Index Sundays River Valley vegetable project grows sustainable livelihoods
Date Added: 20 May 2014

A project that started off eight years ago as an effort to remove litter and remove potholes in the small and poor community of Dunbrody, located between Sunland and Kirkwood in the Sundays River Valley, has evolved into a fledging vegetable garden venture with the aim of sustaining the local residents.

Originally established as a community job creation initiative by the Department of Transport, the project was transferred to the Department of Public Works and has since been supervised by Michael Viannie, Chief Project Officer in the Department in the Cacadu District and Chairman of the Sunday's River Development Forum.

"As time went on, I decided to include the aspect of agriculture into the project. The land that we are using for the project - measuring twenty hectares, was donated by local farmers, and we have also managed to secure funding from the Sustainable Rural Development Programme in the Eastern Cape (SURUDEC), via the Office of the Premier, which allowed us to put a fence up around the land," said Viannie.

In total, the project caters for 20 families from the Dunbrody community, each with their own allocated section in the garden, where they can grow vegetables organically.

"We have divided the land portion into two sections; one half is allocated for the families and the other half for the cooperative that we have created with the aim of selling our produce to generate a profit," explained Viannie.

Crops being grown include spinach, beetroot, cabbage, onions, carrots, tomatoes and mealies. The garden also supplies vegetables to the nearby Sacred Hearts Primary School as part of the school's feeding program. Viannie also said that the project has been warmly received by the community, businesses in the area as well as the local farming community.

"The surrounding farmers have provided us with the necessary water and we have also approached Permaculture South Africa to assist us with the layout of the area because we would like this project to set an example to the rest of the Cacadu District," described Viannie, adding that they are currently focusing on improving the garden and increasing the produce.

He said that they are still involved in the community clean-up initiative and are using it to compliment the gardening project. "We continue to pick up litter, which is then separated into paper, plastic, tins and bottles. We use paper as compost for the garden, while the rest is sent for recycling," stated Viannie.

Since water is a challenge for them, he said that they approached Permaculture South Africa to assist with harvesting rainwater for irrigation.

"At the moment we need more water and a proper irrigation system. Since water supply to this area is unreliable, the water that has been supplied to us by the farmers for the project is sometimes used by the members at their homes, despite it being unsuitable for human consumption," said Viannie.

He appealed to other stakeholders to come to their aid. "We want the Department of Agriculture as well as the Department of Land Affairs to come to the party and help us in transforming this area through agriculture.

"We also called upon the Department of Human Settlements to help with the relocation of three homes, which would allow us to expand our garden project.The local farmers are willing to lend their land to us, but without further funding we will not be able to realize our dream of a successful agri-village," concluded Viannie.