Food Gardening in Makers Valley -Growing Community

In the face of the COVID-19 lockdown and associated job loss in Makers Valley, about 30 concerned residents and stakeholders convened to plan a response. In a community-based network, cooperating in creative and integrated ways rapidly emerged.

The three main spheres of the programme were:

● Food Parcel distribution including an innovative partnership with local Spaza shops
● Food Kitchens that hand out approximately 3 000 hot meals per week from various sites within the Valley
● Edible Gardens initiative that supports residents to grow food gardens at home and on pavements, thus contributing towards long-term food security in the area.

The last few months Makers Valley community have dedicated their efforts to catering for the pressing needs of the community in response to the Covid-19 pandemic through the above mentioned initiatives.

Over the period April 19th to the 1st of July 2020 a network of people, organisations and businesses organised 31 x Food Kitchen Days and served more than 11 150 people at Victoria Yards alone.

Complementing the Food Kitchen and the Food Parcel activities taking place in the Makers Valley is an emerging Growing Communities initiative which seeks to enhance Food Security into the future. Makers Valley resident and urban farmer Siyabonga Ndlangamandla is the founder of this new venture.

Siya (as he is referred to in the community), is a proud Zulu man with food farming in his blood. Raised in rural Kwa-Zulu Natal by his grandparents, Siya learned about cattle and farming from a very early age and studied Biological Science at the University of Zululand.

Awarded a sports bursary, Siya moved to Johannesburg to further his studies at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). Finding that the course at UJ was not to his liking he made a move into IT.

When he came to live and work in the Makers Valley Siya was still working in IT and initially established an internet café. However as the gardens within Victoria Yards were established and he interacted with the gardeners, it was not long before Siya returned to his original passion – this time in an urban agricultural environment.

While establishing an ‘Edible Streets’ project, planting vegetables on the pavements around Victoria Yards, a project in which he encouraged neighbourhood children to participate, Siya also joined a six-month training programme on urban food farming offered by Dr Michael Magondo of the Urban Agriculture Initiative.

In addition to farming methods, including hydroponics, the course also covered the entrepreneurial side of farming. Siya began to realise that his interest in urban farming could be a way for the urban farmers within Makers Valley not only to provide for their own needs, but to turn their dreams into cash crops which would enable them to make a living.

With the onset of the COVID-19 lockdown, Siya joined with other Makers Valley partners to develop ways in which fresh vegetables grown in the community could be added to food parcels. He also joined the fieldwork team, making house-to-house visits to ascertain which households were in need of food support. During these visits, Siya asked residents whether they would be interested in growing food gardens in their yards or on the pavements, and the idea for the Growing Community project was born.

The question of whether residents are interested in growing their own food has now become a standard question in door-to-door surveys. Siya visits those who answer ‘yes’ to determine where a food garden can be located. As funds allow, interested residents are supplied with a ‘garden starter pack’ which includes seeds, seedlings and compost. Siya and his team provide on-going guidance, and link these local farmers in a network of mutual support and learning.

Future plans include the establishment of a tool library and seed bank at Victoria Yards for these farmers. An additional element is an emerging partnership with Love our City Kleen (LOCK) a start-up solid waste recycling initiative also operating out of Makers Valley. Siya intends to make organic compost from the food waste collected by LOCK, and says he envisages Makers Valley becoming a ‘corridor of food’ for the inner city.

If you would like to support Siya’s initiative and contribute to long-term food security in Makers Valley, a R120 donation will enable African Marmalade organic farm to provide a garden starter pack to an aspiring farmer:

African Marmalade
Standard Bank Cheque Account 220 081 913
Randburg Branch (018005)
Reference: Makers Valley


For more info contact Leshego Mothibi  (