Nelson Mandela Day

One of the world’s most influential leaders of all time has proven that great leadership begins with a servant heart. Nelson Mandela’s legacy is characterised by his humility, passion for people, equality and serving.

Not only did Mandela serve the nation as South Africa’s first democratic president but he also played an instrumental role in fostering a spirit of nation building and togetherness.

Madiba encouraged every individual to take responsibility and be the change they want to see. One area we can bring about positive change is through our fight against climate change which is impacting numerous areas of life including food security.

Climate change threatens to reverse the progress we have made towards eradicating hunger and malnutrition. The increased frequency of heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones and wildfires make it difficult for farmers to grow food.

This year’s emphasis for Mandela Day, under the theme “It is in your hands”, focuses on how we can harness our individual strengths and work together as a nation to create a climate-friendly environment as well as address food insecurity.

Your actions this Mandela Day can build the necessary impetus to fight climate change and ensure food security. Together we can change our climate trajectory by adapting a more climate-friendly lifestyle.

We can take practical steps to reduce our carbon footprint and save the earth through simple actions in our own homes. This includes turning off lights and devices not in use, taking shorter showers, avoiding the use of plastic bags and recycling. By recycling we re-use materials which means less energy is required and less pollution is created.

To reduce the emission of harmful greenhouse gases that damage the environment, we can utilise public transport, a bicycle or car-pool more often. As we transition into a greener environment, we can switch to energy efficient products in our homes and utilise solar power.

Another way to reduce our carbon footprint is through planting trees in our communities which helps reduce carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. This Nelson Mandela Day targets the planting of one million trees, 60 per cent of which are fruit trees.

By planting a tree this Mandela Day, we not only respond to climate change, but also to the challenge of food security. When trees are planted, the soil structure improves, creating an environment for fresh agricultural produce to flourish.

South Africans can play their part in securing our food supply through home or community food gardens. Our country is rich with various indigenous foods and leafy vegetables such as Amaranthus, African nightshades, pumpkin, cabbage and spinach which can be planted and cultivated at home.

Moreover, fresh organic vegetables are a central part of a healthy diet and home grown foods that are free from pesticides play a vital role for our health. Apart from health benefits, a home or community garden can save you money on your monthly grocery bill and minimise food wastage as you use only what you need.

We also encourage citizens, especially those who are in rural farming to consider indigenous food crops such as Dried Cowpea, Wild Medlar, Delele and Morula fruit. These foods offer a good alternative to maize, wheat, rice, potatoes and beans.

If every person plants a small garden in their home it can snowball into communities across the country providing for themselves and meeting their substance needs. Your garden can also provide fresh nutritious produce for those who may not otherwise afford it, and in doing so helps relieve hunger.

These simple actions of every individual can pave the way for food security. By planting trees and lending a helping hand this Mandela day, we can slowly uplift our communities out of poverty and transform our environment.

“It is in your hands” to make a difference and leave a positive impact on the earth.  We call on all South Africans to heed to the call to action and make this Mandela Day a fruitful one, as we honour the legacy of Madiba.

Tasneem Carrim is a Chief Director: Policy & Research at the Government Communications and Information System