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It’s a small patch of land but I produce enough vegetables to feed my family,” said Mapaseka Ndoda, one of the hundreds of Orange Farm residents who turned up at the Poortjie Multipurpose Centre on Thursday October 16 to celebrate the 69th anniversary of the United Nations' World Food Day.

Ndoda has been growing sugar beans, spinach, carrots, onions and tomatoes in her backyard since 2010.

“This is a very brilliant concept,” she said. “I even have a surplus, which I sell to other members of the community.”

Ndoda’s efforts to use her small piece of land to produce food resonate with this year’s World Food Day’s theme: Family Farming: Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth.

They also epitomise the City of Johannesburg’s drive to fend off hunger under its Food Resilience Flagship Programme, initiated by Executive Mayor Mpho Parks Tau. It is part of efforts to position Joburg as a City where no one goes hungry.

Gogo Linah Kumalo, who has lived in Poortjie since 1999, agreed with Ndoda. But she appealed to the City’s Health and Social Development Department to provide her and her neighbours with fences as chickens were destroying their produce.

The more than 1 000 residents who packed the hall listened to speakers encouraging them to start their own food gardens. They also watched demonstrations on how to prepare nutritious meals in their homes.

Some people in the audience were even asked to share their healthy food recipes with the rest of the attendees.

Penny Mpoli, the local councillor, and Wandile Zwane, the Group Head of the City’s Social Development Department, were both delighted with the turnout, and so was the Regional Director, Angie Phetshana.

Said Councillor Mpoli; “I am very happy today. People in Poortjie have, for a long time, felt left out. But this event has showed them that the City really cares for them.”

Councillor Mpoli said 90% of Poortjie residents were unemployed and struggled to put food on the table. But she was happy that many of them had heeded Mayor Tau’s call to fight hunger by establishing their own backyard food gardens.

“There are at least 1 000 households in Poortjie. About 200 of them have established their own vegetable gardens. The City gives them seeds, fencing and any other assistance they might need to start the gardens. This is the City’s way of tackling food insecurity.”

Phetshana agreed, saying: “People are very keen to take up gardening. Through our Letsema Campaign, we have raised awareness and people are growing vegetables throughout the year.”

Phetshana said the City’s Agriculture Food Security Unit had helped to spread the message of sustainable food production.

The unit hired and trained youth to help community members with their gardening projects.

“We sent out a questionnaire to identify families in need. As their gardens got off the ground, we handed out vegetable parcels for three months to keep them going.”

An agriculture resource centre was also established last year to help emerging small-scale farmers with cropping, marketing and selling of their produce.

A partnership with Unisa is also producing results. The university helps with the training of members of local cooperatives. Zwane said though World Food Day was a one-day event, food insecurity was a daily challenge.

“It’s a struggle, not because we don’t have sufficient food but because people cannot access or afford nutritious food. But what makes us happy is that our messages are getting through.”

Zwane said the City had, in partnership with a variety of stakeholders, also launched an Adopt-a-Child-or-Family Campaign through which individuals and corporates are requested to contribute groceries to struggling families.

“Food insecurity is an issue. We have to make sure that children stay in school and succeed in their education,” Zwane.

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