Monday, 26 October 2009

Department of Horticultural Sciences provides training for community leaders


At least 40 community leaders from the Western Cape recently became the latest beneficiaries of a service learning project, offered by the Department of Horticultural Sciences.

The Department received the community leaders on 23 September 2009 at the institution’s nursery on the Cape Town campus, where they were trained by Horticulture students in various horticultural techniques.

The project targets various communities from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. Most importantly, it trains leaders who are involved in community development.

According to Dr Michael Young, head of the Department of Horticultural Sciences, they have been running the project for several years and their aim is to train trainers who will go and plough back into their communities.

The Department works with communities that are involved in soup kitchens and related projects. The objective is to help these projects to become self-sustaining and for example, to never run out of vegetables.

The Department also works with schools, health centres and crèches from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Dr Young said: “Our main aim in this project is for these leaders to learn good gardening practices through interaction with our students. By doing this we believe we are playing our role towards poverty alleviation.”

So far, the project has attracted people as far as Grabouw.

The project does not just help feed the communities, but has also created jobs in certain communities.

“There are now entrepreneurs who earn a living through what our students are teaching communities,” said Dr Young.

Citing the community of Belhar as an example, Dr Young said community leaders from Belhar have grown tremendously and have also managed to run businesses out of what they learnt.

The Department issues start-up kits to all the attendees to give them an opportunity to start their own projects.

The institution’s Service Learning Unit, together with the Department of Horticultural Sciences, has assigned representatives to visit various communities and identify those who are in need. These communities later benefit from the service learning project.

Lucienne de Villiers, a Horticulture and Landscape Technology lecturer, said: “The service learning project is a wonderful initiative as it benefits the communities, staff and students.

“Also, this is unique for students. There’s a lot of learning on their side.”

Applied Sciences’ Faculty Dean, Prof Olalekan Fatoki, also visited the nursery while students were embarking on the skills transfer project.

“We went to visit the nursery with our Dean, Prof Fatoki, and he was extremely moved by the way our students interacted with the community leaders. He was visibly impressed by the initiative,” Dr Young concluded.

By Andiswa Dantile

Photographs: CPUT’s Horticulture students share their knowledge with community leaders at the Cape Town campus’ nursery

Written by CPUT News