“Every home must have a garden” declares Ntombenhle Mtambo passionately.
Not content with turning her tiny back yard into a food forest, Ntombenhle has been pestering the uMngeni Municipality for the past 8 years to allow her to use a vacant plot, which Mpophomeni residents have been using as a dumping site, for a food garden.
“This is so important,” she says, “Everyone should have the ability to afford a healthy lifestyle. In this garden we will share skills and teach people to recycle all the things they think are waste.”
The Mpophomeni Conservation Group has set about creating this community garden with great gusto. Watch this short video of the original dream: https://vimeo.com/92513329
Volunteers began a few months ago, clearing the rubbish from the site – eish, so much buried plastic and chunks of concrete!
Neighbour, Bonokwakhe Madlala brought them all gloves when he noticed they were working with bare hands.
Then Hilton and Howick Rotary, who share Ntombenhle’s vision, erected a fence to keep the goats and chickens out.
A fence is absolutely essential if you want to grow food in a township where livestock roams freely.
Thandi Sheleme who runs the crèche next door to the garden is terribly excited and keen to start a garden on her side of the new fence too.
Paul Duncan of Dovehouse helped draw up a plan based on permaculture principles. Zane Mnchunu of MIDI, who are delighted to be associated with the MCG garden commented “Paul’s a magician, I’m convinced! What a man. Well done guys. Garden is looking good.
Quick as a flash, swales were dug to harvest the rain and beds were made.
Ntombenhle and Tutu have been planting seeds at Qhamukile School nearby, so were able to collect lots of seedlings for the new garden from there – including onions, spinach and comfrey.
Barend Booysen brought bags of manure and mulch and some Vepris lanceolata trees. “I am blown away by what is happening here. I can see a big future for this project.” he said, “I will be drop by with more whenever I am in the area.”
Alex March of Nkosi Nursery delivered indigenous trees and shrubs for windbreaks, shade, medicine and wildlife including Ouhout, Celtis, Buddleja, lots of aloes, Artemesia, Rhus lanceolata, Freylinia. He donated a whole bunch too.
Fortunately, the rain arrived soon after, so digging holes was not too much of a challenge and planting commenced with gusto.
The small stream that runs through the site is ideal for watering everything. The water is clean and fresh. Plans are afoot to plant arums and incema in the waterlogged areas.
Margie Pretorius visited the fledgling garden, was terribly impressed and sponsored a whole lot of fruit trees, herbs, seeds and seedlings.
Ntombenhle popped into Hopewells to stock up – Peppers, Brinjals, Beetroot and Kale seedlings and seeds of nasturtium, coriander, courgette, beans, sunflowers, carrots, parsley and fennel.
Every day as the volunteers clear and dig, people stop by to chat about the project. Ntombenhle says “A guy from the municipality stopped by too. He was speechless. They made us wait so long for permission to create this garden. Now they can see for themselves what we can do.”
Mrs Mncube who owns the Tuck Shop across the road brings over trays of tea and sandwiches to keep them going.
N3TC have sponsored some inspiring learning for the group – to Enaleni Agro-Ecological Farm to learn to bake bread and make fruit cordials, and to the Khula Shanti Food Garden to discover pea pyramids, chicken tractors and the importance of rocks in the garden.
Ntombenhle concludes “This piece of land is going to bring lots of fun, unity in the community, new skills and challenges. I can see a bright future if the community roll up their sleeves and learn to make money out of waste and gardening.”
Come and see for yourself what is happening on the corner of Mhlongo and Stadium Roads in Mpophomeni. Or like them on facebook.com/MpopConserve
Clearing out your garage this holiday? Ntombenhle will be very grateful for used roofing and poles to create a shelter, pieces of shade cloth, wire, trellis, watering cans, garden tools. They do need as much mulch (hay) and manure as they can get their hands on – so if you are clearing out the stables too….. She is quite determined not to spend any money on these items and rather make use of/recycle things other people no longer need. Contact her on 071 916 2550.