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Kwandi Paliso photographed in front of the Umlibo artwork.

Kwandi Paliso

Climate adaptation and local food security

The threat of the climate crisis is growing, and for rural Hamburg dweller Kwandi Paliso, some solutions lie in ancient practices like growing, rearing, and harvesting your own diverse range of food.

Colourful vegetables of all shapes and sizes have formed the backdrop to her home life since she was born and working the soil comes as second nature.

“I was born in 1976,” she says, “And I grew up working a lot in the garden even as a little girl, ploughing vegetables. When I got married, my husband and I used to work together on our food garden. We had a bigger piece of land by then. So, you can see, this has always been part of my life.”

She also harvested various intertidal marine species – like mussels and abalone before it became illegal – and grew up in a community where livestock was always in the picture.

The passage of time, however, has changed the shape of Kwandi’s life and the environment itself.

She says that today, many people in her village cannot afford food for their livestock.

“The animals are not in good condition and they are not breeding as they should. In the olden days, we didn’t have to buy food for the livestock,” she says.

As she embroiders her story with words, she remembers that her chickens need feeding – just another duty as she plays the many roles of mother, grandmother, gardener, artist, livestock keeper and friend to many others in her community.

“We used to plough vegetables in fields that were fenced off. But now, the fences have been vandalised so the livestock roam around and often come to eat and mess up the home gardens. I blame the men in the community – they are the ones vandalising.”

She has managed to keep her garden fenced off and intact but that requires daily attention.

“My family eats from the garden. I also sell lettuce. I used to do sweet potatoes, but moles were eating them, so I stopped.”

Like many women in the community, she worries about the children losing interest and gaining no skills in growing food.

“By the time our grandchildren reach adulthood, it will be worse. They don’t want anything to do with the garden. They are only interested in screens and phones, but they are the ones who are going to feel the impact of climate change the most.”


  • Around 80% of those most at risk from climate-induced crop failures and hunger are in sub-Saharan Africa and certain regions of Asia.
  • The industrialised global food system is responsible for a third of greenhouse gas emissions, second only to the energy sector.
  • The way in which we currently produce food threatens both the environment and human health.

Kwandi Paliso takes pride in the ancient art of backyard gardening and wishes the next generation would too.

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