“We express our gratitude for the garden. It is very useful for the children because they eat healthy food that comes from the ground”

Principal, Myanduya Creche, Mseleni

Food gardens

For babies and young children to grow, develop and learn, it is critical that they eat enough healthy food every day. Being able to grow our own food is increasingly important in South Africa as the country is impacted by climate change, unstable financial systems, unsafe/unhealthy food supplies, and where the Child Support Grant does not cover the cost of feeding a young child a diverse, healthy diet. Including food gardens and fruit trees in ECD centres has many benefits to both learning and growth.

We support ECD centres to:

Develop new or extend existing ECD food gardens and plant fruit trees to provide fresh fruit and vegetables for children’s daily meals.

Adopt sustainable, organic methods such as building and protecting the soil, water harvesting, crop rotation and companion planting.

Include children in caring for their ECD garden and harvesting vegetables and fruit to use in the ECD kitchen.

Link children’s daily and annual learning programmes with activities outdoors and in the vegetable garden, to strengthen their connection with and learn from nature.

Through our partnership with Biowatch SA we are promoting agroecological practices in ECD gardens. This year 8 ECD gardeners attended week-long training in Mtubatuba to gain hands-on experience of methods they can use to meet the environmental challenges they face when growing vegetables in northern KwaZulu-Natal. Many of the practices that Biowatch SA promotes are drawn from local knowledge that elders relied on in the past and that are still relevant today. Avoiding the use of chemicals and pesticides means that ECD gardens produce healthy, fresh vegetables and fruit to improve children’s nutrition.

We are piloting a Learning In The Garden programme that has been developed with Mary James (formerly director of LETCEE) that aims to support young children to learn outdoors and build a strong relationship with the natural world. The programme includes numeracy, early literacy, science, creative activities and isimangaliso walks to experience the wonders of nature and have fun outdoors.

Our food garden facilitator, Lwazi Thwala, has an experimental garden at his homestead near Mbazwana, where he tests new organic methods so that he is well equipped to mentor ECD gardeners. His garden is also a demonstration site to show gardeners how to grow healthy crops in very similar conditions to their own in the area.