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The Orange Farm Lakeside community has a new source of income and food thanks to Joburg City Parks and Zoo. The City officially opened the Lakeside Community Food Garden, for residents to grow fresh and nutritious fruit and vegetables.

The vegetable garden is a recreational and agricultural space; along with a wide array of indigenous trees, vegetables and fruit trees, it also features community seating areas, raised wheelchair-friendly areas, and bins and parking bays.

The vegetable garden is a recreational and agricultural space; along with a wide array of indigenous trees, vegetables and fruit trees, it also features community seating areas, raised wheelchair-friendly areas, and bins and parking bays.

ON a quiet suburban street in Lakeside, Orange Farm, community members gathered on Tuesday morning, 1 April, to witness City of Johannesburg mayor, Mpho Parks Tau, officially open a sustainable food garden. The garden is a joint initiative between Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo (JCPZ) and the Department of Trade and Industry (dti), under the auspices of the National Development Plan, to help the community combat food shortages.

Amidst applause and ululating the mayor addressed the crowds in Zulu, saying, "We need to find solutions to poverty, and deal with these problems. This is the most important issue in the community."

He added, "Food security is the poorest in Johannesburg with 22% of people food insecure. We are looking at each ward and seeing which ones are the most food insecure, as some are worse than others.
We are here to learn."

The project will allow the local community to sell nutritious, fresh produce to nearby residents, while creating a complementary income for farmers in Lakeside.

Building self-sustaining self-worth

Councillor Mshayisa of Ward 2, Orange Farm, expressed delight with the project, saying, "This is so wonderful and the community has waited so long for this. This will play a vital role in the community.”

Councillor Chris Vondo, member of the mayoral committee for community development in the City of Joburg, said, "The Lakeside Community Food Garden initiative brought about the formation of a registered co-operative facilitated and established by the Department of Trade and Industry. 

These individuals collectively make up a group or a co-operative that have separate but mutually beneficial responsibilities, for the smooth running and success of the Lakeside Food Garden.

The formation of the Lakeside Co-operative ultimately creates a sense of self-worth and self-sustainability and will enable participants to harvest and share their produce while simultaneously generating an income from excess produce."

Vondo said that the programme aims to alleviate the effects of climate change and escalating food prices on "ordinary citizens who are expected to absorb the biggest impact of food scarcity". He adds that cities such as Joburg can contain the effects by implementing co-operatives that are able to manage and share harvests within the community, and said, "The Growth and Development Strategy aims to provide a resilient, liveable and sustainable urban environment where no-one goes hungry."

Councillor Mshayisa of Ward 2, Orange Farm, expressed delight with the project, saying, "This is so wonderful and the community has waited so long for this. This will play a vital role in the community. There are great challenges here at Orange Farm; drugs and alcohol. There are non-profit organisations that provide healthcare but there is no food."

He asked that the community respect the garden, saying, "Please don’t vandalise the project; this is for all of us. Let's care for the project and keep it alive and healthy."

The vegetable garden is a recreational and agricultural space; along with a wide array of indigenous trees, vegetables and fruit trees, it also features community seating areas, raised wheelchair-friendly areas, and bins and parking bays.  In time the JCPZ hopes to expand the food garden, to sell to fruit and vegetable markets and community members and use the profits to buy seeds and subsidise stipends.  

Ensuring food security, creating jobs

Since 2012, JCPZ has rolled out some 50 much-needed school and park food gardens and more than 16 400 fruit trees have been planted at schools and orphanages, and in communities. Rolling out the gardens has also provided short-term jobs through the dti's Extended Public Works Programme. Unskilled labourers building the gardens learned how to open and fill irrigation trenches, construct brickwork, plant lawns and trees, and prepare soil.

Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo also urges corporate South Africa to support school and community food gardens to help combat increasing food shortages among the most vulnerable in the city.