The past few weeks have been extremely hectic as classes came to a close, and the preperation for final exams has begun. Luckily, just before it became necessary to start preparing for exams, one other IES student and I implemented our semester long project of building a community garden in the informal squatter settlement of Egoli. The past few months working with the members of Egoli has been an unreal experience. Never have I been to a place like Egoli that posses the same kind of gratitude and loving energy.
AJ and I were given quite the challenge when building this garden for many different reasons. First, the only little peice of land that we could use was in an area of high soil contamination and very prone to flooding. When I had reutned to the site after my mid-semester break trip, I found the area completely under water and covered in some kind of green sludge. We then decided to try to look for another space for the garden, but there were problems with that as well. The space that we had been originally given was ideal becuase it was located right behind Egoli’s community center, in close proximity to those who would be looking after the garden. The community members feared that if it was moved any farther away from them, then others would steal their produce and sell it for profit or consume it themseleves. Additionally, becuase the members of Egoli settled on privately owned land, they expressed that a monthly fee would have to paid if the garden was moved to a different area of the setttlement, and cultivated on somebody else’s property.
As a result, AJ and I decided to use tacitcs of peri-uban farming so that the original space located behind the community center could be used, and the garden would be saved from future flooding and soil contamination. We first brought in two cubic meters of sand to cover the area and raise the level of the ground a bit to somewhat combat the issue of floodin. Then, we implemetned a container garden using upcyclied materials found on site, raised beds, and large garden pots. My favorite piece of the whole garden was definitely the upcycled bath tub full of melon.
The children of the community were SUCH good helpers, and so eager to learn about gardening. Each of them begged us to carry bags of soil to the site that must have weighed twice their body weight. And, they fought over who got to transplant which plants and water each indiviual seedling. When the sand pile was deleivered to the site, an overwhelimg number of children from Egoli ran out of their houses to slide up and down the mound, having the time of their life playing in the sand. It was an amazing experience to witness the joy in kids’ faces coming from something as simple as a pile of sand.
Seeing the garden finally come alive after months of planning was amazing, and I would like to thank all of the friends and family back home of our IES program who generously donated to this cause. I hope future IES Cape Town students will continue to take care of this garden as they embark on their own adevntures in Egoli, and I know the community of Egoli themseleves will keep the garden thriving!
*Also, thanks to IES members AJ Hart and Kristen Moccia for capturing some of these photos!
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Jules Ashe is Senior at the University of Vermont majoring in Environmental Studies and minoring in Women's and Gender Studies. Her passions include traveling, cooking, music, photography, and making new connections and relationships with people all over the world. She is very excited to live beside both the Atlantic and Indian Ocean in Cape Town, and be surrounded by a range of beautiful mountains. Mostly though, she cannot wait to take many new pictures and share them with everyone back home!</span></p>