Ondela Manjezi

Co-founder, Township Farmers

Ondela Manyezi’s passion lies in the promotion of children’s rights. All her community efforts have been centred around ensuring children are allowed a fair chance to play and grow in a safe society. Through her initiatives she is tackling several of the sustainable development goals: ending poverty in all its forms, ensuring food security and to ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing for all at all ages.

Ondela and her partner Siyabulela Sokomani started Township Farmers, an initiative that has started sustainable gardens in orphanages and crèches in Khayelitsha. As the co- founder of township farmers, Ondela is driven by the right in the South African Constitution for children to have access to basic nutrition. As township farmers they are passionate about ending child hunger in black communities.

Township Farmers creates sustainable organic gardens in townships. The focus is on creating these gardens in early childhood development (ECD) centres and orphanages. “In ECDs for example, there is a need for nutritional foods for children in crèches who sometimes don’t even have enough food at home, so we teach teachers how to grow and prepare food,” she explains. This filters through to education about what nutrients are needed most for which age group and why, while maintaining the organic vegetable garden within the premises of the ECD centre.

Because of the red tape required for funding and a lack of knowledge of the processes, most orphanages identified by Township Farmers were not registered with government agencies and therefore don’t receive government funding support. This affects the income of the homes and what food the home is able to afford for its children. “We engage with the kids and management. We keep the educational aspect interesting and interactive — when the kids are involved, they take part in designing the process of their mini farm.” A “plant day” is organised soon after the meeting where the kids get their hands dirty while working with management on how this garden can provide income for the home or orphanage. Township Farmers put in the hard work and partners provide all the teaching material and garden needs like compost, tools, seedlings and trees.

Manyezi says “the aim when working with communities is to always have sustainable programmes that the community and individuals have ownership of. As Township Farmers we are concerned with creating income networks with communities, allowing communities to trade among themselves and to have children re-imagine the spaces around them. The dream is to have a Township Farmers market where once a month all the projects could come and sell their produce from their own gardens to the community at large. Through permaculture and horticultural practices we do hope that this will be achieved.”

— Sifiso Buthelezi

Instagram: @ondie_m