Lead by example is the motto of the founders of Ekasi Project Green, who aim to make their communities nutritionally self-sustainable.
Ekasi Project Green is an urban farming initiative that is run by young people from Khayelitsha, a township in Cape Town, based at Vuzamanzi Primary School. It promotes a healthy lifestyle and good nutrition to make people more aware about the food they eat and to make good decisions for their health.
The project creates a space where young people can be creative while developing themselves. They want to see young people getting in touch with local farmers and making better decisions about the role they play in the food system.
AN INSPIRATION FROM HOME
Ekasi Project Green was started in September 2014 by friends who were inspired by their grandmothers’ gardens in Eastern Cape. They had the idea to guarantee a healthy diet for the students.
Abonga Tom and Sizwe Nyuka Mlenzana, who have been friends since they were children, spoke to SA Goodnews about the project.
“Young people like to believe in what they see, they watch us and want to get involved,” Tom said. “Ekasi is a role model. By doing, we motivate children to explore their talent and creativity… Our passion is fuelled by the difference we see we’re making and the excitement of the students at Vuzamanzi Primary School when they come running to help and play.”
Sizwe, Abonga and friends joined forces because the overall influx of bad news coverage was acting like a counter agent to change. “A tip for social innovators: be ambitious, self-confident, patient, safe and most of all, free your mind and stay positive,” said Mlenzana. “Don’t compare yourself to anybody else but stay focused.”
In the social entrepreneurship sphere partnerships are needed to fulfil the mandate of an organisation. Ekasi works in partnership with Slow Food Youth Network, an organisation from Italy that promotes good, clean, fair food with a focus on sustainability.
“Slow Food Youth Network is very supportive in everything we do, from the We Love Our Seeds workshop and Funky Vegetable Festival we organised here in Khayelitsha,” Mlenzana explained. “We also volunteer for the organisation and represented Slow Food [at the] Good Food and Wine at Cape Town International Convention Centre.”
Mlenzana represented Ekasi in France at the third Eating City Summer Campus, alongside 42 people from all over the world. The Campus offered a global platform at which participants could discuss the effects of food systems on natural elements, identify problems and also come up with solutions.
They wrote a declaration which was presented in Milan, Italy in October at Terra Madre Giovani – We Feed the Planet and again in Paris at the CoP21 summit in December this year to Ban Ki Moon, the general secretary of the UN.
“What I learnt is that as young people we need to be involved in this movement because young people are the future,” Mlenzana said. “We need to be part of the solution when it comes to climate change, food sovereignty and sustainable ways of living.”