Relationships take root alongside Thembalami’s vegetables

Thembalami Care Centre has one of the finest food gardens around, thanks to a group of dedicated supporters.

Anthony Schäffler of Johannesburg-based Schäffler’s Garden Nursery and Landscaping initially designed, built and planted the garden, as well as donating a substantial amount of seeds and plants. Since then, the food garden has benefitted from wonderful community support, as well as continued support from Anthony.

The latest donation came from and Cummins Filtration. Food gardens are one of Cummins’ CSI focus areas and Trees & Food for Africa (FTFA) has partnered with the global company to ensure the projects’ success.

In July last year, Cummins and FTFA planted 200 fruit trees and vines at the care centre, and on February 15, they returned – this time with R60 000’s worth of vegetable and herb seedlings, compost, mulch and manure.

Thembalami grounds assistant Amon Maluleke estimates that there were over 3 000 seedlings.

Amon, one of the founders of Bambanani Food and Herb Co-operative in the centre of Johannesburg, volunteered at Thembalami for many months and helped establish the food garden, before being offered a full-time post in October 2017.

It was his relationship with FTFA that resulted in Thembalami benefitting from the Cummins and FTFA partnership.

Run by 116-year-old NPO Rand Aid, the Lombardy East care centre provides a haven of hope for elders who are either financially or physically vulnerable. It also incorporates the Max Ordman Deaf Association.

Set on 2.3 hectares of ground, Thembalami’s open spaces have been put to good use growing a bounty of fresh food.

“The latest donation will ensure the gardens continue to yield rich rewards,” says Thembalami manager Elize Raath.

Michael Pearce from FTFA and two of his colleagues, Tim Abaa and Msizi Hlongwane, showed the 40 employees from Cummins how spread mulch and work compost and manure into the soil. The volunteers made a good start on the planting too, and Amon and the other Thembalami gardeners finished the job the next day.

“There was a lovely atmosphere,” says Elize. “They played music and at lunchtime, settled into our lapa, lit a fire and made wors rolls.

“Afterwards, some of the employees approached me and thanked me for the day. They enjoyed getting their hands dirty and were in awe of the vegetable garden,” she said, adding that the folk at Cummins are wonderful. “They are just incredible people; very motivated and dedicated towards our garden.”

Another regular contributor to Thembalami’s food garden is the Northrand District Scouts. Last year, over 100 children and their parents and team leaders spent a productive day planting cauliflower, broccoli, beetroot, cabbage, spinach, lettuce, spring onion and celery, which were donated by Schäffler’s and the cubs themselves.

On February 16, the children returned, bringing with them nine life-sized scarecrows they had made to keep the birds out of the food garden.

It seems the Thembalami garden is growing relationships alongside the vegetables!

Amon Maluleke and Cummins employee Ntombizodwa Sibinda.

Elize Raath (Thembalami manager) stands in the middle of a group of Cummins Filtration employees, FTFA team members and Thembalami gardeners, including food garden co-ordinator Amon Maluleke (far left, in blue). Seated in front of Amon is Darrel Moodley, the OE manager of Cummins. Standing next to Amon is FTFA’s Msizi Hlongwane and in front, third from the left, is his colleague Tim Abaa.

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