“Family Gardens Program Lifts Members in South Africa,” Liahona, July 2007, N6–N7
A number of families in the Richards Bay Ward, Durban South Africa Stake, are enjoying the fruits—or vegetables—of a year-old garden-plot program that began with the help of the full-time missionaries and the Church Welfare Department.
Many of the Church members in the townships surrounding the Richards Bay meetinghouse struggle financially because of high unemployment rates or low wages.
Elder Jack Davidson, a senior missionary serving in the area in 2006, saw a great opportunity in an unused portion of the Church property surrounding the Esikhawini meetinghouse and the excellent gardening skills of a few of the members. Vegetables could be grown year-round, and surplus produce could be readily sold to members of the community.
The Church had purchased property on which three small temporary Church buildings (a chapel and two sets of small classrooms) were built to serve the members’ needs at the time. These buildings, lawns, flowers, and parking occupied only about one-third of the property. The rest, about 45 meters wide by 80 meters long, was in tall, rough grass and weeds. This property was to be used for more permanent buildings as warranted in the future. A security fence surrounds the property.
It took almost six months for Elder Davidson to accumulate the resources to buy the tools, irrigation supplies, and other equipment and to build a secure building to house tools and supplies. The funds came from LDS Humanitarian Services and generous donations from family and friends.
The secure storage building was essential not only for security but for effective use of the site by members. Only a few members in Esikhawini have cars. If they were to try to garden without this building, they would have to carry heavy tools to and from their homes. Anything left on the site could be stolen. Also, some of the new gardeners would not be able to afford tools. With the building in place, members can check the hand and power tools in and out. Part of the overall ward gardening plan is for members and missionaries to take items from this set of tools and equipment to other townships in the ward to help members set up gardens. All the tools and power equipment are portable in a pickup truck.
Beginning in March 2006, more than a dozen full-time missionaries in the Richards Bay Zone of the South Africa Durban Mission set to work to help create the family garden plots and secure building and composting facilities.
Richards Bay Ward bishop Ted Baldwin laid the blocks for the secure building, and others helped as needed with this and the cement work.
Elder Davidson and the rest of the elders focused primarily on clearing the land so the plots could be laid out, the cultivating could get underway in earnest, the irrigation system could be installed, and the gravel could be cleaned out. Youth often turned out to help and to learn to use the equipment. The plots were to be 6 meters by 10 meters with one-meter paths all around.
As each plot was finished and ready for planting, families from the Esikhawini township were ready to take over and plant winter vegetables. Some of the families had already raised seedlings at home in anticipation of the gardens.
The number of individual plots had finally reached the set goal of 30 in early June. Throughout the process, the community took notice of the activities. On most days a few people would stop and ask the members or missionaries questions. Several of these conversations led to missionary lessons.