Give a man some vegetables, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to grow food, and you feed him for a lifetime.
Photo Cred: Knysna Initiative for Learning and Teaching (KILT)

Give a man some vegetables, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to grow food, and you feed him for a lifetime.


Knysna, South Africa (21 January 2021) – This is a remarkable story about an organisation in Knysna that serves the 17 schools and the 13 000 children in the district and is now creating sustainable food gardens in homes!

Many of the children in the Knysna Initiative for Learning and Teaching (KILT) schools are from disadvantaged communities.

The story began in 2016 with Gill Marcus asking the principals to outline the greatest needs that an education partner could endeavour to meet. The Knysna Initiative for Learning and Teaching was born out of that conversation and was registered as an NPO in April 2017. KILT began by funding teacher and auxiliary staff posts. This immediately addressed the large class sizes and reduced the teacher to learner ratio. KILT also upgraded ablution facilities and provided safety patrol officers to ensure learner safety on the school grounds.

By 2020, KILT was delivering 20 other projects at all levels of the school system: 52 teachers; 42 key auxiliary positions including safety patrols; 136 specialists who deliver psycho-social programmes, remedial and reading support, vocational counselling for learners, study clubs, Maths and science support, a scholarship programme, teacher and leadership development and e-learning and ICT support. This represents significant growth in a short period of time.

KILT’s heart was revealed at the start of lockdown when it responded with agility and determination in addressing food scarcity for school children and families identified as needy.

Working with the Knysna Municipality and other NGOs in our town, food parcels were distributed.  In addition, around 4500kg of chicken, purchased at cost, was supplied weekly to supplement school feeding and registered soup kitchens.  By mid-November, 85 670kg of chicken had been supplied, providing essential protein for feeding scheme participants and designated soup kitchens. Per month, 130 000 meals were served.

Food gardens at schools and in the community contribute to food security.

KILT recognised the potential of school vegetable gardens to contribute sustainably to the feeding scheme. Six gardens were identified, and existing school gardeners further supported with additional gardeners, expertise and training, seeds and seedlings, compost and fertiliser. All the school gardens quickly began contributing vegetables to the kitchens once or twice a week, adding variety to the menu.

Key to the project’s success was the development of positive relationships with the gardeners, groundskeepers, and teachers involved in school gardens. Understanding each gardener’s background knowledge and how they work created the essential basis for cooperation and unity of vision. Their passion, effort, and willingness to participate and contribute were key to the project’s success.

Knysna Initiative for Learning and Teaching (KILT)
Photo Cred: Knysna Initiative for Learning and Teaching (KILT)

Gardeners from each school learned about sustainable practices such as composting, mulching, natural fertilising, and seed saving from a local permaculture expert during a workshop aimed at encouraging long term sustainability. An atmosphere of excitement and hope has combined with a new foundation of sustainable practices, giving the gardens and their gardeners the tools for long term sustainability and productivity.

Carol’s Story ‘Planting it Forward.’

Sonja Thomas, of the KILT/Hero Parenting Support Project, saw how significantly COVID-19 impacted on income and finances in communities and decided to start household gardens. She invited parents from schools in the Hornlee area to participate, and so the ‘planting it forward’ idea began.

The group is aimed at creating a garden in every household; the whole family takes responsibility for the garden and uses it as a safe space to connect as a family. Gardens and children reflect the level of care received. KILT/Hero provides seeds and seedlings, as well as workshop facilitation by passionate garden experts. Sonja started a WhatsApp group where participants encourage each other and share daily advice regarding gardening and positive family life.

“This is the story of Carol, a single mother who joined the garden support group in September 2020 and participated in the first vegetable garden training.  Carol was one of the first parents to share what an impact the family garden support group made in her and her daughter’s lives. She was looking forward to spending quality time with her daughter. She is a keen flower gardener but challenged herself to start a vegetable garden to her cut her food budget and to eat more nutritiously. She attended monthly meetings where she received seeds, compost and gardening advice.  Initially, the soil was very dry, but Carol wheelbarrowed soil from the forest to overcome that obstacle. She’s catching rainwater to water her garden and is planning on extending her garden in future.”

The support group in the spirit of ‘planting it forward’ believes in sharing seeds and seedlings with friends, family and neighbours. Carol has influenced a few of her neighbours already. Carol uses herbs from her garden every day. Recently she enjoyed potatoes and salad from her own garden and was very proud of herself and her daughter.  Carol uses herbs from her garden daily and finds this a very satisfying achievement.

Investing in education changes the lives of young people. It’s the most important contribution you can make to our shared future. To find out more or to get involved, or to donate visit or call +27 (0)44 382 7508, or email:

Sources: Knysna Initiative for Learning and Teaching (KILT)
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Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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