isiQhamo & Communitree

Frances Taylor, Nomaphelo Mzimba, Paul Hoekman, Ntombentle Mcasa and Paulos Ngowana

Cape Town

Frances, Nomaphelo, Paul, Ntombentle and Paulos plan to work together with local government, other organisations and the public to integrate the their vision for the community of Delft with a citywide strategy of urban greening and gardening.

IsiQhamo: Nomaphelo Mzimba, Paulos Ngowana, Ntombentle Mcasa (and 12 other members)
Communitree: Paul Hoekman, Frances Taylor

In 2015 Nomaphelo meets Frances at a Popular Education workshop. A year later they started working together on a project combining urban farming (Nomaphelo’s passion) and urban greening (Frances’ passion). We have grown to 17 people now and have since created veg gardens and wetlands together. We have big plans for the future: growing a veg garden business and greening Cape Town, starting with Delft. The urgency of food security and urban biodiversity loss drives us. These are one and the same issue.

isiQhamo & Communitree's story

Urban land justice deals with the different competing demand for the same land, including housing, agriculture and conservation. Because there is always a thirsty commercial motivation driving the threat of development of land, agriculture and conservation are often zoned with a 'hard' edge, resulting in conservation and agriculture being planned for as completely separate from housing. This poster challenges the notion of humans as separate from their indigenous and agricultural environment and critiques the practice of making development decisions without local contextual understanding and a sense of what land zoning means for the people and nature that already live in and interact with that place.

Here we present the people behind both IsiQhamo and Communitree. Listen to each of them describing their inspiration for working together to garden and green in Cape Town. Please note that some videos are in isiXhosa, and others in English. We hope to subtitle each video in the near future.

"Every day, people come to buy spinach. We sell it for seven or eight rant, where at the shops, it is ten rand," explains Nomaphelo Mzimba, leader and Inspector of Gardens at isiQhamo, a vegetable garden collective in Delft. "It is fresh; we cut it right there. Now we want potatoes and everything from the ground."

"Mielies as well," adds Nontle Mcasa, also of isiQhamo. "And it avoids going on transport, to order and to go and collect the order."

isiQhamo has been working for more than a year trying to get permission to use a piece of public land to expand their production. In the meantime they have been setting up sidewalk gardens next to a road where people often dump their garbage. "We saw the ground was dirty. We cleared it and we can now work it. The ground produces so we can eat," says Paulos Ngowana, another member of the team.

Frances Taylor
Nomaphelo Mzimba

isiQhamo, whose focus is urban farming, is working with Communitree, an organisation focused on greening Cape Town. Frances Taylor of Communitree explains: "There are so many people in Cape Town who love gardening and enjoy being in spaces with trees and plants. Some parts of Cape Town, usually the wealthy ones, are far more green and lush than others."

Communitree aspires to help people - especially people who have the kind of inspiration that isiQhamo has - to make their area greener and more beautiful. Communitree is also concerned with what type of greening is happening. We want our greening projects to contribute to the integrity of Cape Town’s environment - be it cleaner water, cleaner air, green corridors between conservation areas, and so forth.

isiQhamo wants to farm next to an area zoned for conservation. We want to work together so that their farming activities help form a barrier preventing people from dumping on the conservation area. The dumping dirties the soil and pollutes the water that children play in. We would also like the conservation area to be more of a public space that the people of Delft can enjoy in the same way that people in Newlands enjoy Table Mountain.

The core of our story is about taking action to improve food security and to prevent environmental degradation. Communitree meets isiQhamo: urban greening meets urban farming.

"These two have a strong overlap, but very much require collaboration, planning and a unified vision to work in the long term. During this competition we are working on building our joint vision and building our team. This is just the first step of a bigger project." says Paul Hoekman, of Communitree. Both organisations want to grow. Communitree wants to expand to other cities as well.

Ntombentle Mcasa
Paul Hoekman
Paulos Ngowana

"We expect our story to have back stories and side stories of working together across cultural and language barriers, and the difficulties of inequality in a working group."

Both of our projects furthermore depend on community involvement. "We would like to let people know they can get up in the morning and work and come home with something to put on the table for the children", says Mcasa.

Communitree also aims at mobilising the larger Delft community to support the greening project. Through this collaboration, we aim to engage the local population in our projects and strengthen community ties.

Our first day at the Codebridge workshop was great because be learned about all the tools we could use to get our story out there. We agreed to make all material in both English and isiXhosa so that people can express themselves in the way they are most comfortable, and with dignity. We ended feeling comfortable working together and are really excited about the project. We believe we can inspire action and create a network of support through this competition. We are very excited to take our project forward.

With support from:

We thank our donors for making this storytelling challenge possible