Vegetable garden project brings hope to Knysna community

“Children and gardens both need love to flourish”

By Siphokazi Mnyobe

9 May 2022

From left: Sophie Sauir, Leoni Pasja and Iris Telmaggiers, harvesting green peppers from Sauir’s garden. Photo: Siphokazi Mnyobe

After the death of her lastborn son Granville, says Iris Telmaggiers, the vegetable gardening project in her street in Hornlee, Knysna, was the only thing that could ease her pain.

Telmaggiers lost her son in November 2021, and had been struggling to get out of bed and do household chores until she joined the project launched by Knysna Initiative Learning and Teaching (KILT).

She plants onions, cabbage, spinach, tomatoes and potatoes in her garden, for her own consumption. “What I do not have space to grow in my garden I get from my gardening sisters,” says Telmaggiers.

The 70-year-old pensioner was born in Knysna and worked as a cleaner at the provincial hospital for 17 years. She lives with her two grandchildren and oldest son, and says that the garden helps her bond with her grandchildren and gives her hope for a better future for them.

Telmaggiers’s family is one of 150 in Knysna who are growing their own vegetables through KILT. She was introduced to the gardening project by Leoni Pasja, one of the elected street gardening project leaders.

KILT runs 18 projects, including vegetable gardens in schools and in people’s homes, and a soup kitchen. The gardening project was started in 2020, when the Covid epidemic resulted in families losing their income, leaving them unable to feed their children or themselves. Now the KILT gardening programme supports one school feeding scheme, six school gardens, and 18 soup kitchens. The programme provides about 6,000 meals per week.

This year a garden was started at Sunridge Primary school to help with the school nutrition programme. Sunridge Primary School is a public school with 685 learners from Hornlee and surrounding areas, mostly from poor communities.

Sonia Thomas from KILT and her colleague David Thesen gave each learner seeds to care for during the March school holidays. Those seeds are now growing in the soil in the new school vegetable garden at Sunridge.

“I read somewhere that children and gardens both need love and care to flourish,” says Thomas. “That inspired me.”

The vegetable garden at the Sunridge Primary School being prepared for learners to plant. Photo: Siphokazi Mnyobe

Acting principal Salvin Hannie believes the vegetable garden will introduce learners to agriculture and help shape how they view farming. “I am hoping that this KILT project will give birth to future farmers.”

“I speak to God when I’m in my garden, and feel the presence of my son,” says Telmaggiers.