Vegetable gardeners on parched Cape Flats turn grey into green

06 July 2017 - 08:44 By Claire Keeton
Gardener Nkosi Nqazeleni with a vegetable and herb garden that is thriving on a greywater system.
Gardener Nkosi Nqazeleni with a vegetable and herb garden that is thriving on a greywater system.
Image: Supplied

Young men lounge on patchy grass and street corners in Bonteheuwel on the Cape Flats. In this barren landscape‚ Lilyhaven Place is a green oasis‚ with a vegetable and herb garden that is thriving on a greywater system.

The NGO Urban Harvest installed the old-age home’s system to save water and nourish the food garden on which residents depend for nutrition. Spinach‚ green peppers and herbs stand tall there despite Cape Town being hit by its worst water shortages.

Gardener Nkosi Nqazeleni showed off the small scale wetland with reeds‚ which filters water collected from sinks and washing machines in the backyard. This natural system for purification makes the water safe for food cultivation.

Lilyhaven has more than 100 residents‚ and they chimed in with praise for the fresh‚ organic produce. Basking in the sun‚ 61-year-old Annette Funk said: “I like the green beans and we know it’s good for us.”

Urban Harvest founder Ben Getz said gardens had nutritional‚ ecological and spiritual value‚ but a suburban garden needed anything from 5 000 to 10 000 litres a day to flourish.

“For me gardens are not a luxury‚ they are a necessity‚” said Getz. “With the current water shortages it is really important to find ways to keep food gardens alive. Community gardens are feeding people and need to be sustainable.”

Urban Harvest has started more than 300 food gardens in Cape Town since its launch in 2006. The bigger community projects are feeding several hundred children a day.

Said Getz: “We work with a lot of schools and community projects and have started putting in beautiful greywater systems to support this. The systems produce odourless‚ colourless water which is almost good for drinking.”

The children’s hospice Iris House is another place which is benefiting from a greywater system and the Shoprite Group is supporting this initiave.

As Getz pointed out‚ people have no control over rainfall but they do have control over how they use water. He said: “The combination of greywater systems and rainwater harvesting goes a long way towards saving water.”

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