News

For HIV-Positive S. Africans, Urban Gardens Change Lives

A lot of different veggies are cultivated in the communal garden: potatoes, tomatoes, onions, beans,and also corn.
A lot of different veggies are cultivated in the communal garden: potatoes, tomatoes, onions, beans,and also corn.

In South Africa, 18 percent of adults are estimated to be HIV positive or have AIDS.  It is one of the highest infection rates in the world. In the large sprawling townships, poverty often prevents those with the virus from strengthening their immune systems with proper medication and diet.  But this is changing - thanks to a new trend: city gardens.

Life changer

As she delicately digs out potatoes from the ground, Annah Mogoathe chats with the other women. It's 1:00 p.m. and the summer sun is shining at its peak over the township's community garden. Annah takes a pause. Just one year ago, she wouldn't have the energy to work like that. She's HIV positive.

"The garden has made a big change in my life. I was weak before, and now I'm strong," Mogoathe declares. "The food I grow and eat from the garden make me stronger and healthier."

We are in Ennerdale, a township 30 km south of Johannesburg. Here, about 50 people come every day to grow vegetables in the garden next to the community center. This is a relatively new idea here … and most say a life-changer for residents who are HIV positive. It all started thanks to Lettie Ngubeni, the director of the Osizweni Community Center. She decided to transform the dumpster into a communal garden, and teach people how to grow vegetables.

“We decided that we must encourage the beneficiaries to plant, to do gardens," Ngubeni explains, "because most of them are vulnerables, they don't have income to go and buy vegetables, always.”

Healthy food

Portia Ncengwa comes twice a week to buy veggies at Osizweni community center. She hopes that when she gets better, she will also be able to come work at the communal garden. (VOA Photo - E. Iob)
Portia Ncengwa comes twice a week to buy veggies at Osizweni community center. She hopes that when she gets better, she will also be able to come work at the communal garden. (VOA Photo - E. Iob)

A balanced diet is essential for people with HIV - a virus that attacks the immune system and causes AIDS.  But when living in the city - although the access to clinics is relatively easy - finding a nearby market with affordable healthy food is difficult. So when Ngubeni came up with her idea of a city garden, it took her some time to convince people.

“It’s not our culture," she notes. "And it was difficult, first, when we started to change the mind-set of the people. You know in this place, the culture is that you buy, instead of doing the gardens."

But little by little, more people saw the value. Now, HIV- and non-HIV-positive people work side-by-side in the garden, and every day, on a table by the entrance, fresh veggies are being sold to the community. Portia Ncengwa lives nearby. She is HIV positive, and comes twice a week.

“It's cheaper because maybe there, I can get potatoes for 3 Rands [$.39], then when I go to Shoprite, I get potatoes for 7 Rands or 8 Rands [$.92]," Ncengwa explains. "So it's much less transport for me, and much less: I can get potatoes, tomatoes, onions, beetroots for 10 or 11 Rands  [$1.45].”

Benefits

Women gardeners working together at the communal garden. (VOA Photo - E. Iob)
Women gardeners working together at the communal garden. (VOA Photo - E. Iob)

With the help of the Ministry of Agriculture, the community center trains people to garden every Thursday. They are taught water management, rhythm of the season, and they can ask questions. About 250 people have already benefited from the program. They were given "starter packs", which included tools and seeds, to encourage them to start cultivating a little plot in their backyard. They say no backyard is too small for a garden.

Kneeling down in his garden, Moussa Pitso grows carrots, greens, beetroots, onions, spinach, and more. He was a pioneer, one of the first to have his own garden.

“Thanks to the garden, I can now feed my family," Pitso says. "Before, I couldn't. It has completely changed my life, but the community at large also benefit from it. They took example from me and made their own garden.”

Under the curious eyes of his seven children, Pitso intends to instill in them, over the years, all the benefits of gardening and prove to them that you don't need to be wealthy to eat healthy.


This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs