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A childcare centre in Alexandra has a fruit and vegetable garden that is expected to add to food security for the community.

MMC Chris Vondo helps plant vegetablesMMC Chris Vondo helps plant vegetablesIN an attempt to improve the lives of people in Alexandra, the department of community development has unveiled a revamped childcare centre in the area, which has a fruit, vegetable and herb garden.

The initiative brought together learners from St John's College in Houghton and Alex's Realogile High School in what Johannesburg City Parks has called Youth Going Green. It is an attempt by City Parks to bridge the green divide in partnership with youth.

The official unveiling of the fruit and vegetable garden was led by Chris Vondo, the portfolio head of community development, at Realogile High School on 13 April. Vondo said he was "delighted to be here because this is a significant year in the calendar of Alexandra, which is celebrating 100 years".

Proceedings began with Vondo singing the national anthem in front of guests, who included ward councillors, principals and pupils from both schools, as well as residents from Alex.

Years ago, many households had vegetable patches in their backyards, Vondo said. "I can't see why today we can't grow vegetable and fruit gardens in our own households. But the sad truth is that many of us, especially in developing cities such as Johannesburg, have become dependent on sourcing our vegetables from our nearest chain store."

Organic produce

MMC Chris Vondo opens the childcare centre and food gardenMMC Chris Vondo opens the childcare centre and food gardenEvery resident could grow at least seven different types of vegetable in an area the size of a door, he said. "The savings realised from this and the health benefit of growing your own organic produce is critical in building a self-sustaining community."

Vondo commended the pupils who had been part of the initiative. "This collaboration will enable us as a society to cultivate future leaders who are healthy in mind, body and soul."

The produce from the garden would help to feed the children at the childcare centre and pupils at the high school.

"This launch follows on the heels of a similar initiative that we launched at a primary school in Rabie Ridge, near Midrand last month … This sustainable development initiative is a response to the City's Growth and Development Strategy, GDS 2040," he said.

GDS 2040 envisions a significantly improved city, with a focus on poverty alleviation and food security. "This initiative that we are witnessing today gives me hope that by 2040, the City will have achieved a substantially enhanced quality of life for all."

Apart from primarily providing much-needed fruit, vegetables and herbs, he said, this initiative was also aimed at allowing the community to grow, enabling City Parks to teach them about the importance of caring for the environment and nurturing public spaces. It would also give children and the community a chance to engage, instil a sense of self-worth and foster community pride, and provide a much-needed platform to address growing concerns around food security and climate change.

Sport, culture and heritage

The garden will add to food security in AlexThe garden will add to food security in Alex"Our department unlocks the energy of the city. We deal with exciting initiatives revolving around sports, culture and heritage," Vondo pointed out.

"These elements are extremely important because they give our young people a head start in life. It allows us the opportunity to build a society that is vastly different from the one we inherited. This is where talent, ambition and skills can be nurtured and not limited by race and gender discrimination."

Johannesburg was large and constantly changing. For this reason, building a brighter future could only be achieved if citizens partnered with the government on various initiatives.

As the youngest member of the mayoral committee, Vondo said a lot was expected of him, particularly when it came to the development and empowerment of young people. "To galvanise and create exceptional youth that can represent the city and the country both locally and internationally, increased interaction is required with communities at ground level."

City Parks had recently become part of his department. This allowed new opportunities to address issues such as food security in the city. Various initiatives had been launched in underprivileged areas, where food gardens were established. Based on their success, the department planned to roll out similar initiatives across the city.

Following the formal proceedings, learners entertained guests with song and dance, which all featured beating of drums. Vondo joined in, singing with the choir and dancing to the music before he was taken on a tour of the food garden. Then he and the ward councillors and principal planted an olive tree in the schools grounds.

"These are direct interventions that make a real difference. Almost 42 percent of Johannesburg's citizens go to bed hungry," Vondo said. "By partnering with private companies, academic institutions and the people, we can address this problem."

Source: Joburg.org.za