In South Africa, 10% of children under the age of 17 don’t have enough food. For young children in their first three years of life, a lack of nutrition can affect their physical and mental health development.
This is where Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres can play an important role. Ensuring young children are given a nutritious meal, the food gardens at these centres also support feeding schemes and improve the lives of learners and their families.
Growing stronger communities
It has been just over a year since Vodacom South Africa launched the Green ECD programme, and now more than 250 children are benefiting from sustainable food gardens at centres across the country.
Developed in partnership with local non-profit organisations and businesses, we began the journey back in October 2021, building sustainable food gardens that run on energy-efficient, water-saving infrastructures.
Inviting children, teachers, parents and community members to the gardens, we host educational workshops that promote sustainable practices. This not only ensures the longevity of these sites but also provides skills development and creates a life-long culture of caring for the planet from a young age.
In addition, these gardens support local feeding schemes, helping to address the amount of food available in South Africa and providing socio-economic opportunities for the community.
A healthier way of life
At Grasar Day Care Centre in Gauteng, for example, many local people have volunteered to be part of the project to learn new skills and have benefited tremendously from the initiative.
Staff have noticed children are not getting ill as often as before, now that they have access to and are eating fresh fruit and vegetables more regularly, and they have seen a boost in their learning development and general wellbeing.
At Hulisani Day Care Centre in Limpopo, teachers have observed that many community members are working in the garden as a form of stress relief – which, of course, has positive implications for their general health.
And having access to fresh water via the garden has made a significant impact on Lady Frere Day Care Centre in the Eastern Cape, too. This is especially important as the area usually experiences periods of water shortages and drought.
The centres have even been able to cut down on costs by growing their own produce and providing food to staff as well as community members who volunteer.
In some cases, the centres have also been able to increase their income by selling the produce or using the gardens as a marketing tool to increase learner registrations.
Planting seeds of transformation
To date, the programme has benefitted 252 children, with other participating ECDs including Divhani Community Creche and Mvelaphanda Day Care Centre, both in Limpopo, RANS Future Kids in Mpumalanga, and Sthandokuhle ECD Centre in KwaZulu-Natal.
Vodacom South Africa also donated ICT equipment and learning materials to the centres in an effort to address the digital divide in under-resourced areas of the country.
We are extremely proud of what Vodacom’s Green ECD programme has achieved in just over a year. Through our ongoing partnerships, we are developing a sustainable ecosystem, which is helping to transform lives while ensuring that we take care of the planet for future generations.
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