Urban Agriculture: A Pathway Out of Poverty

Grasmere, Johannesburg

The Meriting Urban Farming Hub, situated in Grasmere, Johannesburg, is a testament to the transformative power of community-driven initiatives. This case study explores how this hub emerged, evolved, and continues to make a positive impact on its community through urban farming.

Inception and partnership

In July 2022, the Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) partnered with the Industrial Development Corporation‘s Social Employment Fund to undertake two vital projects: “Urban Farming Hubs” and “Informal Settlements Profile Data.” This collaboration aims to equip communities across different South African provinces with the required skills and resources to execute the projects. The central objective was to establish 40 urban agriculture farm hubs in five municipalities, in the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, North West, and Free State provinces.

About the Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC)

The Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) is a formally registered non-profit organisation (NPO) that supports the social, strategic and administrative practices of FEDUP and ISN. CORC’s support to FEDUP and ISN includes savings, data collection, peer-to-peer learning exchanges, community-based planning for projects and engaging with government, funders and other actors. CORC’s mission is to support poor communities that are willing and able to help themselves.

The Meriting Urban Farming Hub’s journey

Located in Grasmere, the Meriting Urban Farming Hub started its journey with immense dedication and a passion for urban farming. The hub embraced innovative water-saving and soil optimisation technologies, such as growbags that uses wicking to efficiently water crops. This commitment was driven by a collective desire to make the farming process effective and beneficial for the entire community.

Community impact

One of the most significant outcomes of this initiative so far, is the hub’s ability to support disadvantaged households. By donating vegetables, strawberries, and peanuts, the Meriting Urban Farming Hub has contributed to the wellbeing of underprivileged families in the community. This act of generosity exemplifies the hub’s commitment to creating positive social change.

The role of the Social Employment Fund

With guidance and support from the Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (Fedup), the 40 workers at the Meriting Urban Farming Hub embarked on a path to financial empowerment. Each worker started saving a minimum of R20 per month. This diligent savings strategy enabled them to initiate a pig farming project. At present, the hub is home to four pigs, one of which recently gave birth to four piglets in October 2023, with two more expected to give birth soon.

Sustainability and expansion

The Meriting Urban Farming Hub remains committed to its mission of self-sufficiency and community support. The ongoing savings initiatives aim to facilitate the expansion of the hub’s farming activities. By ensuring sustainability, the hub aspires to continue thriving even after the SEF program concludes. This long-term vision includes plans to engage more unemployed youth and extend assistance to other informal settlements looking to embark on their urban farming journey.

Gratitude and community impact

The hub expresses its profound gratitude to the Social Employment Fund (SEF) for the life-changing opportunity that has not only touched the lives of participants but also benefitted the entire community. The hub’s ability to provide support to impoverished families, coupled with its goal of offering hope to young people who may have lost it due to challenging living conditions, exemplifies the far-reaching positive impact of the SEF programme. In the process, it contributes to reducing crime and suicide rates, instilling hope and dignity, and uplifting communities.


In addition to SEF, the hub acknowledges the pivotal role played by Fedup in introducing them to the concept and power of saving. With approximately R40,000 in their business account, the Meriting Urban Farming Hub is poised to explore new opportunities and business ideas that will sustain its operations and continue to make a meaningful impact on the community. This is a classic example of how a social employment programme can create a pathway out of poverty.

FEDUP Does It Again – Women In Savings

Following a prolonged period of seeking assistance and transformation, a recently established savings collective known as Fikile Bomama, situated in Kwamashu (Gobogobo), comprises approximately 100 participants, with 90% of its members originating from the nearby community and placing their faith in the efficacy of saving. At long last, the arduous wait has come to an end subsequent to numerous attempts to contact the department of agriculture through phone calls, letters, and emails. The department has pledged its support to the savings collective and, as a demonstration of this commitment, has provided the ensuing equipment:

  • Wheelbarrows
  • Bush knives
  • Jojo Tanks
  • Gloves
  • Hoes and hose pipes.

Besides the tools, such as Jojo tanks, the department also provided the group with a variety of seeds, including lettuce, spinach, broccoli, and mealies. In September of 2023, when rain meets garden, a new hope emerges. This group of determined savers can’t be stopped. “Wathinta abafazi” knock knock… we’ll knock until the doors open.

SDI hosted its Annual Board Meeting and Secretariat sessions

SDI Board and Secretariat hosted a collection of meetings from 19-23 April 2022 at the SDI Secretariat in Cape Town.  

In attendance, SDI hosted its Board of Directors, which is chaired by Joseph Muturi, national leader of Muungano wa Wanavijiji, the Kenyan Slum Dweller Federation. The majority of Board members are slum dweller leaders, augmented by SDI-affiliated and independent professionals with expertise in key priority areas. 

[caption id="attachment_13468" align="aligncenter" width="660"] SDI’s Board and Secretariat hosted a series of sessions to reflect on the previous Strategic Period and the way forward. (BACK ROW) Charlton Ziervogel, Cher Petersen, David Sheridan, Ariana Karamallis, William Cobbett, Theresa Rodriguez, Austen Nenguke, James Tayler. (MIDDLE ROW) Martha Sibanda, Beth Chitekwe-Biti, Esperance Ayinkamiye, Tamara Merrill, Skye Dobson. (FRONT ROW) Anna Muller, Margaret Bayoh, Emily Mohohlo, Joseph Muturi, Mikkel Aagaard Harder, Xola Mteto. (PHOTO: James Tayler)[/caption]

Get to know our Board of Directors here. 

The introductory sessions spanned two days and served as an opportunity for the Board and Secretariat to reflect on SDI’s 2018-2022 Strategic Plan, the State of SDI today, how we got here, and our key priority areas moving forward. 

The sessions took a reflective and introspective look at the management of SDI’s Secretariat from 2018 to date and the tremendous progress made since the 2019 systems audit by Sida, one of SDI’s funding partners, highlighted major shortcomings in our internal controls and governance practices. As outlined previously, SDI immediately identified and took a number of critical actions and has spent the subsequent two years engaging in a process of comprehensive organisational turnaround to reactivate, rebuild and strengthen SDI’s Secretariat and governance structures. This week of meetings marked a critical juncture in this process as the first in-person meeting of the newly established SDI Board of Directors and the first meeting between the new board and its Secretariat. 

SDI’s Programmatic Work

The Board and Secretariat also reflected on the network’s programmatic work over the past two years and the Secretariat’s role in supporting affiliates in this regard. SDI affiliates presented impressive work on climate adaptation and resilience, Covid-19 recovery and response, youth inclusion, human settlements and slum upgrading. Additionally, the Secretariat presented a number of key pieces of work, including a comprehensive Communications Strategy, the development of a Youth Inclusion Framework and activities in a variety of global spaces including the Gobeshona Conference on Locally Led Adaptations (27 March – 1 April), COP26, and more. 

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Additional pieces of work presented during the week include efforts towards the development of a comprehensive Business Development Strategy prioritising the hiring of a business development manager, rebuilding funder relationships and diversifying the funder base, and plans for a participatory review of our 2018-22 Strategic Plan and development of a strategy for the 2023-27 period. We aim to conclude the review by the start of the fourth quarter of 2022, with the new plan adopted by the Board and Council in the first quarter of 2023. 

The week concluded with a Donor and Partners Meeting where SDI’s institutional strengthening and programmatic work over the past year was presented to our donors and partners by SDI Board members, Secretariat staff, and federation leaders. While most of the donors, partners and affiliates joined the meeting virtually, it still provided a critical opportunity for the SDI network and many of its key supporters to gather together to review the work done to date and chart a way forward to future support. This offered a critical moment for SDI in our efforts to continue building the trust of our donors and partners.   

To request more information of the minutes of these meetings, please email Cher@sdinet.org 

Building Support for the People’s Process

By Blessing Mancitshana and Patience Phewa, CORC South Africa 

Editor’s note: South African slum dwellers that are part of the Informal Settlement Network (ISN) and the Federation of the Urban Poor (FEDUP) traveled to Namibia on 6-9 August to learn and support an enumeration exercise in the city of Swakopmund. As the Community Organization Resource Centre’s (CORC) Blessing Mancitshana and Patience Phewa write, the activities are of particular note because of the extent to which the local communities controlled and took ownership of the activities, as well as the enthusiasm displayed by local government officials to support this people-centered process.


The first activity was attending to the Swakopmund Municipality meeting where the DRC  (Democratically Relocated Community according to the Municipal official) enumeration exercise was briefed. In the evening of the first day, the team attended to a community meeting where they were planning for the presentation of the preliminary results of the enumeration to the municipality of Swakopmund.  The community prepared the program for the day. This enumeration was conducted by the community members with some assistance from the councillor’s office; it took the members two months to run the exercise. All the enumerators who took part in the data collection exercise from the beginning up to the end were rewarded certificates for their work by the mayor of Swakopmund. The community used to have some saving schemes but of late all of them are extinct, the Federation women of Namibia also assisted in mobilising the community about the importance of savings. 

On the second day of the exchange, presentation of the results to the municipality representatives (who included the mayor, councillor, town planner and even the governor) was done. The meeting took place in the DRC settlement with more than two hundred community members taking part in the meeting. The governor acknowledged the importance of the work which was done by the community, also stressed that this whole activity of enumeration has the potential of lifting the community into another level. The town planner has some previous experience with SDFN, he also promised to work hand in hand with the community especially around the planning related issues.

All the results which were presented during the meeting were calculated manually by the community members. From the South African delegation to Namibia, a great difference was noted since the results take a prolonged period to be presented and mostly they have little reflection of community efforts since they are presented professionally. All the results are written on big charts and then presented in the meeting. The community really demonstrated some ownership of the whole process that they did not wait for NHAG (Namibia Housing Action Group) to do everything for them. The community was advised to form a community team that will follow up all the proposals made by the officials from municipality.

The third day of the exchange was centred on savings, the team was divided into two groups where the other group visited the backyarders at the Hadama |hao community, whilst the other group revisited DRC settlement to assist in setting up a new saving scheme. A new saving scheme was set up in DRC and was named “Promise.” A brief discussion about basic ways of running a saving scheme was held with the members of the new saving schemes. The team was also briefed on how to mobilise other members in the community for them to participate in savings. Some of the backyard saving schemes now have a piece of land with houses which they are paying for on monthly bases.  The land is being serviced by the municipality.  They have problems in the repayments of their loans from some members, and it was concluded that the group will be supported by the other backyard groups.  The other backyard group which are still saving are waiting for blocks of land which were allocated to them.  The land is already planned, but the area still need streetlights.

Walvis Bay

On the same day the team visited Walvis Bay, Kuisebmond settlement where there are other Federation saving communities. The team attended to the Savings meeting which was attended by seventeen saving schemes. Each and every saving scheme present gave a brief report of their social situation and financial status. Most of the members indicated that they were only saving for a house; however, they did not have a clear outline of plans on how to transform their savings into housing and other social issues. Most of the saving schemes are made up of backyard dwellers. In order for them to push their housing agenda, the saving schemes were advised to plan and conduct an enumeration which will help them in bringing in more people and at the same time stimulating the community to take up action for their own development. The community of DRC in Swakopmund and other Federation members were to assist in the proposed planning and implantation of the enumeration. Whilst in Kuisebmond, the team visited a settlement where SDFN houses are being constructed; however, one of the structures caused a lot of controversies especially about its size which was far bigger than the expected size of SDFN houses.

Important observations of the S. African team in the exchange

  • The community manually work on their information to get the preliminary results ( a faster way)

  • Presentation of the results to the other community members and the municipality is done by the community itself

  • The community prepares the agenda of the first meeting / engagement with the municipality

  • Results are presented manually by the community so as to maintain the community taste in the whole exercise

Implementation of the lessons learnt

  • The results presentation and preparation methodology observed in Namibia to be implemented in KZN at Umlazi township, Ezakheleni community and in Dunbar settlement