The Winnie Mabaso Foundation has an orphanage on the outskirts of Johannesburg and also runs several projects on the informal settlement of Meriting.
“Over fifteen hundred people live on this camp, and the community is desperately poor,” Lisa Ashton, the former BBC programme maker who set up the Winnie Mabaso Foundation, told us, “Families live in corrugated shack dwellings. There is no electricity, and water is collected from a few standpipes that are dotted around the settlement. Sanitation is minimal and up to twenty people can share an outside chemical toilet.
“Life is tough and unemployment is rife, but the people in the community are incredibly resilient with smiles that light up the darkest of days.”
The Foundation has been running a feeding scheme for the community for several years, and whilst one cannot underestimate the importance of this, Lisa wanted to find a more sustainable solution to providing food.
“The community are enormously poor, but one thing they do have is the most wonderful, fertile soil. It suddenly struck me one day that if we could enable the community to grow their own produce, they wouldn’t have to rely on us feeding them.
“A bit like that well-known Chinese proverb – give a man a fish and you feed him for day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Lisa met with the community and asked them if they would like to learn how to grow their own vegetables and they unanimously agreed.
“What we have found is that the vegetable gardening project is not only relieving hunger, it’s also restoring dignity as the community are able to provide food for themselves and their families.
“It has been truly amazing to see how these little gardens have made such a huge difference to the community. The camp even looks different, with lush veggies growing all over the place. It’s a fabulous sight to see members of the community helping each other to water their plants or swopping tips and ideas. I’m sure even Monty Don would be proud of them!”