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The Calabash Trust - school food gardens

The Calabash Trust is a community development organisation in Port Elizabeth. Focusing on building schools as the centre of the community, they have a strong focus on food gardens.

Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape

Website    Phone +27 41 585 9255   Email

Story by Deni Archer

A tour company sees opportunity for development

The Calabash Trust is an offshoot from a tour company that undertakes townships on tours in Port Elizabeth. The Trust started as a charity and evolved into development work focusing on schools as the centre of the community. They run a feeding scheme, which is aimed at early childhood development and youth development.

Schools need food gardens

In 2010 they joined up with other NGOs to develop food gardens. These became priority for the Trust to support and supplement feeding schemes at their schools. “The gardens have now become a platform for dialogue and sharing,” says Carla Collins, Community Development Manager at the Trust. “We aims to identify and mobilise individual and community talents, skills and assets, rather than focusing on problems and needs. So it’s community-driven development.”

They began by using trench gardens and then moved to full permaculture systems, which they learned from the transition town movement in Port Elizabeth (PE). The first garden was established at Mboniselo Primary School where they also started running a permaculture workshop. A Food Garden Forum was then formed between teachers and parents from all the schools the Trust supports, which went on to develop numerous food gardens.


The Sweet Potato Lady

Carla introduced us to Nomonde Ntsundwana who she met through a school in Motherwell. Known as “the sweet potato lady” for her love of the vegetable, she is passionate about gardening, and has been able to draw a lot of attention in PE. We met her at Seyisi Primary where she had recently joined forces with the school head to start vegetable gardening and teaching environmental awareness. “Food comes from the earth and food gardens are beautiful things!” says Nomonde. “I think gardens help build relationships between people, and relieve stress. And that even the poorest person can plant vegetables”. Nomonde holds festivals around harvests and planting times which she uses as a platform to help people learn about growing food. She views the garden as a laboratory - as important as a science or computer lab for a school.

Nomonde is trying to raise funds to help her achieve her goal of implementing food gardens as places of learning in schools in Port Elizabeth. If you can help her with this please contact her at


More about the Calabash Trust - their mission:

  • To acknowledge the important role school principles and educators play in the community.
  • To partner with principals and educators to mobilise other community members as active change agents in their communities.
  • To unite schools into a ‘Cluster of Schools’ to become centres of learning for the whole community.
  • To mobilise schools and communities to manage their own developmental processes.
  • To create a platform for dialogue between community members.
  • To build networks with other organisations and institutions, working together toward an inclusive approach to building communities.
  • To maintain our relationships with donors and supporters with integrity and mutual understanding.
  • To nurture and develop the staff, enabling them to fulfil their individual potential.

Nomonde, the Sweet Potato Lady, and principal of Seyisi Primary where Nomonde is teaching environmental awareness through her vegetable garden 'lab'


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