Breaking new ground
From it’s humble beginnings of a single garden to growing into a sustainable business model that beautifies the area; the Domino Foundation’s flourishing vegetable tunnels are creating employment opportunities and providing a much-needed food source for the Brookdale Feeding Kitchen.
The seed is planted…
The idea for the Domino Foundation’s vegetable tunnels sprouted out of a simple need, to supply the Brookdale Kitchen in Amaoti with fresh produce to help feed an average of 1,750 mouths per month. The first seed was planted in July 2013 by Angel Projects, an integral roleplayer to the initial stages of the programme by driving corporate sponsors to fund the expensive tunnels.
A year later Lance Turner, now Project Manager of the Vegetable Tunnels, joined the Domino Foundation team. He got straight to work flexing his green fingers by experimenting and exploring the success of different vegetables. Lance has a passion for growing produce and with a lot of research, training and advice he pushed the project to new heights. Despite his “zero farming experience” he managed to create and roll out a successful farming model that converted a neglected space into a thriving mini farm land.
The Domino seed takes root…
Built on a underutilised land owned by Brookdale Secondary School, adjacent to the Brookdale Kitchen, and bordering the impoverished area of the Amaoti community, the vegetables tunnels were located in the ideal place to sow back into Domino feeding programmes and increase the prpgramme’s ability to feed. Following Lance’s guidance the Domino team calculated the most productive way to use the land, determine the life cycles of plants and gage the customer’s demand. Instead of growing a large range of products a smaller, more consistent range of vegetables were tended to.
Healthy seedlings appear…
‘Getting to market’ has been a fun and social way to spread the good message of the Domino Foundation’s tunnels to the local community. Every week the team has a busy time harvesting the produce and selling it to key customers. These include the Brookdale Kitchen, which cooks meals for our Amaoti schools; the Nedbank Contact Centre; Tevo; Oricol Environmental Services; the Ladies Meeting; homeschooling moms and the COGS and Domino staff. The funds generated from these sales are ploughed back into the project actually enable it to become self-sufficient (after start-up costs of making the tunnels which were sponsored). With such a high demand for fresh quality produce the only threshold is the programme’s own capacity.
Fruits (or vegetables) of Domino’s labour…
One of the most amazing spin-offs from the vegetable gardens have been the handful of employment opportunities created. The project employs disabled people from I-Can / Khulisani, a NPO that helps with the upliftment of young adults with disabilities. The staff do an incredible job at nurturing the land and weed, plant, water, fertilise and maintain the crop rotation for all fourteen of the tunnels and the open gardens. Through this project the team has witnessed the amazing transformation of the staff from shy individuals to happy, healthy and productive workers! The gardens empower the staff to grow their own food and of the eight staff working on site many have taken this knowledge and skills to their own gardens, enabling them to support themselves and their families in a healthy and positive way.
Germinating more seeds….
The careful management of the project and the incredible support from staff, donors and customers has made the Domino Veggie Tunnels a wonderful tale of hope. There is still so much potential to scale up, both in terms of infrastructure and capacity. Currently there are fourteen tunnels with space for two more and a massive piece of land flagged for open gardens. The team is busy investigating a possible borehole which will make continuity of water supply the winter much easier and there’s the very real possibility of the superfood Moringa being added to the mix. The project also hopes to sell produce to a local clinic at the Amaoti school where senior citizens collect their medicines.
Growing a garden…
Lance also envisions, “a model of building vegetable gardens that can be taught and duplicated in the community. Once we have the place properly established we can hopefully bring in people who are most vulnerable to food insecurity and teach them how to grow enough vegetables for themselves and even earn an income. There’s an opportunity to generate an income stream from this project and the big vision is to use this project as a cash crop to support Domino’s many feeding programmes.”
We need YOUR help to complete our two vacant tunnels and open gardens! Assist us in growing a garden to feed EVERYONE who needs nutritious food.
Fresh news from gardens
Veggies and herbs recently harvested are: spinach, brinjal, green peppers, red peppers, salad tomatoes, beetroot, spring onion, coriander, mint, rosemary, thyme, organum, jam tomatoes, cucumbers.