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Grown in Philippi - Mama Rosie Makosa

Grown-in-Philippi---Mama-Rosie-Makosa

Blog and photos by Deni Archer. This series forms part of World Design Capital 2014 #WDC585.

Looks can be deceiving

From the front, the municipal depot in Philippi East looks about as enticing as, well, a municipal depot. A small, dull, but functional building surrounded by a stark, asphalt-covered  yard. I am doubting that I’m in the right place when the guard pulls back the gate, and directs me around the side of the austere looking building.

But to my relief, an oasis of green greets me as I round the corner. Dark green shade cloth covered tunnels, filled with bright green seedlings and plants of spinach, cabbage, spring onion, beetroot and turnips. This is Foodpods - an organisation created through the marriage of Heart Capital and Sakhulwazi Women’s Organisation, and championed by Rosie Makosa, a 63-year-old urban warrior who prefers to be known as ‘Mama Rosie’.

Grown-in-Philippi---Mama-Rosie-Makosa

From domestic worker to community change-maker

While Mama Rosie spent a significant portion of her life in the Eastern Cape, she was born in Cape Town while her father was working as a farmhand in Kuilsriver in the 1950s. She remembers running amongst the chickens with her siblings on this farm, while her parents worked. In 1961, they moved back to Middeldrift in the Eastern Cape, but she eventually returned to settle in Brown’s Farm in 1990.

After feeling unfulfilled working as a domestic worker for a few years, Mama Rosie decided to hand in her notice, and seek a different life. She had noticed that many women in the area were unemployed with little prospects - they had little in the way of skills to offer, and could only speak Xhosa, which was a major obstacle for them in finding work. Many had lost their sense of self-pride and resorted to shoplifting to get by. Mama Rosie saw the need, and came up with a plan. “I had enough savings to buy two sewing machines, so I did that, and started recruiting these women. I walked around the factories asking for offcuts of material, and we started to sew.” They also started doing beadwork, and the little initiative started to grow.

Doing good opens new doors

But Mama Rosie didn’t stop there. Once Sakhulwazi was going well, she turned her attention towards another issue in Brown’s Farm. “Bongolwethu School was having problems - the government feeding scheme was failing. So I jumped in and started growing food at the school and cooking for them twice a week,” she says, in her matter of fact way. This act of goodwill opened more doors for her and her organisation. She was introduced to The Wheat Trust, who helped her improve the skills of her women by connecting them to formal training.

Then, about nine years ago, the Wheat Trust brought Heart Capital to see her garden at Bongolwethu School. “They liked the garden and so they donated two food tunnels to us, and taught us how to use them and how to grow in bags using sawdust. Just sawdust!” Her eyes gleam. The assistance from Heart Capital has allowed Mama Rosie to serve her community even more.

Poverty is a blight on Philippi’s landscape, too keenly felt in Mama Rosie’s community

But the gleam disappears as she describes the poverty she sees on a daily basis. In most shacks the only food to be found is dry bread, mielie meal, samp and beans. Most people have around R10 to R15 to spend on food a day, so while Mama Rosie says they want vegetables, they usually can’t afford it. “I am lucky that I can afford a bit of meat, maybe once or twice a week. Other people can only afford chicken feet and they cook it up in a soup.”

On top of this lack of healthy food, the shack environment is inadequate. “A shack is not warm enough to live in,” says Mama Rosie. “Around the shacks it is also very dirty - rubbish, dirty water, bucket toilets or communal toilets that aren’t cleaned. This is making the people sick. TB and dysentery are killing the children. And when there is no food to eat it is even worse.”

This is a stark reminder that healthy housing is a dire need in the city, so when Mama Rosie hears that the local government wants to build housing, she is gladdened. But she acknowledges that losing local farmland for housing is not the answer. The effect that will have on food prices for the poor will just add to the devastation.

A big vision with a big heart

Mama Rosie’s garden has sinced moved  from the school to behind the municipal depot, where Sakhulwazi still sews and beads, and other small initiatives have come together to form a hub of small businesses and services for the community. Heart Capital donated a further 10 tunnels, and in 2012, Sakhulwazi and Heart Capital officially established Foodpods. Mama Rosie now has eight people working for her at Foodpods. Heart Capital helps by paying them stipends which supplements the earnings they get from selling their vegetables and seeds.

While Mama Rosie is satisfied with how far she has come, she has a grander vision yet. “My dream was to make a garden. I wanted to build a garden that could feed people who come with just R4. It is very, very helpful to have a garden in the community. I hope it can one day be a big, big thing. I would like to see Foodpods growing a lot of veg and teaching the community to have a little garden where they can grow their own.”


To reach their goal, Foodpods needs more equipment and compost. If you can help, please contact khaya@foodpods.co.za

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are not those of Foodwithastory.co.za. This is a representation of the interviewee's opinion as interpreted by the interviewer.

The Grown in Philippi project is independent of Foodwithastory.co.za. Deni Archer is a founder of this project, which aims to create a relationship between Cape Town’s citizens and the food growing area at its heart. Grown in Philippi is presently a zero income volunteer programme focused on storytelling and consumer education. Grown in Philippi is fully supportive of the Save the PHA campaign, led by Nazeer Sonday. To find out more about the Save the PHA campaign, contact nasonday@gmail.comTo find out more about Grown in Philippi, contact deni@foodwithastory.co.za

Foodpods grows and sells seeds, seedlings, and vegetables to the local community, as well as other Capetonians. Here, some volunteers assist Mama Rosie in the nursery.

Grown-in-Philippi---Mama-Rosie-MakosaGrown-in-Philippi---Mama-Rosie-Makosa

Sakhulwazi Women's Organisation teaches sewing and beading skills to women in the Brown's Farm community. Many women have passed through the organisation, going on to start their own businesses, or finding employment in the textile industry, according to Mama Rosie.

Grown-in-Philippi---Mama-Rosie-Makosa

The Foodpods HQ, which shares premises with other small initiatives in the area including care for the elderly, home-based carers, and art and crafts.

Grown-in-Philippi---Mama-Rosie-Makosa

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