Farming to bring about social change

Nontombi Goboza, Lucille Rector, Chardoney May, Elsie can Staden and Maria Buggs work on the farm.

A partnership between an Ottery school and business is making history: it will not only create jobs but also educate the youth and feed poor communities.

Christel House and Tsebo Solutions Group have teamed up to create an eco-sustainable farm in Schaapkraal to change the so-
cio-economic situation of families in disadvantaged communities.

The farm, named Christel’s Fresh Crops by pupils, was named after Christel House founder Christel Dehaan, who attended the official launch on Wednesday November 9. Ms Dehaan, a businesswoman, community leader and philanthropist from America, was welcomed by singing and dancing pupils.

Tomatoes, potatoes, spinach, cucumber and watermelon are grown on the nine-hectare farm, which will also promote social entrepreneurship and teach people how to farm, contributing to the eradication of the cycle of poverty.

Tsebo will use their expertise in agriculture and food in the initiative.

They’ve invested R2 million to fund it and provide additional support to the communities who receive aid from Christel House.

Not only will this farm provide a sustainable structure to donate funds to the school, it will also employ residents from Freedom Park and Egoli informal settlements as well as pupils from the school.

Royce van der Zwan, marketing director at Tsebo, said the company concentrate on investing in job creation in communities that were struggling.

Christel House CEO Nicky Sheridan said the school had a mission to break the cycle of poverty.

“Poverty can only be broken through education. This, coupled with social entrepreneurship, will develop self-sufficient citizens,” said Mr Sheridan.

Ms Dehaan said this was the first project of its kind taken on by her foundation.

“The beauty of this is that it is renewable, it’s sustainable, it helps the environment and creates employment. It’s a virtuous circle going around where everybody who is in that connection benefits.

“These are the kinds of projects where people truly help people. Tsepo represents that and we are so proud to be a part of that configuration and to have an affiliation with them,” said Ms Dehaan.

Parent Maria Buggs, 50, from Freedom Park informal settlement, was employed to work at the farm and has a 13-year-old son at Christel House. “Because my son attends the school, I was asked to work at the farm. I am very happy to have gotten the opportunity to get involved with the project. It is a way of giving back to the school and to give back to the community. I have learnt a lot about farming, and I hope the project will be expanded to other communities where people can learn to plant and make a living,” said Ms Buggs.