Zylem and Velokhaya Grow a Partnership in Produce to Feed Vulnerable Communities


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South Africa’s ever-present malnutrition challenges have been further strained by the impacts of Covid-19, surging inflation, rising food prices, and climate change. According to studies on food insecurity in South Africa, almost half of households run out of money for food during the course of a month, child hunger is estimated to have increased to 14%, and 40% of pregnant women report that they go to bed hungry. The scourge of chronic malnutrition, especially in children, undermines their capacity to learn, robs them of opportunities, and traps their families in intergenerational cycles of poverty.

 

That’s why we need initiatives such as the Velokhaya food garden, a project of the Velokhaya Life Cycling Academy, which is based in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. Established as a non-profit organisation in 2004, Velokhaya aims to develop youth through education and sport. Since its inception, Velokhya has impacted the lives of over 10,000 youth through its free-of-charge programs.

 

Taking care of the nutritional needs of young people is as important as their academic and emotional development, which is why Velosphere planted the seeds for its vegetable garden a few years ago in partnership with Pick n Pay. Since then, produce from the garden has been incorporated into Velokhaya’s nutritional programme and shared with the wider community.

 

But growing the garden hasn’t been without its challenges. Sipho Mona, Velokhaya General Manager, says, “Since 2018, when we started planting our trees, they had issues growing and realising their full potential.”

 

Before the application of Sea Brix, the Velokhaya garden was struggling. Sipho and Mvuyisi were happy to receive the product.

 

Alex Platt, Director at sister agricultural companies Zylem and RegenZ, recently came into contact with the Velokhaya team and their gardens during a cycle race: “I was introduced to Velokhaya when a friend of mine departed from Cape Town on a cycle around the world in association with the Rugby World Cup, #RacetoRWC. Along with the adventurers, Adam Nunn and Ron Rutland, a group of us cycled from Cape Town to Stellenbosch via Khayelitsha, where we stopped off at Velokhaya to donate some bicycles and have a great cup of coffee. I was so impressed with their organisation and what they were doing for some of the younger community members by introducing them to cycling. This was when I noticed their veggie garden, and said to Sipho that I might be able to provide some assistance.”

 

Alex spoke to Sipho and head gardener, Mvuyisi, about the garden’s challenges: “Due to Velokhaya being an NPO, it relies a lot on outside help. Mvuyisi had limited resources at his disposal and was doing the best he could to get as much food as possible onto the academy's members’ plates.”

 

Zylem supplies agricultural inputs to farmers throughout Southern Africa to facilitate sustainable biological farming practices. Alex saw the opportunity to assist Sipho and his team: “We provided one polycan (25 litres) of Sea Brix°™, a general plant and soil stimulant. It is used widely across South Africa amongst commercial farmers, so 25 litres (at a 1-2% solution once a week) goes a long way in their veggie garden. Along with the product, we provided some literature on what goes into the product (kelp, fish hydrolysate, Amino K and Triacontanol) and how the product can be applied at different stages of a plant and tree’s life.”

 

Alex followed up with Sipho three months later, resulting in “one of the best phone calls I've had in 2022” because the product is working so well. Sipho and Mvuyisi are over the moon and can't wait to plant more types of veggies and trees.