Somerset West Village Garden (SWVG) is a community vegetable garden that was established in 2015 on a derelict park in Somerset West. The once barren, dirty piece of City of Cape Town land has been transformed into a healthy, abundant, self sufficient urban farm. The development of the SWVG, has led to a decrease in crime in the area and an increase in community togetherness.

The workers are mostly unemployed and/or homeless individuals from all walks of life. They receive a token for every hour worked. These tokens may be exchanged for food, clothing, a hot shower and 20 tokens can get them an ID at Thomas House of Hope (formerly Helderberg Street People’s Centre). One of the objectives is to educate the homeless in sustainable vegetable gardening and to supply them with opportunities for self sufficiency, thereby uplifting them and restoring their dignity.

There are up to 20 volunteers working in the garden each day, with the number increasing steadily as the street people buy into this concept to make a difference in their lives. Over time, the change in the workers is visible – a regular hot meal, a ‘job’ to go to and a feeling of self worth.

To date there are 62 beds growing a variety of veg in season. They are all enriched with wonderful compost made on site, which is produced with the grass cuttings and wood chips dropped off by local garden services. SWVG is also now promoting Bokashi and encourages local residents to bring their fermented Bokashi bins to the garden. This helps to reduce the landfills and makes the community increasingly aware of environmental issues.

Every Tuesday morning a harvest market is held to sell the freshly picked, organic produce grown in the garden. The funds raised are ploughed back into the garden and the workers. SWVG also supplies Thomas House of Hope and Somerset West Night Shelter with produce on a weekly basis.

SWVG facilitates school outings for children in the area, teaching them a little about how veggies grow, the soil and the environment. The Department of Agriculture ran a course for the workers on growing vegetables. Over the years, a number of workers have found permanent employment outside the garden.

SWVG would not be where it is today without the help of the many generous sponsors, of which Atlantic Fertilisers is one of them. A regular dose of BioOcean keeps the spinach producing beautiful, healthy leaves. It also encourages sustainable growth in the seedlings.

For more information please visit somersetwestvillagegarden.co.za or visit the garden on Tuesdays between 09.00 and 11.00, corner of Drama and New Streets in Somerset West.

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