Ain’t that the truth!
March 5, 2015, 9:30 am
Filed under: Edible Gardening | Tags: , , , ,

Growing your own food is like printing money


The rains down in Africa
January 6, 2014, 8:40 pm
Filed under: Edible Gardening, South Africa Gardens | Tags: , , , ,

London is drenched. Deluged. Pavements a-puddle, my garden, a lake. Red buses spray commuters with waves. And not just London, people. The Cotswolds are awash. The good folk of Tewkesbury are ripping up the sodden, soddin’ carpet and canoeing to work once again.

These are the problems with non-stop rain: my washing is drying all over the house, on radiators and banisters. My children are either going spare cooped up indoors, or catching never-ending colds while sloshing knee deep through puddles. Filthy wellies (the smalls) and dripping biker boots (me) clutter my front room. These past few weeks have been record-breakingly wet and stormy. Judging from my Face Book feed, the entire country is staring at the sky united with one thought: Stop raining. PLEASE!

What a change from my childhood in South Africa.

The 1980s were plagued by drought. We were not allowed to water anything. The lawn turned yellow and stayed that way. How that sharp dry grass scratched my permanently bare feet! It was almost – but not quite – as bad as the stinging bites of the red ants on the driveway. Eina! Then there was a ban on filling one’s swimming pool – though everyone knew someone on their street who did it; usually at night and with the hosepipe below water level to muffle any tell-tale gushing. And thanks to a public advice advert shown on television urging us not to waste water, I had to share a bath with my sister. She hogged the ducks.

Sure these hardships are what the Twitter generation dubs #firstworldproblems. (My swimming pool isn’t completely full! My champagne fountain is so loud, I can’t hear my string quartet! A superb Water Aid ad encapsulates this attitude brilliantly.)

So in my fluffy middle class existence, droughts meant yellow grass in the suburbs and shared ablutions. But for less privileged people in Sub Saharan South Africa, no rain = no food.

These are the problems with no rain: Droughts cause more deaths and displacement than cyclones, floods or earthquakes, making them the world’s most destructive natural hazard, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Since the 1970s, the land area affected by drought has doubled, with women, children and the elderly often paying the heaviest price.

Droughts can cause devastating food and water shortages, degrade agricultural land, and fuel conflict. The most vulnerable countries are located in the world’s drylands, with the poorest communities in Africa and parts of western Asia at particular risk, the FAO says.

Food shortages lead to so many other problems. When children are hungry, their parents are obliged to leave home and their land to try and find work so their children have something to eat. For people who rely on the food they grow for survival, this short-term solution can lead to long-term disaster. The effort required to put food on the family’s table today leaves little time to get fields ready to produce a good harvest so the family has food for the future. When their food stores are exhausted, what little money a family has saved must be spent on food in the daily battle simply to stay alive. As the money runs out, parents withdraw children from school. The cycle of poverty continues.

Charities like GardenAfrica are working hard to improve food security in Sun Saharan Africa. Techniques such as water conservation and mulching give vegetable gardens a chance against the pitiless sun. The fantastic “spiral” shaped garden is designed to harvest, store and sink water, with simple techniques for building soil fertility and structure and increasing moisture retention. In the face of hunger, drought and other adverse environmental factors planting a garden seems like a tiny gesture – a pebble flung at a Goliath. But this simple remedy is working. Read some of the charity’s success stories to find out how!

As I open my umbrella and head out, shoulders hunched against the soaking weather, it is almost impossible to believe that in South Africa, a mother of two is scanning a cloudless sky, praying for rain.


Please help! GardenAfrica is training communities in Sub Saharan Africa to plant sustainable vegetable gardens, enabling people to grow their own food, free from dependency and debt. Our vital vegetable patches are unfolding in homesteads, hospital gardens, the dry earth of school yards, feeding families and improved health and nutrition.

Because of our work, mums are planting crops and the precious food money saved can go towards school fees. Young men with compromised immune systems can eat fresh produce, giving anti retroviral drugs a chance. Children receive one healthy meal, boosting concentration – picked from their scorching school garden.


Where AIDS related illnesses have taken parents, grandmothers have many mouths to feed, or, increasingly, small children head households and provide for their younger siblings. There is a strong tradition of agriculture in Africa but drought, war and issues of land ownership have eroded some of this knowledge. We work with grandmothers who remember the old ways, helping ensure that their knowledge is passed on to the children now responsible for putting food on the table. GardenAfrica helps by providing seeds, tools and importantly, local trainers, so knowledge stays in the community and is not dependent on foreign volunteers.

The global recession has swiped GardenAfrica’s funding and yet our work has never been more important. We urgently need to continue funding these projects. We are not a large charity with global offices, we don’t have pay ourselves big bonuses. 90% of donations to GardenAfrica will be used directly in the field.

Please donate today or read our fundraising tips to see how you can raise money and help this vital charity continue.

GardenAfrica: You Dig In and We’ll Fork Out!