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Our Projects in the Kalahari - Food Security

Posted by Bert Michels on Feb 16 2015

KED-F "Dirang Basadi" Community Food Garden

 Lack of water, searing heat in summer and below zero temperatures in winter are just some of the conditions the Tswana people deal with constantly. But strong winds, whipping up the sand, wreak some of the biggest destruction                                           

The Dirang Basadi garden is huge in area and feeds young children and the elderly for free, provides a nutritional diet for its five owners and gives them a sustainable income to be solely independent operators. The Assman Mine funded the poles and shade-cloth many years ago, while the remaining costs for starting the garden were paid for by the gardeners.

But a huge wind storm in September 2015 ripped the cloth away from the poles and twisted the wire holding it all together (see photos of before and after). The mines are now in economic decline. They, and other local organisations, are no longer interested in supporting a garden in a remote poor village.

KEDI hugely respects the generosity and work ethic of the gardeners. They cannot afford to finance the repairs themselves, and without protection, the vegetables will burn and wither in summer’s intense heat.

KEDI has just received the quote of $10,000 to restore the garden, using the same design of Moshaweng High and Bosele House gardens. Plastic piping (strengthened by wire threaded through) will support the cloth and allow for tensioning to prevent ‘sagging’ of the supports. It provides flexibility against winds, prevents tearing of the cloth and is proving stronger than ‘old’ methods of construction.

KEDI already has $7,000 towards this project and we are now aiming to raise the final $3,000. Donations will help us to return Dirang Basadi to its full potential, enabling them to continue uplifting the village’s most vulnerable.

KED-F Bosele House – Shadehouse Garden

Responding to the needs of a newly-built orphan’s boarding facility (Bosele House) in Laxey village, KEDI built an enclosed shade-house garden for optimal food production. Designed to withstand the harsh climate and winds.

It is hoped the protected vegetable crops will produce abundant yields to support healthy nutrition for the boarders. The children are involved in the garden and some eagerly participated in our recent workshop teaching them about mulching and making natural fertilisers from animal manure.  

The garden will also be used to teach horticulture to families at the adjacent school. KEDI welcomes support to purchase seeds. $25 will provide seed-packs (5 different vegetables) to five families.

KED-F Moshaweng High School Food Garden

This garden has been helping to support meals for students for many years. However, inadequate building practices and harsh weather has resulted in a very broken down structure. Construction of a new garden has begun.




The garden was completed in June 2015 (see photo) and it's magnificent

Concordia College is partnering KEDI with this project. Based on the Bosele tunnel shade-house principles, it will cover a large area and have the capacity to produce abundant supplies of vegetables. It is planned that surplus supplies will be sold to community members, with the generated income becoming salary for the gardener.

Importantly, the garden will function as a “learning institution” for students and the community. The Tswana people are herders and are less familiar with crop production. In partnership with local government agencies, agricultural science teachers and students, a teaching program will demonstrate, by example, how even small gardens can supplement daily nutrition.

Sponsorship is sought for “seed packs” ($25 will supply five families) to encourage participation by many. Packs will be given to those who have prepared their plot in readiness for planting.



KED-F Loopeng Mission Community Garden

This is a community garden where villagers have their own plot within a shared garden space. The concept works well in Australia. It will be trialled to see if it works in the Moshaweng Valley.

In the past the mission had a fine food garden, with plenty of water available. Time-poor Father Seane cannot manage the extra work load. In April 2015, Debbie and Liz (KEDI team members) introduced the new community garden idea to Father Seane and villagers - everyone was instantly excited!

Extraordinary speed of action occurred after the idea was launched. Within an hour there was a list of participants. By the next day the plots were all prepared ready for KEDI’s donated seeds which were shared amongst plot holders after we left. Lea will visit them in June and we are hoping the garden will do well. Participants will pay Father Seane a small donation for water use and then set up their own methods of sharing/trading between each other. It will be encouraged that they contribute a small donation of weekly harvested produce to families who are struggling within the church community. A simple way of saying ‘thank you’ for this new opportunity.

Debbie and Liz also taught efficient water practices – upending plastic bottles and drip-irrigating through a small hole punched into the lid. Combined with mulching and fertilising (using manure from grazing stock) it is hoped the villagers will realise that even a metre-square garden can produce much, despite the harsh environment.

All projects need a supervisor in order to succeed. KEDI now hopes to train someone who can instruct and supervise the Mission and other gardeners in the community.

A donation of just $50 will support 20 hours of training, making a huge impact on educating gardeners.


KED-F Fruit Trees for School & Community Gardens

In 2013 Elders Australia sponsored a horticulturalist to visit the Moshaweng Valley. As well as teaching best practice to school and community gardeners, Owen Rich tested soils and found them suitable for growing citrus trees.

Oranges provide excellent nutritional support and are important in partnering with anti-retroviral drugs for those who are HIV+. KEDI aims to sponsor citrus trees into existing school and community gardens which have adequate water supply.

The optimal planting time for orange trees is August, to escape the mid-winter frost and before the extreme heat of summer. Six trees were planted, two each into a school garden and two community gardens. Six apple trees were also planted into the same gardens in July, when winter is the best time for root establishment.

Reports received in October 2015 stated no trees had been lost, but the weather in the Kalahari is prematurely hot and dry. A review in March 2016 will determine if the project can be expanded broadly around the Moshaweng Valley. Based on the success of fruit trees planted in a school garden several years ago, we are hopeful (see photo of Deb, KEDI team member, in front of an apricot tree in April 2015).

Future reports will provide opportunities for sponsorship if trees survive and thrive.

KED-F Laxey Bakery

This project now relies only on KEDI’s business mentoring – but it’s a happy story! Thabiso’s an enterprising young man. Several years ago a cooperative of seven young people received a grant to operate a bakery.

After receiving baking and business training, the cooperative worked shifts to build their business quickly. But by the end of the first year only Thabiso remained. The others felt it was too much work for too little financial return. Employing two young women from the village of Laxey, Thabiso worked long hours seven days a week. And the bakery flourished….

Early in 2013 his wife was involved in a serious car accident in Johannesburg. Thabiso closed the bakery and rushed to her side. When he eventually returned there with no funds to restart operations. KEDI loaned him R3000 (approximately $300) to allow him bulk-purchasing of ingredients. He was asked to pay back the loan in 18 months, including a small amount of interest. This was achieved with a month to spare!

KEDI is now mentoring Thabiso to expand his business beyond supplying the village schools and local households. He still employs the two young women. Thabiso in turn is mentoring Malebogo, another emerging baker from the village of Loopeng 30 kilometres away.

A wonderful example of paying forward the assistance he has received!

KED-F Loopeng Bakery

This project was two-thirds completed by another foundation. They supplied Malebogo and her cooperative partners with a “container bakery” and then withdrew. But there was no power and no water.

Disillusioned, the other women sought work elsewhere to feed their families. Malebogo persisted. She started baking muffins and scones from her home and selling them from the container shop window. But she wants to bake bread for the village schools and households, replacing the unreliable supply from Kuruman over 100 kilometres away and ultimately employing young people as apprentice bakers.

KEDI has mentored Malebogo to dissolve the co-operative into a sole operator business and to apply for a grant to have the electricity connected. She was successful and in September 2015 she started baking “officially”.

The remaining goals are to install the tank (already purchased), lay piping to the nearby bore-tap, and build fencing around the bakery. Malebogo will then be spared having to carry water from her home and have a secure perimeter for her business.

The estimated remaining costs total approximately $1,200.

As with all KEDI projects, donations of any size are welcome. Once the sum is achieved the work will commence.

Last changed: Dec 08 2015 at 3:57 AM