Al-Imdaad FoundationAL-IMDAAD FOUNDATION
10 Oct 2013

Al-Imdaad Foundation’s Organic Community Gardens in the town of Estcourt in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa is helping to bring back the knowledge of food production to the local community


Satellite Gardens

19 Aug 2016

The establishment of satellite gardens managed by garden staff at their own residences has added another dimension. So far up to 9 satellite gardens have been supplied with necessary infrastructure such as fencing and Jojo tanks and some have even began to lay their first crops. Once these gardens have been developed the produce will be sold either independently or via the main garden which will supply it to vendors and commercial outlets. In this way the garden staff are empowered and are able to supplement their own income whilst practicing newly acquired skills on their own plots. Other community gardens on a similar model as the main garden are also envisioned for the future and produce will be collected and sold either from the Green Grocer store at the main garden or to commercial stores and vendors. The long term vision is to create a network of gardens that can provide a sustainable source of nutrition and income for the surrounding community.

Green Grocer Store

14 May 2016

The garden has already been supplying a number of commercial outlets as well as selling to the general public through the onsite Green Grocer store. The garden maintains a vendor first preference policy which allows small scale vendors to obtain produce from the garden at a low cost thereby allowing them to easily make a profit and empowering their businesses. The returns from all sales feed back into the garden helping to cover costs and ensure future expansion. The Green Grocer store itself has become a hub for the local community and a place people can rely on to obtain fresh produce from the garden as well as from other suppliers. The shop also provides food hampers for families who cannot afford to purchase their own food.

New Phase of Planting

14 May 2016

Much remains to be done as the project continues to expand with new indigenous trees ready to be planted at the outer perimeter to add to the growing mini-forest. The rehabilitation of the river at the gardens edge is a continuing aspect of the project which will include the construction of a floodwall and the elimination of invasive plant species in the river environment. This has already done wonders to attract a rich variety of beneficial bird life into the garden environment that helps to keep insects and small animal populations in check. The new planting phase will see the indigenous forest expanding by almost one third of its existing size and thereby attracting a whole host of beneficial flora and fauna. Moving towards the inner perimeter of the garden one can see beautiful flowering plants that have been strategically placed to attract pollinating insects into the garden. Already, indigenous butterflies are visible fluttering between the bright colours. In addition to perimeter planting, a new cycle of companion planting where plants that grow well together are planted next to each other is ready to be started in the garden, promising the continuation of favourable yields and healthy produce. The herb garden is also being expanded to include important traditional herbs that have both culinary and medicinal purposes. In both these aspects the amount of heirloom seeds that have been used has been increased.

Future developments

14 May 2016

Other areas to be developed include the geodesic greenhouse dome and the associated aquaponics and fish breeding system. These will come together to ensure that special plant species can be grown in a water environment drawing nutrients from the pond water which the fish populate. This intricate system which sees the interplay of coexisting ecosystems will enable the efficient development of seedbanks which will ensure the future stability of the garden and similar projects. The envisioned Hydroponics facility which involved growing plants with specially prepared nutrient laden sprays has been put on hold in response to the ongoing drought which has necessitated a strict water conservation plan. A mushroom growing facility is also pending with new and innovative growing methods being looked into.

Skills Development

14 May 2016

As the Garden has always been primarily a skills development initiative, the development and enhancement of teaching materials remains of great importance. To date the teaching has only been extended to onsite staff at the garden who show continued development and a growing knowledge base after having joined the garden with little or no prior experience. In the future, classes will be opened up to the community and short courses detailing the essentials of Organic Permaculture will be offered in a bid to make the garden a sustainable investment in reconnecting people to the forgotten knowledge of food production. The first part of this process will begin with the upcoming launch of the boxed teaching gardens on raised platforms that have been specifically constructed for this purpose.

Premier Senzo Mchunu Visit

28 Oct 2015

In 2015, the Al-Imdaad Foundation welcomed the KwaZulu-Natal Premier, Mr Senzo Mchunu for a tour of the garden. The premier was most impressed and quickly suggested collaboration on a similar project in other locations. The premier took time to meet and encourage all of the garden staff and spent a few hours taking in the details of the project.

Learning and skills transfer

31 May 2015

The garden seeks to address the loss of agricultural know-how which is one of the many consequences of rural-urban migration. As people lose touch with rural lifestyles, traditional methods of food production are forgotten and they become dependent on retail for their daily needs. The Garden Project thus provides an important opportunity for young and old to re-learn how to produce healthy organic food in classes run from the onsite training centre. These classes will be provided to youth off the streets as well as school children or elderly people in structured classes. Already the National Development Agency and the Department of Agriculture has made enquiries into the possibility of training their field workers in organic methods for commercial and subsistence production. The garden will thus in time provide lots of opportunities for life changing knowledge and skills that would otherwise have been unavailable. In the interim it has already provided permanent employment for up to 31 previously unemployed people allowing them to feed their families and dependents. Together this amounts to over 120 people who are already indirectly benefiting from the project.

Runoff piping and Water Sourcing

31 May 2015

The initial phases of the project required countering the effects of soil and water pollution due to the many industries located upstream of the adjacent Bushman’s river. This was achieved through the installation of runoff piping to allow storm water to flow directly into the river on the other side of the plot, thereby limiting the effects of contaminated flood and runoff waters. The Al-Imdaad Foundation also sourced pure unpolluted underground water from aquifers available for usage. Three large reservoirs have also been constructed on the property to ensure maximum storage of water. These reservoirs and several large Jojo tanks have allowed the Al-Imdaad Foundation to hold up to 1 million litres of water on the property thereby ensuring a sustainable supply for the garden’s needs.

Efficiency and green design

31 May 2015

The garden has sought to remain as energy efficient as possible and has made provision for solar, wind and sustainable irrigation technologies. All onsite buildings and water reticulation systems are fitted with energy sources that seek to ensure limited reliance on the local energy grid and maximum sustainability. The garden also implements strict monitoring of water usage based on accurate measurement from built in instruments to ensure good control of water flows. The garden has been established as an example of green development that can inspire other environmentally friendly initiatives in the area and in a larger sphere of influence. All the design features mentioned above follow the principles of green development and have been emphasised to create awareness in the community on the importance of such environmentally friendly methodologies in future developments in the region.

Background to the garden project

30 Sep 2012

The land which the garden now occupies had been lying fallow for decades since at least the 1960’s and was leased to the Al-Imdaad Foundation by the Umtshezi municipality in 2011. This specific piece of land was selected for a number of key features it possessed including its centrality and therefore accessibility to the local population. Since the land was situated on a flood plain there was no real commercial value due to pollution from upstream industries. The land also had the benefit of being adjacent to the head office of the Al-Imdaad Foundation in Estcourt and was of suitable size to feasibly operate and produce adequate amounts of food to meet the needs of the local community. The Garden Project has been a pilot project aiming to convert a biologically dead piece of land into a healthy organic plot able to produce enough to support the local community. In keeping with the principles of the KZN government’s Operation Sukuma Sakhe, the garden aims to enable the beneficiaries to attain a measure of self-sufficiency and independence through empowerment and education via skills transfer and teaching schemes as well as creating jobs for the unemployed. The project uses environmentally friendly production methods including recycling and composting and avoids chemical and environmentally degrading materials. Even in the buildings and teaching aids associated with the project, every effort was made to ensure environmental friendly methodologies were used.

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