Ikhaya Kulture (Ikhaya garden) is a school based community project situated at Site C, Khayelitsha at IsiKhokelo Primary School. The project operate as a nonprofit organization and it has been going on for 4 years without any proper funding. Khayelitsha is a poverty-stricken community with lack of understanding and information with regards to environmental studies, health and nutrition, Ikhaya garden seek to address these issues by giving back to the community by rendering household and community gardens.
Khayelitsha was built in the error of apartheid under segregation law in 1985, the township is only 32 years old, fast developing but still remains a dessert and a dusty community due to the less number of trees and natural aspects. Growing up as kids in such a space we barely saw butterflies, beautiful birds or bees passing by, and that tends to shift the minds of young people away from nature as they are only exposed to shacks, streets lights and concrete roads. This project was established by a group of young artists who saw the gap and wanted to intervene by making gardening cool.
In 2013 this group of artists saw an opportunity to participate on a life changing activity, they were looking for a way to be more proactive in their artistic skills as some of them where involve in music, painting and poetry. With these elements of art, they would be focusing on Ghetto social-ills trying to create awareness and consciousness as well as building positive minds in the townships. They realized that words without works won`t be enough, they saw gardening as something that can be used to change the community for better in many aspects.
Due to modernization, urbanization, colonization and globalization most young people across the world developed so many stereotypes and perceptions, and due to that they lost interest in nature. Gardening has been viewed as a slave labor, creepy, dirty and old fashioned. The youth of today doesn’t see gardening as a primary source of life, food, culture and heritage. For example, most kids believe that food comes from the shelves and they would rather eat a pack of chips rather than a banana or apple. South Africa is the most obese country in Africa, kids are stunting and malnutrition rate is getting high especially in rural and township areas. There are so many chronic and cardiovascular diseases as a result of people not having access to healthy food and information. Ikhaya garden operate as a hub-space for people to be exposed to fresh, healthy and deferent varieties of plant based food including wild indigenous edible foods.
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The young Ikhaya gardeners presented a new wave of gardening by building a food forest a biodiversity garden which incorporated different types of fruit trees, herbs and vegetables which are planted seasonally. This is a sustainable way to support microorganisms and to build eco-friendly communities especially in the error of climate change and global warming as the scientist would also recall it as an error of Anthropocene. The idea is to artistically create greenspaces for people to relate easily nature, inspiring them to be responsible human beings.
The youth of today is regarded as the lost generation due to its lack of indigenous knowledge, most of the bad behaviors that young people perform are rooted to their lack of self-knowledge, as Ikhaya garden members usually quote “a person without self-knowledge is like a tree without roots”. Ikhaya garden uses gardening as a rehabilitation process, and rediscovery of nature. Khayelitsha is one of the townships which are mostly affected by many social-ills, this project has managed to create an awareness and sparked a change in the mindset, most young people today are on the quest to define themselves as the indigenous people of Africa using their connection with gardening. Ever since the garden was started the has been floods of opportunities for young people to partake in local and international conferences, workshops, events and seminars. They have been exposed to a global food system and most of them are taking the initiative forward as they expand the idea by starting other school or community gardens in different areas. Ikhaya garden believes that the is no formula in making gardening cool but encourages collations with art as one of the tool that could be used. Ikhaya has inspired young community gardens like Ekasi Project Green, Ubuhle Bendalo and Sibahle community garden in Soweto.
This garden forms part with the Slow Food movement which is a global initiative aiming at creating a food system which is just, fair and works with nature to ensure that biodiversity is sustained, this is the venue of the first ever Eat-in in South Africa, an event hosted to celebrate food, culture, heritage and edutainment.
Ikhaya garden has been using poetry as a tool to edutain people in social media, public events, radio stations and television platforms. The philosophy behind is that technology is not the enemy, it should be used as a way to give platform to nature. The idea is to equip communities with skills and knowledge to promote a green lifestyle and decrease carbon footprint, encouraging recycling and upcycling.
This year the project got awarded an award for Ecological Award for best youth programs, this award further strengthened the project as it got national recognition.
Also, this year, since the Western Cape province has been in drought and involve in water issues, the municipality has issued water restrictions, the garden is facing a devastating time with the lack of water. The irrigation system can no longer be used, the future for garden is challenged. There is a big building of the school which could be used for capturing water from the roof using tanks but the roof is full of asbestos, some people argue that it would be dangerous to use the water while some disagree. In order for the garden to proceed, a proper water system need to be installed things like borehole and tanks. At the moment the garden is struggling due to the strong summer heat of Cape Town, Western Cape a province declared of drought.