Myles Buxton with gardeners Zinhle and Fikile, Siya Gumede, a junior landscape manager at the uMhlanga gardens, and Neliswa Nogoni from the Early Learning Centre in Blackburn Village.
An urban farm in uMhlanga? Myles and Michelle Buxton’s dream of extending Imifino’s vision to our community to nourish, empower, uplift and feed is starting to take root, writes Kate Hoare.
With its humble beginnings in the hills of Shongweni, Imifino, a modest, registered, non-profit organisation is the passionate calling of friends – Kaz and Matt Wilson and Andre Rutishauser.
Since lockdown 2020, Imifino – with their Operation Community Nutrition programme – started cooking for those in need with a big focus on children. Together with the help of Skhindi Shandu, they prep and cook 500 meals a week and deliver highly nutritious, plant-based meals to impoverished communities in the rural Shongweni, Assagay areas.
Vegetables and rice packed with natural superfoods and high in protein are cooked slowly over wood fires in giant, cast iron potjies, then decanted into five-litre containers for delivery. Onions, potatoes, butternut, lentils, sweet potatoes and imifino (wild, leafy greens, somewhat like spinach) make a delicious and nutritious smoky veg risotto packed with goodness.
Imifino grows wild across South Africa and is a highly nutritious superfood. Once a traditional food, it’s now seen by impoverished communities as a “poor person’s food”. Central to NPO Imifino’s vision is re-educating on imifino’s high nutritional superfood value, making it an acceptable “cool” leafy green again amongst communities, one that is packed with nutrients, vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants.
Being hungry is unimaginable, and with the Covid-19 lockdown, impoverished people have suffered so much more in terms of job losses and rising food prices. As horticulturists and nutritionists, Matt and Kaz understand the importance of good nutrition, but as they expressed, “delivering hundreds of weekly meals to nearby impoverished rural areas is not sustainable”. Their plan is to plant sustainable food gardens and fruit forests within rural community centres, where community “champions” are trained in gardening, rain-water harvesting, seed saving, growing, harvesting and nutritional recycling, empowering communities to become nutritionally knowledgeable and self-sufficient.
Prestondale and uMhlanga have Blackburn Village – an informal settlement – on their doorstep, so the opportunity to extend NPO Imifino’s vision to our North Coast makes enormous sense. Prestondale’s Myles and Michele Buxton are passionate about community upliftment, and rather than creating an entirely new initiative, they’ve partnered with Kaz and Matt to extend the Imifino nutritional community project to uMhlanga.
Coincidently, for the past two years, Ridge Association Management in agreement with eThekwini “Adopt a Spot’ and DSW have been managing a vacant piece of land in Parkside on the uMhlanga Ridge as an ongoing community vegetable garden. They currently have a dedicated team, horticulturist and 24-hour surveillance overseeing the land and employ and upskill ladies from Blackburn Village on a rotational basis in the growing of vegetables and flowers. The upskilling of Blackburn ladies provides skilled labour for the uMhlanga Ridge resident landscape providers, and more importantly, a permanent source of employment.
Myles and Michele are working in collaboration with Siya Gumede from Ridge Association Management and Ms Neliswa Nogoni from Blackburn Village to turn the existing Parkside community vegetable and flower garden into an “urban farm” in the heart of uMhlanga. An additional area close to Blackburn Village has been identified where the range of vegetables grown can be cooked together with rice in giant potjies into nutritional food for Blackburn Village children.
Chatting with Myles and Michele, they feel passionately about “the growing need for community and company involvement in feeding and empowering the hungry and see the Imifino and Parkside vegetable and flower garden project as a fulfilment of both these ideals”. The need is for companies and individuals to get involved in assisting them in securing funds needed in the purchasing of vegetable seedlings and potjie pots to get the project up and running. Reddam House uMhlanga have kindly offered to assist Myles and Michele with the project, involving their pupils in this wonderful outreach programme.
It is critical that the Imifino uMhlanga and Parkside garden project is not merely a handout feeding scheme, but rather a sustainable self-sufficient community upliftment initiative that extends into outlying communities where the concept of food gardens, irrigation and nutritional recycling can be taught and set up locally to feed those in need. *
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To donate towards the uMhlanga-Imifino and Parkside start-up project, please use the Zapper code: