Visit The Living Soils Community Learning Farm to discover Woolworths’ food security initiative in partnership with Spier and the Sustainability Institute, and see how they’re making a difference in the communities.

The Insider SA took a trip to Lynedoch in Stellenbosch to see first-hand the incredible difference Woolworths, Spier Wine Farm and the Sustainability Institute are making to uplift, inspire and upskill communities.

Katy Hayes, CSI Programme Manager at Woolworths, shares how the project which was launched in March 2019 came about, “The inspiration behind this project came when we [Woolworths] sat together with Spier and the Sustainability Institute and wanted to make a bigger difference around food security so together we cocreated the Living Soils Community Learning Farm.”

Living Soils has become more than just a mixed vegetable production farm on 3 hectares of land. The project actively incorporates training and development of emerging, young farmers offering them an opportunity to learn skills to tackle food security and ensure local youth development.

Rirhandzu Marivate, Project Manager at The Living Soils Community Learning Farm, tells us how the initiative is empowering the community. “The project employs 14 people, of which 12 are women and the reason for this is that we realise that agriculture is a big sector in the country and primarily has women as labourers,” she shares.

“At Living Soils, we provide a platform of not only working and employment, but also of capacitating and building the women into more than labourers and being capable farmers.”

The project partners play pivotal and unique roles; Woolworths is the primary funding partner, Spier Wine Farm is the resource partner hosting the land for operations, and the Sustainability Institute offers research knowledge and project management for upkeep.

“We believe in food security and making a difference where we can, but we also understand that food security is quite multi-dimensional and requires a number of different approaches to how you address it,” shares Katy.

Rirhandzu Marivate, Project Manager at The Living Soils Community Learning Farm.

Woolworths is determined to make a difference and with their partners, the project works on a multitude of levels.

“We support communities through surplus food donations and through a partnership that we have with FoodForward SA, we encourage them to grow their own food. Empowering and enabling people to grow their own food means that they don’t have to rely on donations to be able to access food,” Katy explains.

“We then move from subsistence farming into more enterprise development and you see people growing food that they’re able to sell and make an income from. The last area that we think we can make a difference in is ensuring how we grow the food. We need to have food that is sustainable through regenerative and sustainable farming practices.”

Still in its infancy the project has seen Woolworths donate around R4 million rand to the 3-year pilot project. Woolworths has also involved their own food technologists, food security managers and dieticians to transfer knowledge to the farm’s employees.

“We provide experiential internships that not only provide practical learning, but are also complemented with leadership, entrepreneurship and holistic development of the individual,” shares Rirhandzu, which will allow the farmers to grow when they start their own farming enterprises.

Well on her way to achieving that goal is Living Soils farmer, Sindiswa Mdodana, who is currently a Junior Manager at The Living Soils Community Learning Farm.

“This has changed my life. I was very fortunate to be one of the people who got a chance to be part of Living Soils,” shares Sindiswa.

“It has helped me to become self-sustainable so that I can do things on my own and grow food that I know is healthy.”

Sindiswa feels the project has enriched her and is ecstatic at what the future may hold. “Knowing the basics and the elements of doing things right, I think we can go far. That’s what I’m heading to make people see. This is the future.”

Living Soils farmer, Sindiswa Mdodana.

The goals of the project align steadily with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals of zero hunger – something Woolworths is incredibly proud of.

“We are growing food. We are training people. We’re changing people’s livelihoods, and we’re doing so in an environmentally friendly way,” shares Katy.

Achieving #zero hunger2030 is something we should all be working towards. Like Woolworths, if we commit to empowering the youth to farm successfully that future with zero hunger may be within reach.