A great first working experience in this field

As Roots’ current Marketing and Communication intern, I’m always very curious and interested in our intern’s tasks and experiences with different organizations and what their daily life here in Africa is like. Therefore, I went on a mission to visit Urban Harvest, where I followed Paula for a day. As part of her studies in International Food and Agribusiness, the 19-year-old German came to the Mother City for an internship. Urban Harvest installs, maintains and supports organic food gardens in the city. They teach and educate people to grow their own fresh and healthy food at home. I learned a lot about how this organization works and how she gets involved. I also learned about how the internship influences her studies, and her personal perception and growth.

Beautiful and innovative edible garden

When I arrived at the beautiful edible garden with a view of Table Mountain, I met Paula and her supervisor Michelle. They gave me a tour of the area where they work and showed me some nice beds, flowers, and tools I’d never seen before. They have a little water funnel station to collect the rainwater. This is what they use to teach the kids the importance of water, light, and healthy soil. A scale shows how much it rained.

I was quite impressed by the worm farm, turning organic material into the best soil fertilizer you will find. Worm composting is using worms to recycle food scraps and other organic material. It becomes a valuable soil amendment called ‘vermicompost’. Worms eat nutrient-rich fruit and vegetable scraps, which become nutrient-rich compost as they pass through their bodies. Compost exits the worm through its tail end. This compost can then be used to grow and fertilize plants. It is one of Paula’s favorite features in the vegetable garden.

After our tour, I followed Paula and the kids at Mary Kihn Primary School during their weekly agriculture class. Paula showed the water funnel to a class of partially deaf children and their translating teacher. She explained some simple gardening and plant growth processes. After that, we weeded the garden together with the kids and added the weed to the worm farm as it can be used to feed the worms. All the children seemed very enthusiastic and interested. It turned our morning at Urban Harvest into a great and super fun experience.

     

Getting to know the food security and urban farming Intern Paula

After our morning with the kids, Paula and I continued working in Urban Harvest’s nursery. In order to plant seedlings, we created mulch by straining soil and mixing it up with constrained coconut fibers and a certain amount of water. While getting my hands dirty with Paula I got to know her a little bit more. I found out that this is not her first time in Africa. After she finished school she spent six months in Namibia. There, she did volunteer work with kids at an orphanage where they also had a small edible garden. This made Paula curious about planting and growing nutritious food. It made her decide to study International Food and Agribusiness.

The food security and urban farming internship perfectly relate to that; it gives her the opportunity to put in practice the theory she learned during her first year of studies. She gained a better understanding of the processes. It helped her to decide which of the three offered domains in her study program to choose. In her upcoming year of studies, she will attend a course that focusses on the ‘crop domain’.

It is also one of Paula’s personal interests as she likes being outdoors in the garden and growing veggies. Her internship experience inspired her to grow her own home edible garden after her time in South Africa. When she proudly presented her own little veggie bed to me I could see what impact the internship had on her and how her own gardening skills developed immensely. Paula told me she would love to continue working in this field. Doing development projects in African communities to secure food access for people and get them involved in growing their own vegetables and plants is one of her future plans. Therefore, this internship is a good first working experience for her.

Also interested in gaining some practical experience in the field of food security and urban farming? Have a look at this internship opportunity.

Having created the mulch, we continued with planting new seedlings at Urban Harvest’s Nursery. I was curious about what Paula’s daily work schedule looks like. She basically has two different types of days. One day, she follows the eco-maintenance team, to maintain home and school gardens in and around Cape Town. Paula finds it pretty cool to see the city from a different side. She gets to visit beautiful hotels, rooftops, schools, and diverse gardens. On other days, she stays at the office and facilitates agriculture classes with deaf and hearing-impaired kids.

I was wondering about the difficulties coming along with this job but, according to Paula, she just finds it different. If she struggles with children understanding her, she can always ask one of their teachers. The kids really want to learn more about it and are quite interested which makes it easier for her. Further, she spends a lot of time at the nursery to plant new seeds, transplant seedlings, weed and refreshes the soil and the mulch. Some of the time she spends on doing research on new plants that clients want to have. Besides these tasks, a report for her university about this food security and urban farming internship keeps her busy. She enjoys the variety of tasks and interesting insights the internship has to offer.

        

A lot of dirty hands and smiling faces at the end of the day

After the lunch break, we visited another junior school which is nearby. We arrive in a beautiful even bigger edible garden where some members of Urban Harvest’s team were busy with garden maintenance. When we joined them, we were immediately surrounded by a group of enthusiastic children eager to help to plant the bean seedlings with us. It was great to see how fascinated the children were by the different colors and forms of the seeds and how they would grow.

After planting and looking for animals (some of the little boys there got very excited hunting a frog) my day with Paula, the Urban Harvest team and the children came slowly to an end. I got to spend an amazing day full of interesting insights and smiling faces. It has been a pleasure for me to join Urban Harvest, Paula and see what it’s like to do food security and urban farming internship.

        

Do you have an interest in NGO Management, like growing your own vegetables and are not afraid to get your hands dirty? We have an exciting opportunity for you!

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