The children and youth attending the Sunshine Centre (skills training centre for the disabled) have a good reason to be proud. The centre has recently harvested its first spinach harvest and generated some N$2500 from produce sales to the public. The Sunshine Centre vegetable garden is the latest project that the CSI fund of Manica Group Namibia implemented as a source of income for the centre.
The project entails four shaded tunnels where various vegetables can be grown. Once harvested the vegetables will be used as part of the meals the centre prepares for the children as well as the centre’s commercial catering kitchen. Ultimately, it is expected that the project can yield more vegetables so that the centre can sell a wider variety of fresh produce to the public as an additional source of income. At the moment the garden tunnels grow spinach, onions, cabbage, beetroot and carrots.
The centre director, Elsa Murangi expressed her delight over the project adding that the children are very excited about the project. “The children were eager to plant the seeds and water the seedlings themselves. I think this is an excellent project and highly therapeutic to involve all the children. It is very gratifying to see something growing that you know you planted and tended for. The children were especially excited when the first spinach shoots started growing within days and even more so with our first harvest. We are very grateful for what Manica has done for us,” she said.
One of the CSI fund members, Nolito Marques said it was heartening to see the children so enthusiastic about the project. “On a previous visit to the garden project I saw two of the children slide out of their wheel-chairs and drag themselves into the tunnels to also help water the plants,” he said. “We are overjoyed with the result of this project and Manica’s CSI fund will continue to identify similar projects that can be self-sustainable and a source of income for our communities.”
As part of the project planning, a peri-urban horticulturist, Emmanuel Muyumba was contracted to assist with setting up the garden. He also provided some training to the children and centre’s staff in various aspects of growing vegetables and tending to the garden. Muyumba said that the veggie-tunnel garden creates a new learning and development experience for the children.
“It was an inspiration to see the children being so active in tending to the garden and soaking up all they can on the theory of gardening. They even participated in the construction of the tunnels and in the sowing process. The tunnels are spaced in such a way that there is easy access and a one metre walk space on both sides of the seedling bags,” he said. “They also underwent training in the basic tools and methods of running a sustainable garden. The enthusiasm of the children made the learning process easy, despite some of the complex terms and information on pests, plant types, fertilizers, soil, crop cycles and harvesting.”
Manica contributed N$54,500 towards the seeds, soil, materials to build the tunnels and various garden tools. The next phase of the project is the installation of an automated drip-irrigation system. Last year, Manica also established a commercial catering kitchen, assisted the centre with tools for their woodwork shop as well as a needlework machine and software.
Business and members of the public interested in buying produce can contact Elsa at (064) 203 553.