The use of urban organic farming to address employment creation and income generation for a sustainable livelihood was explored at a workshop held at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).

Director of the Department of Science and Technology-National Research Foundation Centre in Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Professor Hassan Kaya, said the workshop and site visits to urban organic farming initiatives were held to create knowledge and awareness on the significance of urban organic farming.

Renowned organic farming specialist, Mr Nicolay Gian from the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) in Switzerland, gave UKZN students and youth from eThekwini municipality a crash course on organic farming.

Gian advocated for rooftop gardens and vertical farming to address space constraints in urban areas in eThekwini.

He said that farming can be done using ecological farming techniques, and does not need to be ‘certified organic’ to cut costs. ‘Jobs are created, the food is healthy and it’s fresh – organic farming benefits the economy and society,’ said Gian.

Gian referred students to www.organic-africa.net, a website which includes a comprehensive African Organic Agriculture Training Manual with information on topics ranging from soil management to pest control.

African Development Bank’s Mr Vuyo Tofile gave on overview on AfDB’s Food Cuisine Africa, a platform to connect the food industry in Africa, which is geared at upskilling young African adults. Visit  https://www.afdbfoodcuisine.com/ for more information.

Food Connect Campaign’s Mr Delwyn Pillay took the students on site visits to Ottawa farming community; Enaleni Indigenous Farm in Camperdown; the Roseway Waldorf School in Hillcrest, which boasts a completely organic food garden; and a visit to the innovative Green Camp Gallery Project Urban Farm in Umbilo.

Pillay said Food Connect was trying to “bring back wholesomeness”, especially as our food has become so corporatised.

‘It’s essential to get back control of our food production system from seed to plate not only in terms of addressing unemployment and food insecurity but ensuring the health and well-being of our nation,’ said Pillay.

The three-day workshop held in September was hosted by UKZN’s Centre in Indigenous Knowledge Systems, eThekwini Municipality and the Municipal Institute of Learning (MILE).

Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer

Photographs: Delwyn Pillay