Worm farms and container gardening at schools on the Cape Flats

I was chatting to Lindsay, an employee of the NGO, Earthchild, the other day at Levana Primary school. Lindsay helps the learners at Zerilda Park Primary school and Levana Primary school to set up worm farms. As Lindsay explained, the worm farms are established to produce compost for the learners' own container gardens and the worm farms also help learners to learn how to care for the environment. The learners are encouraged to bring organic scraps from home to feed the busy worms. After about eight months, there is enough wholesome, rich compost to feed eight container gardens. Learners have to bring plastic crates that serve as the garden container. I am so fascinated by the talk that I am tempted to start my own worm farm.

Learners are happy to show off their worm farm and the compost


What I heard next is what gives one a reality check. Lindsay said that they were only able to secure one crate this year and could therefore only establish one container garden. Last year, Lindsay said, they were able to set up four container gardens which could feed four families with vegetables.She could not understand this because the learners loved their worm farm and she had built a wonderful relationship with her group.


She then asked the learners why they did not want to bring along the containers because the compost was almost ready to be used. The learners then explained that the crates are used as chairs at home and they couldn't exactly bring their furniture to school. Others explained that their parents need the crates to secure the roofs of their homes. The crates are filled with stones and placed on the roof of their shacks. Armed with this information Lindsay understood the difficulties the learners face.

Lindsay showing the compost that was produced

One takes for granted that plastic crates are readily available because most people who live comfortably, often discard or recycle the crates. When folk recycle the crates, it is mainly to create functional but not essential items. if we want to create say, an outdoor seating made of plastic crates, such seating would be more for its decorative and novel appeal. Here, these poor learners and their families secure these plastic crates to serve as key furniture items or as protective stabilizers on their roofs.


So, in a profound way, Lindsay and I have learnt how the seemingly humble plastic crate becomes an indicator of the rising cost of living. Our poor neighbours and their children are forced to recycle and be innovative in order to survive. They can't even spare a plastic crate to grow their own vegetable garden because of other urgent uses of these crates in their homes.Ironically, those who have access to decent standards of living, often create more waste and recycle less - just placing more pressure on our environment that is already at risk.


There is really no logic in the haphazard way in which we organize our world with its people and its environment. We know how to self-destruct and we are nonchalant about our greed at the expense of the poor masses.That is why we need people like Lindsay to help change the world - one worm farm and one container garden in plastic crate at a time...





Lindsay and visitors playing Ames with the learners who belong to the enviro club





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