PEDI Urban Agriculture Academy launched on World Environment Day

The R3-million PEDI Urban Agriculture Academy was today launched in the heart of Philippi, bringing to reality a dream to start building a new generation of urban farmers, creating jobs, building skills and bringing Philippi one step closer to its rightful place in the City’s economy.

Celebrating the joint launch of PEDI Urban Agriculture Academy and Waste to Food were PEDI CEO Thomas Swana, PEDI Academy trainee Thulani Mangwengwe, Pick n Pay Director for Transformation Suzanne Ackerman-Berman, Pick n Pay Head of Sustainability Andre Nel, Waste to Food co-founder Phumlani Dlongwana and Waste to Food CEO Roger Jaques.

DDG of the Department of Agriculture in the Western Cape, Darryl Jacobs speaks at the launch event.

The Academy showcases a ground-breaking organic vegetable growing system that optimises the use of organic composts over fertilisers, earthworm leachate over pesticides, and flush irrigation over sprinklers or watering. Here, PEDI – the Philippi Economic Development Initiative – is developing an alternative to conventional farming that it believes can be economically transformative for an area beset by poverty and unemployment.

At the same event, a R9 million project, Waste to Food, was also launched to process organic waste into high-quality compost through the action of worms. The two projects are both housed on land adjacent to the Philippi Fresh Produce Market where they have developed a synergistic farming system that is producing outstanding quality crops.

Speaking at the joint launch, Deputy Director General in the Western Cape Department of Agriculture, Darryl Jacobs, said his department was delighted to partner with PEDI in supplying advisory services and to direct graduate interns from agricultural institutions to the Academy. The ground-breaking project was especially welcome, he said, as research had shown that “agriculture and agri-processing can be a key driver for economic growth”.

“PEDI through this project will help to stimulate urban agriculture, and help to create jobs for young people,” he said.

The initiative to create a centre of excellence that can promote job creation, skills development, entrepreneurship, water security and food security has been driven by PEDI CEO Thomas Swana and PEDI project manager Paul Stohrer, working in association with Roger Jaques and Phumlani Dlongwana, founder partners of the Waste to Food project. The ecologically smart system reuses all its water and maximises the natural opportunities that the local conditions offer.

The creation of the PEDI Academy is a departure from PEDI’s previous role in local development. Now investing directly into a project,with R1million of its own funds and the allocation of grant funding it receives from the City of Cape Town for enterprise development and skills development, PEDI has attracted a range of other partners.

Key among these has been assistance from staff at the Western Cape Department of Agriculture’s Elsenberg training facility and from the Rotary Club of Kirstenbosch and Haw & Inglis, who have been giving invaluable support in building the project and developing a programme to provide bridging training to students from the institutions.

The 2500 square metres that make up the Academy’s covered farming tunnels, as well as a seedling tunnel, were donated by the Dhladhla Foundation.

A partnership between PEDI and CEO for Business Activator, Egbert Wessels (located at Philippi Village) is being developed for the incubation, training and development of new business owners who can become the beneficiaries of the PEDI academy and for informal traders.

PEDI CEO Thomas Swana says the involvement of outside partners is turning the project into one of the most exciting initiatives the area has seen.

‘The farm and the growing system is a model that can address food and water security while building new businesses, creating jobs and assisting poverty alleviation. And, critical for the future of the city, it can also secure the value of the remarkable resource that is the PHA – the Philippi Horticultural Area,’ said Swana.

‘Our vision is for the creation of a cohort of emerging farmers who we hope will eventually become productive entrepreneurs on unproductive land in the PHA, as well as a cohort of urban community farmers,’ Swana added.

The Academy has come together in less than a year since PEDI committed itself to investing in a centre of excellence to take forward the original vision of this location in the heart of Philippi, the Philippi Fresh Produce Market. When the City built the market in 2006, it was intended that activities here should be used to accommodate a cohort of emerging farmers. For a range of reasons the site has never fulfilled its potential.

Click the link above to watch the SABC News story on the launch of the PEDI Urban Agriculture Academy.

Judy Abrahams, of the Industrial Development Corporation which made of grant of R5 million to Waste to Food, at the official launch of the project on 5 June 2017.

Last week a lease was signed with the Philippi Market Operating Company to grant PEDI custodianship of two sites – one of 3.5 hectares and the other of .8 hectares – for the development of the Academy and associated emerging famer operations, and for leasing to Waste to Food – a project in which PEDI has also invested R1 million, alongside Pick n Pay, Don’t Waste Service and the Industrial Development Corporation.

Inside the 2500 square metres of tunnel, growing beds have been built using a novel drainage system to link them to a set of worm composting hammock beds run by Waste to Food. In these hammocks, high quality compost and organic leachate is produced through the action of the worms.

The leachate is drained straight from the worm composting beds into a sump that takes it to tanks filled with borehole water, which in turn is used to flush-irrigate the growing beds. These then drain back through the system to moisten the worm hammocks, which produce more leachate to feed the crops in the beds, in a virtuous cycle. The system means there is full recycling of the water, which is drawn from the Cape Flats aquifer. At the location of the PEDI Academy, the aquifer sits just a few metres below the ground. The pump station that is needed to manage this system is housed in a shipping container.

The growing beds in the PEDI Academy are already under crop and are being managed by a team trained in farming methodology and practice by organic farming consultant Maryna Booysen. The first planting in these beds proved so abundant that the crop was ready for harvest barely halfway into its anticipated growing season!

PEDI Urban Agriculture Academy trainee and team leader, Mlulami Maseti, at the academy in Philippi, Cape Town.

The team leaders are being trained so that they will in turn become trainers for future emerging farmers at the academy. Candidates will receive business and entrepreneurship training and leadership, in addition to the hands-on farmer training.

PEDI believes this initiative will do many things for Philippi. By giving young people the opportunity to become farmers, PEDI is making a difference to this community. PEDI is giving candidates skills that will allow them to seek dignified work and training people who will be trained to train others. PEDI will be reaching community gardeners, and those running school and ECD gardens. The project will have a significant multiplier effect.

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