Diary Of An Urban Farmer
Big Issue|Issue 290
Grace Stead, managing director of Abalimi Bezekhaya, caught up with some small-scale Cape Flats farmers who share their lived realities.
Grace Stead

Abalimi Bezekhaya (farmers of the home in isiXhosa) is a community-based organisation, which has been assisting small-scale township farmers since 1982. Many of the people with whom we engage come from the Eastern Cape and grew up farming.

But farming is very different in the Mother City. The limited space, sandy soil and harsh wind or sunshine in the summer makes it difficult to grow vegetables. Yet, these farmers show us that it can be done successfully and organically.

Ma Pat Gcilishe has a garden in Khayelitsha, which has been certified organic through the participatory guarantee system (PGS). She says that the biggest challenge is access to land and water to be able to grow her veggies, specifically in the urban area. There is also too much red tape to access government support with various restrictions and politics that divide the community.

“The rewarding part is, however, that we can help each other to feed our families and our communities. During COVID-19 we linked up with the Community Action Networks (CANs) and helped feed people in Khayelitsha, Mfuleni and Mitchells Plain. Let’s keep that bond strong. Amen,” says Ma Pat.

Zodwa Dawethi from Moya weKhaya in Khayelitsha echoes Ma Pat’s sentiments, indicating that government gives preference to large-scale farmers, forgetting the small operators. She says that there is too little financial assistance from government. “We need to buy resources such as manure, seedlings and seeds, as well as pay for electricity for the borehole and maintain our tools and irrigation when it breaks. We often employ people to assist us in the garden and would like to be able to provide a stipend to the youth to help us with the day-to-day work. In the end, we need to, however, use our profits to run the garden and we are left with little to maintain ourselves,” explains Zodwa.

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