Homeless turn boredom at eThekwini COVID-19 shelter into successful agri project

Moved by boredom at a temporary shelter established during the lockdown, a group of homeless men sought donations for seeds and tools to establish the planting project in June.

Homeless men housed at a temporary shelter in eThekwini during COVID-19 have established an agricultural project in the inner-city. With assistance from the municipality and NGOs, they are now selling organic vegetables to locals. Picture: Nkosikhona Duma/EWN

DURBAN – The homeless in eThekwini have taken full advantage of temporary assistance from the municipality and NGOs and have now found an agricultural project.

Moved by boredom at a temporary shelter established during the lockdown, a group of homeless men sought donations for seeds and tools to establish the planting project in June.

The eThekwini Municipality now wants to assist the homeless to establish a cooperative after seeing the success of the project.

The North Beach area in Durban is known for its picturesque views of the beach from the balconies of high-end hotels.

It’s now become home to a plantation offering a range of vegetables including spinach, tomatoes, carrots, spring onion, green pepper and herbs.

Nomusa Shembe is from the eThekwini Municipality’s safer cities unit: “During the time of the lockdown, we realised that people were finding it difficult to cope with being non-productive and doing nothing during the day, and then we decided we are going to get something that is going to occupy them on a regular basis. And on this site, they decided to do the gardening.”

Sandile Mthembu, a homeless man, said the project has changed his life.

“We sell our vegetables and we take this money and help people who want to go home and people who need to be assisted.”

City officials said they are now looking into strategies of sustaining projects such as these.

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