Abalimi Bezekhaya, which means farmers of the home in isiXhosa, is an award-winning not-for-profit organisation that promotes small-scale, organic, urban agriculture among unemployed people from disadvantaged communities in Cape Town.
Abalimi managing director Grace Stead is at pains to stress that: “We are a development organisation, not a charity. I have such enormous respect for the trainers and farmers we work with. They continue to deliver year after year despite huge odds. Each year we support between 1 200 and 2 000 unemployed people to start or maintain their home or community gardens with training, seeds, seedlings, manure and follow-up or mentoring. In turn, they feed between 6 260 and 9 400 dependants.”
Founded in 1982, Abalimi has almost four decades in the field. And what a difficult field it is. Most of the farmers work with sandy Cape Flats soils in Nyanga, Khayelitsha, Philippi, Browns Farm, Crossroads and Gugulethu.
Farmer, food activist and alumnus Xolisa Bangani says “the organisation opened my eyes to the possibilities of urban farming. I am no longer directly connected to them, but I will always know that I am here today because of them. They taught me and many others that to change the world we must change the composition of the soil. Changing our sandy soil to loam soil is a serious challenge, but year by year it is happening.”
Abalimi has historically relied on local and international support, but times are tough. The organisation urgently needs to raise R300 000 to bridge a funding gap over this month and next month. Social media campaigning has already brought in R80 000 by way of individual donors, but there is a long way to go.
As Banyani says: “It was with Abalimi that I learnt that we are part of a movement that can be used to revive and redefine our lives as sons and daughters of the soil. It is more than digging and carrots; it is about a sense of self-love,self-reliance and self-awareness through farming. Without that we are nothing as a nation.”
. If you would like to support Abalimi, visit abalimi.org.za