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Students promote gardening on campus

- Wits University

Witsies stand together against food insecurity on campus.

The months of hard work under the sun have been rewarded with a bountiful harvest. While debates of land reform have sparked national interest, a group of students have been working the Wits land through a gardening project to ensure that no student is left behind due to hunger.

Food insecurity is one of the many challenges experienced by less privileged students across institutions of higher learning on South Africa. With exams already in full swing at Wits University, students will be well nourished with vegetables from the garden during the June exam period.

May and June saw the Wits Inala Forum, a student society that manages the garden together with the Wits Siyakhana Food Project, harvest crop from the garden in aid of the hungry students. The harvested crop included spinach, onions, beetroot, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli.

Wits Food Garden harvest

The Wits Food Garden, which is located on Braamfontein Campus West was established in 2015, as an initiative to address hunger on campus, says Professor Vishwas Satgar who assisted students to start the garden.

“Inala was spawned from my teaching to first years and the need to have localised responses for systemic change from below such as hunger and the climate crisis. We noted that while Wits recognised the hunger challenges facing students it did not go far enough in terms of how hunger can be addressed in a manner that affirms the dignity of students, solidarity and a food sovereignty pathway for all. Our crucial idea is to advance an eco-centric university based on zero hunger, zero waste and zero carbon emissions,” says Satgar, a lecturer in the School of Social Sciences at Wits.

Maricia Smith, President of the Wits Inala Forum, said the Wits Food Garden embraces African ways of living through the food that is grows.

 “In the beginning we used to plant a lot of kale and reddish and nobody knew what it is. Now we focus on culturally appropriate food that reflects the eating patterns of the people in the region.”

Smith, who is studying towards a Bachelor of Laws degree, also feels that the garden is important as it allows student to take ownership of food production and allows Africans to determine what to do with the land.”

As South Africans celebrate Youth Month in June, Smith says the Wits Inala Forum “personifies youth reclaiming ownership of their food system and issues around food insecurity in universities”.

The theme for this year’s Youth month is Live the Legacy: Towards a Socio-Economically Empowered Youth, and this is what the Wits Inala Forum, through the food garden project strives to achieve.

“Inala as a Wits Student Society, empowers students to support each other by giving them the skills and facilities to grow their own food but also by providing fresh healthy vegetables to students”, says Smith.