This workshop was held in the backyard of the Burgers Park Caretaker’s House. It sought to make the link between urban ministry, Covid-19, unemployment and hunger, social and ecological justice, food systems and the city, food sovereignty, and a solidarity economy.
Annalet van Schalkwyk; previously from the Department of Christian Spirituality, Church History and Missiology; UNISA & Henk Coetzee; Council for Geoscience
We combined, in the workshop, an experiential introduction to the urban – natural space in which we presented the workshop. Participants were invited to do some yoga moves with us, then to use their auditory, visual, smell and touch senses. We listened to the sounds of the city, and the trees and the birds in the yard of the Burgerspark Caretaker’s House. I invited the participants to experience nature and gardening in the midst of the city noise. Then they could walk around and explore the Garden of Peace which we are developing around the House.
I then introduced the story of the Garden of Peace. In the midst of the taxi-and anti-drug violence in Thswane downtown in August-September 2019, I had to conduct a contextual Bible study on generating new life in a time of violence and death, as part of our Department’s Community Engagement and Contextual Bible Study project, the Meal of Peace. I combined the Bible Study on 1 Corinthians 15 with the planting of heritage seeds and seedlings in a planter, thereby bringing ‘down to earth’, the theme, “what do you think resurrection means?”. With a Bible Study and the planting of heritage seeds, we connected one of the central tenets of the Christian faith, the resurrection of the body, with the contemporary focus on regenerative agro-ecology, in the ecological movement. From this Bible Study grew what is now the flourishing Garden of Peace.
I introduced to the participants the possibility that this approach to food may be one way of assisting many unemployed and poor households, in our city and in the wider economy, to overcome hunger and also to gain an income, in a time of Covid-19. This is demonstrated by the fact that, in many centres in South Africa, food gardening became a manner in which communities and households found solutions for unemployment and food scarcity.
The theme of “Garden of Peace” may therefore be a pointer towards renewing livelihoods,
wellbeing and happiness of households. It brings together physical wellbeing with mental and spiritual happiness and an experience of the presence of the Divine. If the Garden of Peace spreads and more and more gardens are established in Thswane, we may become part of the networks working for food sovereignty and economic and ecological justice, in the country and worldwide. That is the aim – or the dream – of the Garden of Peace.
My husband, Dr Henk Coetzee, who is a geologist and permaculture gardener, then presented the rest of the workshop on the method of permaculture gardening. He especially explained how composting works, and how we enrich the soil and feed flourishing gardens, by composting.
The meaning, central message and envisaged outcome of our workshop
• Conveying the interconnectedness between wellbeing, happiness, urban gardening, ecology, economy and food (security) in an environment in which this communication comes naturally.
• Conveying the social, economic and ecological justice dimension of urban food gardening and how one small initiative in Tshwane mid-city may form part of a
national and global food sovereignty and solidarity economy- from-below.
• Conveying how solidarity economies may be nurtured, in a time of Covid-19, hunger and unemployment
How do you think the workshop activity contributed to healing and justice in our city and society? It created an enjoyable and experiential learning situation where the practice of permaculture / agro-ecology and urban food gardening could be demonstrated; as it relates to larger issues of unemployment and hunger in a time of Covid-19, the fostering of food justice and local economies, and climate justice.
How did your workshop represent the theme of the Feast, Courage to Be?
The workshop was consciously conducted within the context of Covid-19 – a time in which one needed the courage to realise that old capitalist and exploitative economies, had to be replaced by new economies of happiness, sustainability, solidarity and sharing. The hands-on nature of the workshop helped to convey that insight: theory starts with action and keeping one’s hands in the soil.
Are there any creative or innovative methodology, pedagogy or else, that you are employing and that you want to share with a larger audience?
An inductive and experiential learning experience is hardly new, but combining this with composting and food-gardening, is still new for many of the urban ministry and practical
theology programmes in South Africa.
What have you learnt in this time?
How much enjoyment people find in understanding how composting and gardening contributes to social-ecological justice!