three-year period.
Against this backdrop, the Woolworths Trust’s co-funding of the Siyakhana pilot is a natural extension of their commitment to enhance food security. As part of its Good business journey, Woolworths focuses primarily on increasing availability and access to nutritious food, as well as improving skills and extending a community’s knowledge base of local and sustainable food. The support includes the upgrading of Siyakhana’s training facilities, as well as enabling seven workshops and contributing to the garden maintenance and production costs.
Access to good food is core of business
‘Increasing the availability and accessibility of good food is at the core of both the Woolworths’ business and our corporate social investment,’ comments Zinzi Mgolodela, BEE Transformation Manager. ‘We are pleased to unite with Absa to support Siyakhana as a valuable model for sustainable urban agriculture that South African communities and cities can learn from. We commend the way that Siyakhana has transformed a sterile, under-utilised area of city parkland into a thriving, food-rich environment that fosters community resilience and empowerment.’
In addition to championing food security through its funding of EduPlant and Siyakhana, every year Woolworths also donates millions of rands worth of surplus food to selected charities. During the fiscal July 2009 to June 2010 Woolworths donated R270 million of surplus food to South African charities.
The Woolworths Trust is commemorating World Food Day with the creation of a virtual ‘Living Wall‘ that showcases a permaculture design for a vertical container food garden.