Every school week a box of vegetables is dropped off at my son’s school with my name on it. It sits, in amongst similar boxes, awaiting pick-up. It must be said that I often forget and my box finds its way into the school fridge until I remember the following day to collect it.
My pack is always brimming over with a variety of fresh vegetables, picked on the morning of delivery. This might sound pretty obvious, but I have used other box delivery schemes in Cape Town where, because of logistics and through no fault of their own, you only receive your vegetables a couple of days after picking. But this makes a huge difference to the state of your vegetables (Harvest of Hope’s are firm, crisp and FRESH – gorgeous!).
These aren’t jiffy wrapped, perfectly uniform, washed to distraction vegetables available on your local Woolies or Pick n Pay shelves. These particular vegetables were grown just around the corner on the plains of the townships on the periphery of Cape Town in a selection of community gardens funded by the NGO Abalimi Bezekhaya, who have been doing this kind of work for the last 28 years.
Organic vegetables are grown in hundreds of gardens in the townships, mostly of Nyanga and Khayelitsha. People there are taught to grow their own to feed their families and at any time, Abalami works with over 50 community and institutional gardens. Once these gardens are sustainable (and this takes a while), in the sense that they easily feed the families of the people involved, and there is a surplace, the excess is ‘sold’ to the Harvest of Hope who have created a market with the box delivery scheme that delivers to schools.
And this kind of food growing needs encouragement. Corporate farming, the type that brings sterilised, imported and homogenised vegetables and fruit to our local supermarkets, having acquired a few thousand food miles in the process, is threatening the very existence of global food security.
Rob Small, the man behind Abalimi, and one of the most unassuming gentle giants of sustainable living I know, surmises that as little as 25% of our food needs are met in South Africa, and that around 50% of our ‘homelands’ are desolate as thousands pour into the cities.
Abalimi’s Harvest of Hope box scheme, which started only in 2008, shows that ‘under-educated, unemployable South Africans can have healthy lives with tiny pieces of land, and in the worst possible conditions, can have abundant healthy food and a decent income using their own initiative’.
I cannot emphasise how much this type of community grown food needs our support.
The farmers involved will benefit from a secure and fair income, while you benefit from reasonably priced and locally produced organic vegetables. Your money is giving people jobs, and conserving the environment through local organic farming.
I am fussy about my vegetables, but there hasn’t been a week’s worth of delivery with which I have been dissatisfied. Quite the opposite, in fact, each week there is a moment of anticipation before I reveal everything washed and packed carefully within, before quickly doing a recce of what is for dinner that evening.
Every week there is a new combination of vegetables. Sometimes the box includes free-range eggs, other weeks there is a surprise pack of herbs. But in general, the carrots, spinach, aubergines, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, spring onions, green peppers, onions and baby heirloom tomatoes that I have had over the past couple of months have been excellent.
Harvest of Hope usually include a recipe that involves using at least two of the veg in your box, so you get to try a new dish as well. Or you can find a list of recipes on their website.
And the boxes are really reasonably priced. For R95 a week you get a generous helping of vegetables (on average eleven types of mixed vegetables) for an average family for the week. The other option is a smaller ‘box’, which is actually a bag, of vegetables for R65. You get your box on a Tuesday.
The veges are washed, checked for quality and packed at the Harvest of Hope pack shed at the Philipi Developmental Node. On average they are packing close to 200 boxes a week for people like us.
Abalimi is one of the most successful projects in Africa to combat poverty by growing food sustainably, using organic methods, in community gardens. So much so that other organisations are travelling here to observe. What makes it work is the support the farmers constantly receive, and the guaranteed market once the farmers are at a stage that they can supply vegetables.
Tel: +27 (21) 371 1653
Mail : firstname.lastname@example.org.
Care of Abalimi Bezekhaya, The Business Place, 7 Cwango Cresent.
Corner of New Eisleben & Lansdowne Roads, Philippi, Cape Town, South Africa.