Planting it Forward in Knysna – Creating Sustainable Food Gardens!

Give a man some vegetables, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to grow food, and you feed him for a lifetime.

Knysna, South Africa (21 January 2021) – This is a remarkable story about an organisation in Knysna that serves the 17 schools and the 13 000 children in the district and is now creating sustainable food gardens in homes!

Many of the children in the Knysna Initiative for Learning and Teaching (KILT) schools are from disadvantaged communities.

The story began in 2016 with Gill Marcus asking the principals to outline the greatest needs that an education partner could endeavour to meet. The Knysna Initiative for Learning and Teaching was born out of that conversation and was registered as an NPO in April 2017. KILT began by funding teacher and auxiliary staff posts. This immediately addressed the large class sizes and reduced the teacher to learner ratio. KILT also upgraded ablution facilities and provided safety patrol officers to ensure learner safety on the school grounds.

By 2020, KILT was delivering 20 other projects at all levels of the school system: 52 teachers; 42 key auxiliary positions including safety patrols; 136 specialists who deliver psycho-social programmes, remedial and reading support, vocational counselling for learners, study clubs, Maths and science support, a scholarship programme, teacher and leadership development and e-learning and ICT support. This represents significant growth in a short period of time.

KILT’s heart was revealed at the start of lockdown when it responded with agility and determination in addressing food scarcity for school children and families identified as needy.

Working with the Knysna Municipality and other NGOs in our town, food parcels were distributed.  In addition, around 4500kg of chicken, purchased at cost, was supplied weekly to supplement school feeding and registered soup kitchens.  By mid-November, 85 670kg of chicken had been supplied, providing essential protein for feeding scheme participants and designated soup kitchens. Per month, 130 000 meals were served.

Food gardens at schools and in the community contribute to food security

KILT recognised the potential of school vegetable gardens to contribute sustainably to the feeding scheme. Six gardens were identified, and existing school gardeners were further supported with additional gardeners, expertise and training, seeds and seedlings, compost and fertiliser. All the school gardens quickly began contributing vegetables to the kitchens once or twice a week, adding variety to the menu.

Key to the project’s success was the development of positive relationships with the gardeners, groundskeepers, and teachers involved in school gardens. Understanding each gardener’s background knowledge and how they work created the essential basis for cooperation and unity of vision. Their passion, effort, and willingness to participate and contribute were key to the project’s success.

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