Seed to Table

Seed to Table is a book of organic, seasonal recipes. Proceeds help fund urban micro-farmers in Cape Town, South Africa.

Seed to Table is the cookbook that grew out of a relationship between three farmers of Abalimi Bezekhaya — Nomzamo Gertrude Cuba, Vatiswa Dunjana and Nomkhita Gertrude Sotsonga — and three Rotary International Exchange Students — Erin Koepke, Abby Elsener and Toni Marraccini.

When Erin, Abby and Toni set out to collect recipes for Abalimi Bezekhaya, their goal was to ensure their organic micro-farms could continue to plant the seeds of hope in Cape Town, South Africa. With every passing season, though, their mission to document food as both sustenance and celebration brought more people to the table, each with a recipe to cook and a lesson to share.
Seed to Table is the story of powerful bonds that were created when people came together to redefine the tradition of harvest.

Doing spiritual work through organic farming of indigenous herbs

Whoever has already set foot on the premises of Philippi Village, where Abalimi has its HQ , has likely gotten in touch with Babalo, a young entrepreneur who grew up in the Eastern Cape on his grandfather ́s 16 hectare farm.

Babalo noticed that Imphepho was growing wild everywhere on the farm. Imphepho is a traditionally important indigenous herb, perhaps best known as a ritual incense used during healing ceremonies. Convinced by the good quality of the Imphepho and with a small start-up donation from the Farm & Garden Trust, he decided to harvest it sustainably and bring it back to Cape Town, earlier this year, for selling to the community.

Imphepho has many uses – as an antiseptic, insecticide, anti-inflammatory and for pain relief. The parts of the plant used are mainly the leaves, stems and flowers and sometimes the roots. New born babies are washed in Imphepho to cleanse and protect them. The herb is stuffed in bedding for both humans and animals to repel insects. The plants are usually wild harvested and plated in garlands or tied in bundles before drying. Babalo managed to get dozens of 40 kg bags full of Imphepho via Bus from the Eastern Cape to Cape Town as his start-up stock.

Babalos spiritual mission is to”strengthen the souls of people, who have been lost in the city, by reconnecting them to the land, sustaining African cultural heritage and any kind of good business.” while also supporting himself and his wife and two children. He is also starting a charcoal from wild Acacia tree business. Currently he is sustainably harvesting huge forests on his family farm in the Eastern Cape.

The Black Sheep – Mastering the art of quirky vegetables

The Black Sheep restaurant is just like any other Harvest of Hope customer, except their weekly veg box is gigantic. It’s been almost a year since the family-run local eatery began their partnership with Abalimi Bezekhaya. South African born Chef Japha reveres the opportunity to use seasonal ingredients outside his normal repertoire. His eccentric offerings include deep fried kale, aubergine atchar, kohlrabi kimchi, and an unbeatable turnip and basil combination he credits to his father.

“It’s a conscious effort to make very unusual and interesting things,” he said.

Chef Japha, whose 25 years of experience spans Michelin star restaurants and high-end gastropubs, seeks out smart combinations.  For him that also means locally sourcing ingredients. Japhas philosophy is simple; if it’s imported, he doesn’t buy it. Beyond limiting the restaurant’s carbon footprint, nearby food, he says, “simply tastes better.” Japha heard about Harvest of Hope from indigenous plant expert and Abalimi Friend Loubie Rusch.

“I love the fact that I get to cut out the middle man,” he noted. “And what I get
for doing that is a better product, that is way fresher.”

Black Sheep’s entire kitchen staff hail from Khayelitsha, same as many of the farmers from whom they buy their vegetables. Not one attended culinary school, like many of their counterparts at comparable upscale eateries. Their learning-by-doing spirit mirrors that of Abalimi’s farmers, who are constantly mastering new techniques for optimal harvests.

You can find The Black Sheep Restaurant at 104 Kloof Street; it’s open Mondays from 18:30, and Tuesdays to Saturdays for lunch and dinner. Reservations are recommended, the earlier the better.

Andile – the all round talent

Andile is one of the latest additions to the Abalimi farmer network. He has been with Abalimi and Harvest of Hope since April 2016.

Andile ́s dream was once to become a buyer in the fashion industry. He thought a job there would give him the opportunity to travel around the world. He then studied IT system support engineering for two years and worked at Vodacom for ten more years. But he never really felt connected with the work he was doing. Andile finally came to the conclusion: “Farming has always been a part of me and I love it more!”

Back in Eastern Cape his father has a farm with livestock, mainly cattle. One day when visiting some friends in Khayelitsha, Andile passed by the Masithobelane Garden and spoke with the people working there. He was impressed by the capacity of the garden. They exchanged contact details and in December 2015 they called him and invited Andile to join their garden.

Since then Andile is responsible for all the admin. Furthermore he is checking the quality of the soil and the produce that comes out of it. He believes that vegetables grown using organic methods are “a kind of healthcare.” Andile has learned a lot about work ethic from the elderly farmers. “But soil quality is poor. We still lack electricity and the biggest challenge is vandalism and theft”, he says.

Besides gardening, Andile is a Tuesday Garden Tour leader for Abalimi and is a member of VUFA (Vukuzenzela Urban Farmers Association). In future he wants to do philanthropic work, be an entrepreneur, travel the world and own a farm that is self sustaining. “You can be a farmer who does more than just producing crops”, he says.

Andile would also like to grow strawberries because “Strawberries are very intimate, they bring lovers to your farm, couples and people with families.”

Although he lives more simply since he left the corporate world Andile says: “I am happier than ever before.”

Tenjiwe Christina Kaba – CEO of Abalimi Bezekhaya

Dear friends of Abalimi Bezekhaya, we have come a long way over the past 35 years. From Green Point, our office moved to Observatory and finally settled in Philippi 10 years ago. We now have an office and also a busy packshed, that is accessible to our farmers. Many of our farmers are making a living from their community gardens.

In 2016 I was appointed CEO of Abalimi, taking over from Rob Small, who has led and served us well for many years. Rob remains a trusted advisor, friend and resource mobilisor under the Farm & Garden National Trust. As a community grassroots leader, I am supported by a small hard working team of qualified professionals who love our vision and mission and ensure that Abalimi is managed well.

In the next few years I intend to pass the leadership of the Abalimi movement on. What is important to me is to see people happy, that people have something to do. The problem of food security hasn’t changed, it is still continuing; and Abalimi is here to help those who can’t help themselves.

Abalimi Bezekhaya is a community organisation. We come here because we love to work with the community. Our job is to help the poor. Food security is our purpose for being here, not only money. We need to stay as a family, we need to help each other. But as a family we need to grow; allowing new, young people and new ideas to come in.

We won’t forget who we are and where we come from. If we stick with that, then Abalimi is indestructible. I will always stand for the name of Abalimi in the community, until I die. I will always defend Abalimi, according to our vision and mission, which you can see on our website.

This newsletter (Edition 35) tells stories that point to our future and the anniversary insert brings back memory of our path through the years. I hope that you are inspired to become, or remain, our friends, on South Africa’s Long Walk to Freedom.

To us, Mandela’s vision is more alive and urgent than ever. We are showing that it is possible for unemployed people to feed and employ themselves, through a new culture of family micro-farming, while building democracy, from the ground up, with love and respect for all.

Mama Kaba

A young farmer and her family

Babalwa Mankayi’s way into farming was sparked by a key moment at her home in Khayelitsha: One day she put some old sprouting potatoes into the soil outside her home. After a few months she was more than surprised that new potatoes had been growing at this very place without any effort on her part.

In 2015, Babalwa attended the Abalimi Young Farmers Training Centre Apprenticeship at SCAGA (Siyazama Community Allotment Garden Association) in Khayelitsha. While studying at SCAGA, Babalwa was able to obtain her own garden beds at a large community garden very close to her home in Khayelitsha.

After only 1,5 years of being involved with Abalimi, the mother of three is a successful farmer of Harvest of Hope. Also her husband Gerald found a job as a driver, delivering vegetable bags for Harvest of Hope. Additionally she has been selected as our newest and youngest fieldworkers Of course she will still carry on growing and selling vegetables as well.

Meals at home have changed as now she is able to cook with vegetables that she couldn’t afford before, such as broccoli or cauliflower. “Farming is an essential skill to learn“ she says. “Home grown vegetables are healthier than the ones that come from the supermarket.”