Season 7 Episode 32
Created by Xolisa Bagani (otherwise known as “Brother Rasta”) the youth-oriented Ikhaya garden program offers students in Khayelitsha an alternative to detrimental diets and eating habits as well as gangsterism and encourages the collaboration of horticulture, art, and education.
When walking into the school grounds that house the Ikhaya Garden, there is a tangible sense of camaraderie and friendship. Each child bounces from activity to activity. There is no meandering or idle hands. From soccer games to watering the garden, each person is a pivotal part of the experience. They are a self-proclaimed family, filled to the brim with smiles and minds open to learning.
On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, the local students rush home after their final class of the day, change out of their uniform and into street clothes by 3pm in order to spend time in the garden. This has been the general routine since it’s creation in September 2013.
At first, Xolisa admits, getting traction for the garden was a difficult task. Not only was finding a place to establish the garden as well as get tools and plants was a hurtle but changing the local mindset about gardening was a challenge.
Most children in townships, he says, believe that gardening is a menial undertaking and that participating in it surfaces past shame and pain from decades of ancestral farmhand laborers. There are stereotypes deeply ingrained in South Africa’s agricultural world. Yet, over the course of more than three years, Xolisa has managed to make gardening “cool”. Calling himself and the students “soil artists” he facilitates the thrice-weekly “garden parties” but allows the children to approach the ground as if it were a canvas. Shovels, rakes, and wheelbarrows become their paintbrushes and handfuls of seeds dot the dirt like acrylic paint. With the help of plastic bottles, old tires and CD’s as plant boxes and pots, the Ikhaya Garden glimmers with spirals of herbs, flowers, and edible plants.
Ranging from ages 7-16, the students of Ikhaya Garden are vastly aware of the township’s inherent need for dietary change. They recognize that unhealthy food options are cheap, easy to access and often, the admit, are delicious. However, the same can be said for produce grown right from the earth, they say. In this episode, a few of the boys say that carrots are their favorite food, an item that can be plucked from the garden, washed and eaten right then and there.
Though the garden has increased in notoriety with a surge of publicity from media outlets, it continues to be the only project of its kind in Khayelitsha. There are still many who doubt the validity of the project. In fact, some of the children who willingly spend time in the Ikhaya Garden day after day are even shamed by their parents who do not understand their interest in environmentalism and sustainability.
This has not dampened their interest in continuing to cultivate sustainability from their school grounds, day after day.