Making the most out of scarce resources

Locally produced food and city gardens are becoming more important with scarce resources and increasing food prices.

The Streetscapes Garden in Roeland Street was initiated last year to help long-time homeless offenders coming through the Community Court.

The garden was started by Khulisa Solutions and is funded through the City of Cape Town’s Expanded Public Works Programme.

Although the pilot project has now come to an end, some members are still working in the garden.

The project has received funding, from the Ackerman Pick * Pay Foundation and Central City Improvement District, which Khulisa will use to set up non-profit micro-enterprises in farming, baking, recycling and composting as part of the garden project.

Jesse Laitinen, manager of strategic partnerships at Khulisa Solutions, said: “Locally produced nutritious organic food is the way to go. There will always be a need for commercial large scale farming, but I am sure smaller units from household gardens to city hectares are going to grow in the future.”

Ms Laitinen said growing food would always complement other livelihood strategies for the poor. “Households can be taught how to use household waste water to water vegetable gardens meaning we waste less water and poor households can save money. Goedgedacht Trust and Surplus People Project are doing excellent work in this regard in the West Coast.”

At the end of last month the City said that although dam levels had improved with recent rain, it was still lower than at the same time last year. They called for residents to remain cautious with the amount of water that they use.

There are 32 fresh water streams that run off Table Mountain and Ms Laitinen said they would like to make the most of this natural resource for the garden.

“The workers are from the Khulisa homeless work-based pilot project. As we gain more income by adding more land and farming more effectively, we can help more people. All of them will be homeless individuals.”

Another urban farming iniative which has taken root is the Oranjezicht City Farm.

One of the farm’s founders, Sheryl Ozinsky, said urban farming was becoming increasingly important.

“The simple act of planting a food garden can shape issues like economics, health, and politics at the same time because food is an essential focal point of human activity. The influence of urban farming is uniquely widespread because more people live in cities than rural areas and food is a central necessity that affects everything at once.”

Ms Ozinsky added that water scarcity had a huge impact on food production. “Without water, farmers do not have means of watering their crops. This will eventually lead to price hikes. Similarly, poor water quality, or limited or unreliable access to water means higher costs for farmers – and therefore consumers. Water scarcity means greater risks for a community’s long-term viability and a negative impact on their competitiveness – job creation is at risk. Water is ironically taken for granted although it serves as the engine of our economy – water scarcity will directly affect our ability to grow the economy and create jobs.”

The City’s mayoral committee member for utility services, Ernest Sonnenberg, said: “‘As the current low dam levels illustrate, Cape Town is not a city where water can be used thoughtlessly. The ecosystem in which we live is classified as semi-arid. By implication, this means that rainfall is comparatively scarce.

“In order for these limited resources to support large urban populations, it is essential that a more responsible attitude is cultivated. Other interventions such as desalination require massive capital spend which, in the current context of redressing the spatial planning of apartheid, is difficult to justify when a careful attitude to water will be just as effective.

“That being said, the response to the Level 2 water restrictions has thus far been good. For this I would like to thank those residents who have answered the City’s call to change their water habits. Sustaining a commitment to water conservation takes effort, and it can be demoralising when other members of the community continue to use water wastefully. To those residents who have gone above and beyond, we’d like you to know that your efforts are making a significant difference.”

Residents are reminded that they can report any incidences of water wastage to the City’s call centre on 0860 103 089, or to the Water and Sanitation SMS line on 31373. For details on the City’s water restrictions as well as water savings tips, visit the City’s website: www.capetown.gov.za