Abalimi Bezekhaya

Exhibition: Cities | October 5, 2011 by

The Cape Flats townships northeast of Cape Town are populated by economic refugees from Ciskei and Transkei, formerly Xhosa-speaking, self-governing territories under apartheid. Officials estimate the townships’ unemployment rate at 30–40%, with 1,200 new refugees arriving every month. Formed in 1982, Abalimi Bezekhaya (“farmers or planters of the home” in Xhosa) is an organization that combats poverty in the informal settlements of Khayelitsha, Delft, Nyanga, Phillipi, and Gugulethu through a network of organic “micro-farms.” Abalimi teaches local communities to grow organic vegetables first for survival, then to sell surplus produce to markets outside of the townships, with the goal of generating a livelihood. Farmers cultivate common vegetables such as onions, tomatoes, carrots, and potatoes, and Abalimi provides ongoing training, technical advice, cheap bulk inputs, irrigation, and other services.

Abalimi Bezekhaya serves 3,000 micro-farmers a year, the majority of them women. Two People’s Garden Centers dispense seedlings to sustainable farmers, inculcating a new organic-gardening culture that is becoming a permanent feature among the poor in Cape Town. Their community gardens are adjacent to informal settlements on public land, on unused plots within public-school grounds, and on municipal commonage. Abalimi further builds community cohesion with peer-to-peer learning events and savings groups. In 2008, the group launched Harvest of Hope, which contracts Abalimi’s micro-farmers to harvest and deliver vegetables to local Cape Town schools, guaranteeing a steady income for the farmers.

Co-directors: Rob Small, Christina Kaba, and Roland Welte, with Dave Golding, Moraig Peden, and Peter Templeton. Collaborators: Business Place Phillipi, South African Institute of Entrepreneurship, Catholic Welfare & Development Network. Khayelitsha, Delft, Nyanga, Phillipi, and Gugulethu informal settlements, Cape Town, South Africa, 1982–present.

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