Napier Informal Settlement Gardens Project

Involved alumni:
Napier Garden

The challenge that the project addresses

Apart from lacking adequate houses and making their own using zinc, wood, and plastic, residents of Napier Informal Settlement lack access to healthy plant-based food despite living in an area surrounded by farms, restaurants, B&Bs and guest houses. With the settlement largely constituted of unemployed youth, access to increasingly expensive plant-based food is an everyday struggle. While withstanding the venom of Covid-19 depends on a robust immune system which is in turn determined by one’s access to healthy food. The pandemic has immobilised dwellers of this community, making access to plant-based food difficult. Realising their predicament, residents in Napier have taken up food garden projects not only to access food but as a practise for claiming space, finding meaning and reconnecting with their ancestors through the soil. From growing spinach in suitcases to planting tomatoes and onions in tight spaces, residents in Napier improvise to make use of whatever they have to grow their own food.

What is your project doing to respond to this challenge?

The project was initially aimed at developing household narratives that would render the lived realities for residents in Napier Informal settlement and input into a potential informal settlement upgrading program. The output of that work was a book ‘Present and Visible: Napier Informal Settlement and its stories’. This was a collaborative effort with the community that include residents’ stories of gardens in Napier and what they mean to their proponents.

We have engaged in collaborative research with the community, the Cape Agulhas Municipality, Human Settlements Department, and the People’s Environmental Planning (PEP) – another active NGO in that space – over plans for upgrading the settlement and the role that urban food gardens will play.

This collaborative research work renders ordinary people in Napier informal Settlement present and visible in circumstances that seek to obscure their existence. The research will input in the long-term settlement upgrading program that would also take seriously the role that food gardens play in promoting the environmental, social and economic sustainability of the community.

There have also been short term initiatives to bolster the gardening projects in Napier, such initiatives include assisting the community to engage with the municipality over access to a piece of land where the gardeners wish to establish a community garden. This include providing advice to the gardeners to form a co-operative so that they could better negotiate for space for a community garden.

We have also sought to raise funding to support the gardening projects by providing inputs as well as other key materials such as fences and horse pipes.

Describe the project's impact

  • The project supported the gardens project in Napier informal settlement that are essential to food access, nutrition, and health.
  • By documenting these gardens through collaborative research work, the project empowered residents by recognising them as a legitimate site of knowledge.
  • This project created an interface were the municipality and the informal settlement dwellers could productively engage.
  • The project allowed residents in Napier informal settlement to claim space in their community and exercise their agency in growing their own food.

How will you spend the R20,000 award if you win?

The R20 000 will be entirely channeled to support the gardens project. Gardeners in the settlement recently received a site from the Cape Agulhas Municipality to establish a community garden but they need to hire a tractor to till the ground. The grant will contribute to this end. There are also plans to fully register a Napier Informal Settlement Gardens co-operative, the grant will also be used to finance this. Finally these projects require financial support to secure inputs, materials and technical knowledge and the grant will also be used in this regard.

What do you hope to achieve?

  • Support gardeners in Napier Informal Settlement until the community is able to meet its own food requirements.
  • Promote the establishment of a community food garden whose output could be used to open soup kitchens.
  • Promote gardening as a practice that transcend food production to use also function as a mode of claiming space by ordinary people.