Soil for Life grows deep roots in communities: Green Route

Soil for Life teaches home gardeners how to grow their own food and it is one of the eco-NPOs supported by Green Route ZA

Soil for Life (SFL) is a non-profit organisation that is actively and passionately involved in teaching people from very poor and under-resourced communities in the Western Cape how to grow their own food using earth-friendly methods and techniques.

“Since the start of our work in September 2000, we have gained a genuine understanding of the people that we work with, their environments, challenges, limitations, cultures and beliefs. We have used this knowledge to adapt our programmes to ensure that beneficiaries achieve the best possible outcomes.

The garden at Soil for Life in Constantia

Our flagship project is the Home Food Gardening Programme (HFGP) which teaches individuals how to grow their own food whilst simultaneously building soil fertility, conserving water and using all available space and resources.

Veggie growers from Soil for Life’s home food gardening project. Photo: supplied

Since the start of the programme in 2009, over 5,300 people have participated. They have gained the skills and confidence to grow their own food and have learnt how to identify and use all available space – from narrow alleyways to old containers and baths – for food production. They have also been taught how to look past what others consider waste and see these as valuable garden inputs and tools.

This training has provided the potential for approximately 31,800 people (the gardeners, their families, friends and neighbours) to benefit from having access to healthy nutritious vegetables. It has also enabled the home gardeners to create small “green” patches of salvation in their communities and given many a sense of purpose, joy and pride that they have not experienced before.

Based on a comparison of indicators in pre-and post-programme questionnaires, 82% of the home gardeners claimed an improvement in health since joining the programme. In the same evaluation, 76% reported better relationships with their families and the community and an improved sense of well-being as the biggest changes that gardening has made in their lives.

Further value was added to our work in 2015 through the introduction of the Health and Wellbeing Programme which comprises a series of workshops covering topics such as healthy eating and lifestyle changes, exercise, breathing and meditation, plant propagation, craft making etc. This programme is open to both our home gardeners as well as the wider community. 

In June 2016, SFL started working with Beacon Organic Garden Learning Centre to establish it as the first SFL Agri-hub. Based at Beacon School for Learners with Special Educational Needs in Mitchells Plain (Cape Flats), the Agri-hub is modelled on SFL’s Resource Centre in Constantia and is managed by a local community member – Magda Campbell – who shares our passion for growing food and sharing knowledge organically.

The Agri-hub currently supplies fresh produce to the school kitchen which feeds 240 children per week and is also supporting a number of feeding schemes and crèches in the area. Surplus produce is being sold in the community and via a local organic market (Ethical Co-op). Magda employs one ex-learner to help in the garden and plans to increase this number to four as the Agri-hub grows and becomes increasingly self-sustaining. 

SFL also run an annual Train-the-Trainer programme to upskill some of the home gardeners to become SFL Assistant Trainers.

Our offices and Resource Centre are situated on the grounds of the Waldorf School in Constantia, Cape Town.

Operational since March 2005, the Resource Centre is a major component of our income generating activities. It houses an organic vegetable, herb and fruit garden; a nursery; compost-making and vermi-composting facilities; and an outdoor classroom which is used for training workshops. Income is generated through sales to the public and retail outlets as well as through gardening workshops and team building programmes. 

SFL has been a proud recipient of a number of awards including the Cape Times Environmental Award in 2007; Pan Africa Teach a Man to Fish Country Award in 2009; the 2012 Impumelelo Social Innovations Award – Platinum winner; and the Mail & Guardian Greening the Future Award in 2015 and 2016 (runner up in the Community for Climate Change category).

In June 2019, Soil for Life’s founder – Pat Featherstone – was awarded the Eco-Logic Lifetime Achievement Award for her significant contribution towards creating a sustainable world.

Our work is not just about gardening, and not just about food. It is also about ‘growing’ whole people who have the skills and confidence to explore their creativity and resourcefulness and use this to help themselves on many fronts – from earning their own money, to improving their values and standards, creating healthy families and building bridges of goodwill and understanding in their communities. “

Soil for Life founder Pat Featherstone shares her Green Route in Cape Town

#PayitForwardZA

Use the GRZA discount code at the Hemporium SA online store checkout and get 10% off plus I will donate 5% of the sale to Mama Mickey’s Soup Kitchen in Khayelitsha. GRZA discount applies only to Hemporium SA own-brand clothing, accessories and cosmetics online.

Note: GRZA discount applies only to Hemporium SA’s own-brand clothing, cosmetics and accessories, it does not apply to nutritional products like CBD, or to fabric or building materials.

Published by Melanie Farrell

Founder of Green Route ZA - the path to eco-conscious living. I live in Cape Town, South Africa.

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