By: Aneeqa du Plessis
In the heart of the Cape Flats in Hanover Park, a place that is synonymous with gang-violence, murder and drugs, Renshia Manuel, 40, a single-unemployed-mother who was desperate to feed her children took it upon herself to start a food garden that has since blossomed into an oasis, Growbox Nursery, over the last five years.
According to Manuel, the affinity for food gardening started long before, when, during the school holidays, she and her siblings was sent to spend time with family among the farming communities near Robertson and Piketberg.
“Growing up my parents would send us to our family members during the holidays and we would spend our time farming, but we weren’t really aware because we were young, but we would prune and harvest depending on the season, ” explained Manuel through smiles.
Manuel said she wanted to create a space away from the social ills that residents on the Cape Flats are exposed to daily.
“People often come for the fresh fruit and vegetables or soup greens when the weather is overcast,” giggled Manuel.
“Often residents will come and sit in the space for some reflection to just take a breather and escape the madness that they are surrounded by,” continued Manuel.
“I hoped that the very first seed I planted would be able to flourish into something that would be able to feed my children. I was going through a rough patch and turned to gardening out of pure desperation,” described Manuel.
“Knowing people are able to eat from your labour and hard work is so rewarding,” said Manuel.
According to Manuel, Agriculture has received a face-lift and is no longer a pastime of ‘an old white man’ but is an activity that can be taken up by any and everyone that shares the passion.
Manuel said the journey has taken her to France and South Korea because she took a leap of faith.
“Agriculture has changed and there is lots of opportunity within the sector and I think children should open themselves up to it. Get your hands dirty and try it for yourself. You can never be sure where opportunities might take you,” explained Manuel.
With August being the month that celebrates Women, Manuel described what being a woman in 2022 means to her.
“There are no conventional women in 2022. We come in all shapes and sizes in every industry. We cannot be boxed, and I think we need to be reminded of our power. We can do anything we put our minds to, and it is time we revere that spirit and rise above,” said Manuel.