Inspired by the Western Cape Department of Agriculture’s ‘One Home One Garden’ campaign, intrepid gardener Trevor Nkoyi has rolled up his sleeves once again to help his community. With a little help from the Department, from local businesses and his many friends, he has cleared the yard of the shack in Zwelihle where he lives with his father, and is busy turning it into a thriving organic vegetable garden.

‘One Home One Garden’ volunteers David Vantu, Gladstone Cunu, Trevor Nkoyi, George Nyasulu and Clayton Hendricks with the thriving vegetable boxes they built and planted in Trevor’s backyard. Photo: Hedda Mittner

“I want this garden to be a showpiece – an example to the members of my community of what can be done to improve food security for them and their families,” says this humble young man with the green fingers. “The aim is to encourage others, and to train and assist residents to establish their own gardens.”

Trevor has always been happiest with his hands in the soil. Born in Queenstown, he moved with his parents to Hermanus as a child. He was unable to continue his schooling beyond Grade 7, but, as a teenager, he remembers hanging around the Saturday market, intrigued by the beautiful fresh vegetables and fruit he saw for sale there. This led to Trevor seeking piece-work as a gardener, and over the years he has worked in many a local garden, as well as at Camphill Farm, where he was introduced to the principles of permaculture and biodynamic farming.

In 2012 he relocated to Stellenbosch to work at Longridge Wine Estate, which implemented strictly biodynamic farming methods, both for their vines and the vegetables they grew for their restaurant. “Sally (the wife of winemaker Jasper Raats) taught me so much about organic farming,” says Trevor. “And also that gardens bring people together. How can we be separate if we are working together with our hands in the same soil?”

Each job Trevor has had has taught him something new towards becoming more proficient in his calling. But after several years in Stellenbosch, when he heard about the unrest in Hermanus in 2018, he knew he was needed here, so back he came and joined the team at the Zwelihle Youth Café, run by William Ntebe and Fikiswa Gxamesi.

Getting the vegetable garden at the Youth Café going was back-breaking work, but neither that nor the lack of financial backing stood in the way of Trevor establishing a thriving, farm-sized organic vegetable and herb garden. During the time of Covid-19, this produce has made a huge contribution to the Youth Café’s ability to feed countless hungry tummies through their daily soup kitchen.

“It was a real community project and so many people worked together and assisted us with donations of seeds, fertiliser and hay bales. I invited everyone to come to this happy place and share in my knowledge and love of gardens. Especially for children, it’s very important for them to realise that they can do things for themselves and feel proud of what they produce, instead of waiting for someone to do it for them. Nothing tastes so sweet or is as healthy as a carrot or a lettuce that you have planted yourself and picked from your own garden.”

With the emphasis now shifting from food relief to food security, Trevor has decided to take his extensive knowledge and skills into the community to enable residents to become self-sufficient. With the enthusiastic assistance of his friends and neighbours, they are tirelessly building plant boxes, improvising their own rainwater tanks, and planting and tending a variety of vegetables and herbs. For now, surplus produce is distributed free to the elderly in his neighbourhood. A born teacher, Trevor has also organised his first training session and hopes to inspire other households in Zwelihle to follow his example.

“I am very grateful to everyone who has supported me on my journey,” says Trevor. “People like Sally Raats and Marilyn van der Velden are like mentors to me. I would like to thank them and also Camphill Farm, Superplants and Walkerbay Nursery for donating seedlings and compost. I want them to know that they are being put to good use.”

Anyone who would like to get involved or assist Trevor in any way can contact him on 079 481 3155.

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