Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

A little taste of Africa at GOTAFE

Members of Shepparton's African community have created a produce garden at the Goulburn Ovens Institute of TAFE William Orr Campus.

RIAHN SMITH December 7, 2012 2:22pm

Haroun Kafi in the African plant garden at GOTAFE's William Orr campus.

Thon Thon has recreated a little patch of his homeland, right here in Shepparton.

With the help of the Goulburn Ovens Institute of TAFE and members of the local African community, the Ethnic Council of Shepparton and District community development officer has cultivated a plot of land to grow traditional African produce.

The community garden, based at GOTAFE’s William Orr campus, boasts traditional African plants such as rigila and mulukhiya (leafy greens, often used in soups or salads) as well as the more familiar tomatoes, zucchinis and maize.

Mr Thon said the inspiration came from feedback about the lack of access to native goods in the region.

‘‘A lot of people ... have to go to Melbourne most of the time to get the (food) ... but we don’t get it fresh, we get it from China or other parts of the world (and) it comes in a pack,’’ he said.

‘‘We say, ‘ok, they’re not grown here’ ... we tried (growing) it in our backyard and it worked well so we thought we needed to do this.

‘‘Now, instead of driving to Melbourne all the time it will be easy to come and grow what you want to grow and use it yourself.’’

Mr Thon said about 18 people, across all sections of Shepparton’s African population, were regularly involved in the garden — some of whom will get the chance to complete a Certificate II in Agriculture as part of their contribution.

‘‘We try to do it as part of community activities for those who are not able to work,’’ he said.

‘‘(They can) just come here and try to exhaust themselves and go home happy.

‘‘It’s very good.

‘‘It will give them the opportunity if they want to work in a farm or if they want to ... make it into a commercial business.’’

Mr Thon said it had been a lot of work to get it up and running but he was pleased to see the crops thriving in a new environment — almost as well as they would have in Africa.

‘‘The summer crop — okra and mulukhiya — this weather, that’s what they like.

‘‘They don’t like cold, so at this time of the year it’s just like Africa and they like that.’’

But he did admit that the often chilly mornings in this part of the world have posed a bit of a problem.

‘‘When there is frost and a bit of cold, they change,’’ Mr Thon said.

‘‘But we don’t want to use the (chemical) sprays, we want to treat them traditionally.’’

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