Students at Stellenbosch University’s (SU) Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) are celebrating the student life ‘sweet spot’ in the form of a lush vegetable garden, which they have been taking care of over the past two years.
In 2019, the FMHS, which is based at Tygerberg Campus, introduced a Vegetable Garden Club, offering students in its medicine and health sciences programmes, some ‘green time’ in the sun and therapy in the form of gardening. In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic threatened to scupper plans to regularly tend to the garden, but students based at the campus have continued to nurture it, and in the face of a pandemic that’s changed the way everyone interacts with one another, found the experience life-changing.
Nthabiseng Xashimba, a final-year MBChB student who lives in Ubuntu House residence, said: “I’ve realised how great it is to always be in and around this garden. I can honestly say being a part of this garden project is one of my top five best university experiences.” She said the vegetable garden, which is located next to the sports field on Tygerberg Campus, made the lockdown, which commenced in March 2020, more bearable. “It’s an amazing space and a great bonus is that it comes with awesome people. We are all different and our paths would not have crossed if it wasn’t for the garden club.”
The Vegetable Garden Club was founded in 2018 by the Dean's Advisory Committee on Environmental Sustainability (DACES) in an effort to introduce even more green spaces at the university's Tygerberg Campus. Over the course of the two years, the Vegetable Garden Club has come to stand for more than just a green space on campus. It is a space students can use to cope with stress, form and strengthen relationships and play a role in fulfilling other students' basic needs, all while interacting with the natural surroundings.
Hannah van Stelten, a BNurMid student at the FMHS, said she signed up to join the garden club on the spur of the moment. “This little growing community consists of wholesome, beautiful characters who have taught me much about what it means to contribute to sustainable and holistic living. From planting basil seedlings, to setting up bamboo poles from scratch for sweet pea sprouts to latch onto, to inventing ways to ward off peckish moles and guinea fowl, to visiting Princess Vlei for a clean-up session. I am thankful to have found this sweet spot on campus and I am excited about its growth.”
Naledi Khoali, an MBChB V student said the garden at Tygerberg Campus has truly become her ‘happy place’.
Christine Groenewald, Tygerberg Campus’ DACES coordinator said the whole idea of separating food from the rest of the campus’s waste stream is to reduce the amount sent to landfill. “Having reworked to compost that we can use in our campus garden, and of course in our vegetable garden, closes this cycle beautifully.” The DACES also successfully executed on the planting of new trees on Tygerberg Campus in May this year to commemorate the lives of the staff and students lost over the course of the past year.
The DACES have been working hard to reduce the amount of total waste to landfill over the past three years. The statistics show that their efforts are paying off with the amount of waste to landfill steadily reducing over time. Below are the statistics for Tygerberg Campus:
TYGERBERG CAMPUS WASTE STATISTICS
May 2019 to April 2020:
Total waste produced for the year 178 495 kg
Total waste to landfill 71 373 kg (40% of total waste)
Total recyclables 90 240 kg (51% of total waste)
Total organic waste (food) 16 882 kg (10% of total waste)
May 2020 to April 2021:
Total waste produced for the year 147 385 kg
Total waste to landfill 47 206 kg (32%)
Total recyclables 97 895 kg (66%)
Total food waste 2284 kg (2 %)