Checking in – routine sets in

It has been two weeks since I have arrived in Cape Town. Where do I even start? Let’s begin with my work in Abalimi. Abalimi has given me great freedom in pursuing the kind of work that I wanted to do. There were multiple areas of operations I wanted to see for myself, just to get a hang of how things worked.

First and foremost, I wanted to see the gardens and farmers since the objective of Abalimi is, afterall, to help the people start organic gardens so they can be more self sustainable. There are fifty gardens that supply to Harvest of Hope – a project Abalimi started in 2008 to market vegetables to customers and restaurants in Cape Town. Keep in mind that gardens supported by Abalimi are scattered all over the townships. Transportation to the gardens is tricky as some of the gardens are located in relatively dangerous parts of the townships.

Dave, one of the founding members of Abalimi, is sort of the handy man who goes to all the gardens each week to monitor, train and advice the farmers. On the first week, I hitched a ride with him to the one of the largest gardens of Abalimi called SCAGA.

There were wide varieties of vegetables in SCAGA such as lettuce, spinach, fennel, chillies and beetroot. A few indigenious vegetables that I have never heard of before are kohlrabi and tatsoi. Tatsoi looks and tastes like bakchoi whereas kohlrabi tastes like a flavorless green apple.

I replaced the sprinklers with Dave, remove ?, and paved the garden bed with wood chips which stops snails from crawling to plants. I never knew how difficult garden work was. It was indeed, backbreaking work.

As we drove off to return to the office, Dave pointed at the entrance of SCAGA and said, “A man pointed a gun at me right here. I drove away and the man shot me in the chest. Bleeding and nauseated, I managed to get to the nearest hospital.” When I first arrived at the garden, I felt completely safe. The road was quiet, the garden was fenced – all in all, I did not sense danger in the area. Yet, in the townships of Cape Town, Dave reminded me that you never know what will happen.

Another area of operation I wanted to explore was the packaging of vegetables. Every Tuesday, vegetables were harvested early in the morning and transported to our packaging facility or the packsehd, as we called it. The packshed workers placed vegetables in each customers’ box. There, I was able to see the fruits of the farmers’ labor as mountains of vegetables piled on the packaging table. It was impressive.

Lastly, I was able to hop onto one of the delivery vans that transported vegetables to restaurants. This area of operation made the greatest impression on me. The restaurants that we delivered to were very high end and I couldn’t help but feel proud as I carried crates of vegetables to the kitchens.

I have still been typing out invoices aside from the work I have mentioned above. It has been frustrating as I have to manually type everything. The invoice system is quite chaotic, to say the least but I am glad to help out.


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