Johannesburg — Like many nations hit by COVID-19, South Africa has seen rising unemployment and hunger since the onset of the pandemic. The Green Business College is one school that’s addressing these issues innovatively. It gives people the skills they need to grow their own produce and make enough money to support their families as well as their careers.
More than two dozen students are learning skills at a community centre east of Johannesburg that were not common in their grandparents’ generation.
The Green Business College teaches them how to preserve food and organic gardening.
For some, it’s expanding on hobbies discovered during pandemic lockdown.
It is also helping to fuel their entrepreneurial ambitions.
Onkgopotse Seleka was the founder of Uncle OG’s Jams.
” It’s a lost art. My peers are mostly my age. They prefer to buy rather than make. Seleka said, “I want to be in top retailers. I want to possibly make a sustainable living preserving Marula fruits.”
Making an empire of his late grandmother’s jam recipe would be a major career change for the 32-year-old, who currently works for a sporting apparel retailer.
Other students hope the skills will just get them into work.
More than 30 percent of South Africans are jobless.
College CEO Matshepiso Makhabane believes the school’s courses, which include bee keeping, can inspire people to create their own employment opportunities while addressing issues that come with poverty.
” They say that if you give a man fish, he’s fed for the day. But if you teach him how fish, he will be fed for life. It’s all about power. Take back your power and invest it in your soil. It will benefit you so people can buy from you – as well as buy your health,” Makhabane said.
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South Africa suffers from what experts call a “double burden of malnutrition,” experiencing extremes of both hunger and obesity.
Small farms like the one set up by the college are viewed as part of the solution to providing healthy food to communities.
Lise Korsten is a plant pathology professor at the University of Pretoria.
“We believe in shifting people, their whole diet to consuming more fresh produce, to produce more food within the communities,” said Korsten.
“And then obviously, look at food gardens that to us will be a very important critical element of South Africa’s mindset. Korsten said that you should also produce your own food and not rely on the food system.
More than 120 students have studied at the main college in downtown Johannesburg in the past year, while many more have participated in workshops around South Africa.
Graduates have used their creativity to expand beyond selling vegetables and jams.
Tsepiso Moloi’s line of hot sauces include a pineapple-infused variety and a ghost pepper sauce with an extreme kick.
“It starts as a hobby. How do you turn that hobby into a profitable business? The school taught me so much about preservation that I would not have been able for me to do it. It wouldn’t have been possible to maintain the momentum. Because mentorship and coaching keep you alert,” Moloi said.
In less than four months, two butcher shops have asked for her products.