That “food-gardening” is a vital need of the hour, is universally acknowledged. Many experienced farmers, horticulturists and other food producers have been constantly warning that there will soon come a time when: “…only those who’ve befriended the ground (soil) will survive.”
Darul Ihsan Humanitarian Centre, serves the community in many more ways than just addressing their “social and welfare needs.” One such diversified community venture is the “Al-Ihsan Skills Academy.” Of late, the academy has launched numerous skills development programmes. The main thrust of these programmes is to empower the community and facilitate self-subsistence among the jobless and the unemployed.
Food Garden at Overport Secondary School
The Principal of Overport Secondary School, Dr SH Omar, shared with us the vision of sustainable gardening via the “Food Garden Project.” His close cooperation with our academy has over time, resulted in a thriving garden at his school.
It is at this stage that the assistance of a Horticulturist, Mr Riaz Carrim, was sought. The many vibrant inter-actions with enthusiastic pupils of Overport Secondary and the school-representatives realised the need for a Comprehensive Workshop about food production. With the cooperation of Mr Ivan Pillay, one of the Heads of Department, a Workshop was planned and presented with the following focus to:
- engender in the pupils a deep and everlasting love for, and a warm friendship with the “Golden Godly Gift of Soil”;
- develop a greater degree of gardening competence among the pupils;
- create a sharp awareness about “working the soil” for a healthy and self-satisfying supply of fresh food;
- experience the thrill, excitement and joy of seeing their food “hop from the garden to their plate”;
- get a first-hand look at how “working the soil” and harvesting vegetables and fruit can be both, an educational and a rewarding exercise;
- conscientise pupils about becoming self-reliant, especially in the current trying and challenging times; and
- possibly one day becoming farmers or even market-gardeners.
In addition to the above objectives of the Workshop, the following significant issues were also discussed:
- preparing the site for a ‘food garden’
- the need for the planting area to be suitably landscaped in order to minimise water and wind erosion;
- preparation of the soil with nutritious soil-enriching substances;
- regular compacting (stalking) of the soil;
- adequate irrigation (watering);
- removing parasitic weeds from around the plants;
- ensuring proper trellises and support structures for those plants that require them for healthy growth;
- providing appropriate “shade” for those plants that wilt and wither under excessive sunlight;
- keen observation for readiness of the vegetable or fruit for harvesting;
- developing good and sustainable on-site composting areas;
- developing creative ways to “trap, store and channel” natural water resources;
- brainstorming ways and means of escalating the project from “… the plate to the marketplaces”;
- pupils’ need to understand where food comes from;
- obtaining regular professional advice and guidance from experts;
- the acquisition of basic, but necessary, tools to work the viz. trowels, spades, garden forks, gardening hand gloves, etc.
Community involvement is of paramount importance - it is hoped that pupils shall begin to love the concept of “working the soil” and take the idea home and get the family members to also fall in love with “working the soil”. This will in turn ensure a sustainable supply of fresh food for their respective families; gradually and learn to earn a living from the soil.
Al-Ihsan Skills Academy