Category: Sustainability initiatives: some case studies


Great article on permaculture in schools project (SCOPE), published in Farming Matters, 18 April 2017. See: https://www.ileia.org/2017/04/18/we-are-not-too-young/

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You are invited to a film showing on The Chikukwa Project at the Alliance Francaise, Harare, on Friday 16th May from 2pm.

The film was made by Australian Researcher Terrance Leahy (University of Newcastle) and his sister, filmmaker Gillian Leahy (University of Technology, Sydney) and looks at the CELUCT agricultural project which has been evolving in the Chikukwa villages of Chimanimani in response to land degradation issues such as deforestation and soil erosion which severely threatened food security in the area in the 1990s. Today, the landscape of the area is transformed with all six villages (7000 people) of the Chikukwa clan using a permaculture strategy for natural resource management, agricultural production and social design founded on participatory engagement of the community. While focussing on food and nutrition security through sustainable agricultural practices, the project also addresses gender, education, HIV/AIDS psyco-social support and community peace-building. 

Terrance Leahy will be available to answer questions about the film.

Please circulate this invitation widely.

Zephaniah Phiri Maseko is a well-known pioneer of what has come to be known as ‘water harvesting’ and is the founder of the Zvishavane Water Project. A visionary with no fear of hard toil, he has over many years transformed his family plot in Msipani- an ‘Area 5’ dryland- into a veritable ‘wetland’ agro-ecosystem. Having faced many struggles in his life, (which are beautifully documented in “The Water Harvester: episodes from the inspired life of Zephaniah Phiri” by Mary Witoshynsky), Phiri began his experiments by modifying the Rhodesian government’s protocol ‘contour ridges’ to create sand traps and water infiltration pits. He sought not only to prevent soil erosion but to ‘harvest’ and ‘plant’ the water that fell as rain or ran as surface runoff on his land.  Looking for a ‘poor man’s method’ that would be useful to himself and other small farmers in the community, he experimented with various ways of capturing water.

A key activity was to dig contour ridges with infiltration pits (or swales) along every field, as well as planting trees here to stabilise the soil and prevent erosion

A key activity was to dig contour ridges with infiltration pits (or swales) along every field, as well as planting trees here to stabilise the soil and prevent erosion

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Storing water is not too difficult; the biggest challenge was to channel water to the right place; the fields. Phiri lay underground channels with pipes and used natural gradients to direct the stored water to his crops.

Storing water is not too difficult; the biggest challenge was to channel water to the right place; the fields. Phiri lay underground channels with pipes and used natural gradients to direct the stored water to his crops.

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…”that streambed I mentioned? Well, today that seasonal stream is a pond. It is quite large, about a quarter of an acre, and the water in it was harnessed over the years by my water harvesting ideas. A pond is a rare thing in this part of our country and many people have come to my farm to see it for themselves. It never goes dry. During drought, people walk as far as five miles to get water here”. (p 42)

 

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As well as sharing his experience of water harvesting, through the Zvishavane Water Project, Phiri encourages organic and permaculture practices such as mulching and composting. “We are also discouraging chemicals. (…) These artificial fertilizers damage our soil. I wish farmers would really understand the importance of using nitrogen-fixing plants in their fields. These would serve the soil for quite some time. (…) People should be encouraged to use composts”. (p 49)

Thanks to his own great endeavours and to support from Oxfam (GB), EEC microgrants and NOVIB, he established the Zvishavane Water Project in 1987 and has since supported the local community in replicating his successes with water harvesting. We can see that there are multiple benefits from the socio-ecological transformations brought by water harvesting; for Phiri, the main goal is self-sufficiency at the community level.

TSURO Trust is an NGO that started in 1999 after communities in Chimanimani started to catch on to value of the work being done, since 1991, by CELUCT in Chikukwa. NGOS and government, together with the community, came together to establish a district-level program to complement CELUCT’s village-level activities. TSURO began without funds but by 2001, had managed to get Kellogg Foundation funding to work in 3 wards (out of a total of 23 wards in the Chimanimani district). They have since been awarded funding by the Weltfriedensdienst (WFD) and Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst (EED), the Japanese Embassy and the Tudor Trust, among others. They are a membership-based organisation with a $5 per village annual fee.

Currently having 30 staff on board, TSURO work in the Chimanimani district focussing on capacity building at the local level. Their mandate involves the application of permaculture for improving food security, nutrition and value-added livelihood activities. They take a holistic approach to agro-food interventions and practice participatory village-based planning. These plans are then consolidated at the ward level and consulted at the district level.
Their philosophy is to start interventions in food security and livelihoods right at the doorstep.

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Rainwater drainage feeds these easily accessible kitchen herbs

They also take the ‘lead farmer’ approach (i.e. training of trainers); they now have about 250 ‘lead farmers’, identified by the community, whom they train in permaculture techniques in order to train others in the community. Frequently organising fieldtrips for communities to learn from each other, they also initiate ‘starter groups’, whereby one community member teaches a small group on a topic about which they are knowledgable and then these groups develop their skills and cultivate different specialisms. Skills are then shared with others through ongoing farmer-to-farmer workshops.
TSURO holds regular workshops and meetings, promoting key permaculture techniques such as the integration of livestock and crop management, as well as agroforestry, mulching and importantly, rainwater harvesting.

Swales channel rainwater along slopes, slowing it down to encourage increased infiltration, trapping it in pits and reducing soil erosion

Swales channel rainwater along slopes, slowing it down to encourage increased infiltration, trapping it in pits and reducing soil erosion

Guttering to harvest rainwater into a storage tank

Guttering to harvest rainwater into a storage tank

These trees provide shade, fruits, soil stabilisation and increased water-holding capacity in the soil

These trees provide shade, fruits, soil stabilisation and increased water-holding capacity in the soil

Trees can also generate income through sales

Trees can also generate income through sales

Mulching increases the water retention of the soil and reduces evaporation

Mulching increases the water retention of the soil and reduces evaporation

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TSURO also promote the use of nitrogen-fixing plants as an organic and low-cost method of soil enrichment. Lucina, sesbania beans, pigeon peas, comfrey and acacias are examples of the plants used for this purpose.

Outreach and training programs encompass irrigation schemes, composting and permaculture home designs. Great work has been done with local township women in Ngangu, Chimanimani, TSURO dedicate much work to the promotion of open pollinated varieties, seeing this as essential for food security. They organise ‘seed fayres’, seed saving and sharing schemes, and run competitions to motivate people to get involved in preserving indigenous seed varieties.

Simple A-frame solar dehydrator under construction at Ngangu home, for drying fruit and veg

Simple A-frame solar dehydrator under construction at Ngangu home, for drying fruit and veg

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They also provide valuable marketing assistance in the form of Temz, which is a private company run by TSURO that buys produce directly from farmers to assist them with processing and distribution. They also help to locate other markets for community production and assist with value-added production. Truck hire is available to members at $0.70/km.

One of their most inspiring projects is the community health initiative, Zunde Tamambo, which brings the permaculture principle of caring for people alive by promoting community support for vulnerable individuals (such as orphans and the elderly) by cultivating food crops on special plots of land on their behalf. Alias Mlambo reported that there is a low adoption rate of permaculture by conventional stakeholders, who have been trained in conventional agriculture and agro-economics. There is resistance among these influential actors and so it has been difficult to influence policy at the national level. However, community level interest in Chimanmani is high; poorer rural people have been more open to seeing the benefits available to them and adopting permaculture principles and techniques.

TSURO fosters a vision of Chimanimani becoming a ‘Permaculture District’. Experience, they argue, has proven the benefits of permaculture for livelihood generation, food security and environmental conservation/rehabilitation in this context. Moreover, they suggest, permaculture is ‘closer to traditional practices’ and its principles and practices foster community-building, encouraging unity and cooperation between people.

This garden project has 42 members and operates on 4 hectares of land in Dewe Village, Matopos. This is in the dry Matebeleland South Province of Zimbabwe. The project is facilitated by the Fambidzanai Permaculture Training Centre in Harare, who provided training in permaculture and business skills, and currently offer on-site support in the form of Mr Crispen Dungeni, who is a FPTC staff member based in the area.

The project focusses on household and community consumption and therefore grows a traditional array of vegetables including chomeolia (kale), spinach, onions and tomatoes. They also practice agro-forestry and so we find pawpaws and banana trees here too. The garden is organic, but the farmers I met on site here were not especially clued up or passionate about this aspect.  The emphasis here was on improving community nutrition and supporting those in need, such as the elderly, AIDS orphans and the sick. Importantly, this is also a livelihood project, generating  income for the mainly female members who cultivate the garden. This makes a huge difference in a place such as Dewe Village, where there is little cash-based employment and families need to find money to pay for school fees and basic goods.

Mpumelelo Organic Community Garden from Pamela Ngwenya on Vimeo.

 

Belinda Sparrow-Smith of Bulawayo undertook a short course in permaculture in South Africa four years ago, specializing in Mandala Domes, or mobile chicken-runs. On her return home, she started a small commercial project in her own backyard, driven by the need to raise funds to pay her children’s school fees.

The project revolves around keeping chickens in mobile domed enclosures, or ‘chicken tractors’ and after moving the chickens, planting organic lettuce and salad crops in the ‘mandala’. Chickens are kept in one mandala for 2-3 weeks, where they naturally fertilize and aerate the soil, picking out weed seeds and preparing the soil for planting. So when the chicken enclosures are moved on to the next mandala, a rich, fertile manure, perfect for planting, is left behind.

Belinda also makes her own organic compost from cut grass, garden and kitchen waste, and cow manure bartered from nearby farmers. No artificial chemical fertilizers or pesticides are applied in this beautiful garden.  Vermiculture (or worm-farming) is practiced, in a ‘lazy’ fashion, says Belinda. This involves keeping a wormery- a breathable box- which has a worm-laden compost layer at the bottom. On top of this, waste kitchen peelings are added. The worms must be kept moist and in the shade to avoid over-heating. The worms digest the organic material and in the process, generate an extremely rich compost that is added to the garden soil.

Compost heap

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Wormery

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Rich vermicompost

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On the outside edge of the salad beds, Belinda often grows other plants to form a barrier, which helps to keep out running grasses. She also grows kitchen herbs in old car tyres and on reclaimed rubble piles. As well as providing tasty additions to the cooking pot, such plants help to stabilise the soil, repel pests and attract pollinators. Other plants are grown for their specific qualities as ‘green manure’.  These are living plants that naturally enrich the soil, such as comfrey and lucerne (also known as alfafa).

Lucerne is an insectary plant; a place where insects congregate. In organic farming, this is considered helpful to other (food/cash) crops when the two are inter-planted. The lucerne attracts predatory and parasitic insects, thereby protecting the lettuce.  Belinda also feeds lucerne to the chickens, who literally jump for it; being protein-rich, it is a great forage crop and helps promote egg growth and strong shells.

Another important aspect of permaculture applied in this garden is agroforestry- integrating the planting of trees with ground crops. Trees provide valuable shade and fruits, as well as stabilizing soil structure and water holding-capacity. They also attract wildlife to the garden, making it a wonderful place for children to learn about and interact with the natural world.

In addition to rotating the chicken domes around the mandala garden, it is also important to rotate plant crops, for example by planting beans/peas for one season, and planting lettuce next time.  Legume crops naturally enrich the soil with nitrogen and such rotation helps to maintain a balanced soil nutrition profile.

The circular mandala design makes the garden really easy to manage; it also makes it a nice place to play and walk around.  Selling to local hotels, restaurants and more recently supplying Food Lovers Market, this commercial home-farm project produces about 1400 lettuce a month, as well as up to 50 delicious free range eggs per day, which are sold to friends and used at home.

Accessing strictly organic food in Bulawayo, as any concerned person is aware, is tricky.   There is a lack of awareness of the benefits of organic food throughout the food chain, from farmer to retailer to consumer. The recent introduction of the ‘Zim Organic’ label- a national organic certification scheme- may help to guide concerned consumers in their food choices.  In the meantime, we must thank conscious producers such as Belinda for their invaluable and delicious contribution of high quality, healthy, organic salads for us to enjoy!

Mountain of Hope is an organic farmers association with a community garden project, founded in 2011.  The project is jointly facilitated by the Fambidzanai Permaculture Training Centre (FPTC) and the Zimbabwe Organic Producers Association (ZOPPA) based in Harare. While the FPTC provides training for the farmers in organic production methods, organisational management and business skills, ZOPPA are working with the farmers to ensure that ‘organic’ criteria are met to the international standard required by the new ZimOrganic certification scheme.

The  farmers in the group democratically elect a committee and regularly hold meetings. They are guided by ‘lead farmers’ who receive trainings from the FPTC and are then required to pass on their skills with the rest of the group.

When I visited the site in May 2012, farmers Catherine Manhando and Rachel Taruvinga told me that the project has been successfully contributing to household food security, firstly by providing a rich variety of vegetables for the family pot, but also through income received via sales of organic produce. The project and project members sell to neighbouring households, nearby boarding schools and to supermarkets in Harare.

The ‘Organic’ movement is not widely recognised in Zimbabwe, although there are important pockets of concern and interest, and therefore a small market does exist. However, the ZimOrganic certification program is still in its infancy and requires much broader publicity. ZOPPA bemoan that organic producers are still unable to demand a premium for their goods, as retailers and consumers are unwilling (and in many cases unable) to pay extra.

However, as can be gleaned from lead farmer Didymus Taruvinga in the short video here, concerns about the health consequences of conventional food production are growing in Zimbabwe, especially given the context of high levels of HIV/AIDS, diabetes, cancers and other serious health issues.

The association members are confident about the sustainability of this project, citing the increasing demand for and awareness about organic produce, the strong support from a local boarding school that purchases from the site, and also the multi-skilled ‘get up and go’…‘we can do this for ourselves’ attitude that the members have cultivated in developing this project. The project also has the full support of local traditional leaders, who allocated the project land on which to develop the community garden.

One of the key challenges identified by the four female farmers that were interviewed here was a lack of policy support at the national or provincial level; government extension services remain staunchly pro-conventional in that they support the distribution of chemical fertilizers and pesticide sprays, yet do not provide trainings in nutrition and organic methods of production.

Other challenges that were cited revolved around a lack of capital to invest in key infrastructure such as fencing, irrigation piping, a water pump, and transport to take their produce to market. The ZimOrganic label requires strict adherence to organic principles and this requires discipline and constant participatory monitoring of member activities, which may also prove to be a challenge should institutional support dry up.

The garden itself was impressive; well-kept beds, mulched and highly productive. They grow a wide variety of upmarket vegetables including baby marrow, broccoli and baby gem squash.  It was interesting to hear how the farmers were incorporating this new range of produce into their own diets as typically, rural Zimbabweans grow and consume mainly spinach, kale, beans, tomatoes, onions, sweet potato, squash and seasonal indigenous vegetables. It is rare to find broccoli and suchlike in a rural community garden project. The farmers here were very positive about their expanding diet and nutritional knowledge base, but the main focus was on selling this range to the more urban markets where a higher profit margin could be reaped.

It was a humbling and encouraging experience to tour this young garden, where community farmers are investing their immense energies in learning and creating something healthy and positive to uplift themselves, foster a healthier nation and protect their environment. The project is in its early days but it is clear to see that this garden is indeed a monumental Mountain of Hope in a landscape of increasing environmental degradation, conflict and human disease. Let’s all hope that this project will continue to rise with the tide of growing ‘organic’ awareness.

Introducing Mountain of Hope organic farmers association, (high resolution) from Pamela Ngwenya on Vimeo.

 

Currently funded by HEKSEPPA, the Methodist Relief Development Fund, HEVOS and Comic Relief, the FTC began as a co-op for small holders and sustainable technologies in 1988, after founders, including John Wilson, went to one of Bill Mollison’s permaculture workshops in neighbouring Botswana. From 1988-1991, the place ran on a trial, experimental basis, establishing itself as a permaculture and sustainable technology demonstration site. In 1991, the FTC was formally established to run outreach programs with other organizations and communities, with a mission to facilitate the adoption of sustainable food security solutions, while addressing environmental problems at the grassroots level.

Government was not much interested initially but, current programmes manager Lewis Mudokwani informed me, they began to buy in after 2007 as the economic crisis proved that permaculture was a more sustainable and viable farming method, particularly for small holders. With no major input costs and a long-term approach to food security, the effectiveness of permaculture techniques are especially striking when times are hard. Today, government extension officers assist the FTC with some of the outreach work and nationally, a diploma in Permaculture has been introduced at Bindura University.

The Centre focusses on connecting indigenous knowledge systems with sustainable livelihood solutions, with nutrition gardens and dryland production being core outreach activities (as can be seen, for example, in Matopos and Wedza). Also promoted are bee-keeping, goat rearing schemes, AIDS-related (immune-boosting) nutrition practices, seed saving and sharing, (market-oriented) enterprise development and rainwater harvesting. The FTC currently have an active climate change awareness program in Matopos schools and are also building a Resource Centre for community level agro-processing, agricultural and marketing information in Kezi.

There is an active and dedicated staff team at the FTC with several members out-posted to incubate projects in different provinces. They adopt a participatory and peer-to-peer communication approach, with farmer exchange visits encouraged. The Centre, as the first major centre for permaculture training in Zimbabwe, has influenced the development of nearly every related project in the country, with many receiving their initial training through/at the FTC. They have worked closely with organisations such as CELUCT, ZOPPA and TSURO.

Today, the Centre remains an inspirational and priceless asset for sustainability education in Zimbabwe, but is facing many challenges. During my visit in 2012, many maintenance issues were pointed out at their offices and demonstration site just outside Harare, (where a rammed earth ‘eco’-building houses the main activities). An elderly transport fleet and rising overheads make operational costs almost impossible to meet, given the decrease in funding since the global financial decline began in 2008. Other challenges for the FTC include the instability and influence of local politics and the gatekeeping culture, where by it is often complicated to roll out training projects for farmers, or for farmers to engage with FTC without long, drawn-out processes of negotiation for permission. More widely, in Zimbabwe, the projects are often curtailed by water shortages, poor transport to markets, existing market limitations, the fact that ‘organic’ protocols are not well- recognized/respected, and a long-term attitude of dependency upon outside donors and NGOs.

After more than 25 years, the Centre staunchly continues against these odds, with the noble goals of: continuing to demonstrate the benefits of permaculture and leading by example; engaging government and other partners to lobby for policy support; increasing accommodation at the Centre to host trainees; increasing community outreach; and becoming self-sustainable in terms of income generation.

Click here to watch a VIDEO about the FPTC

Kufunda is a living, learning village and hosting centre located approximately 40km from Harare. It began as one woman’s personal vision and became a material and collective process of community-building. It is an active residential community that hosts training courses in youth leadership, permaculture, and other sustainable living themes.

Initiator, Marianne Knuth, hails from Zimbabwe but with Danish family on her father’s side, spent many years undertaking her formal education in Denmark. As a student, she was deeply involved with establishing Pioneers for Change. Shaped by living ‘between worlds’ and inspired by collective gatherings of people motivated to create a more sustainable world, Marianne shared her vision of Kufunda with her family in Zimbabwe and negotiated to utilise part of the family farm in Ruwa to begin the task of materialising this vision. She sent a ‘call’ out, by email, to all friends and contacts, communicating her idea for co-creating what has become a “communiversity” and inviting kindred spirits to join her.

Kufunda thus started as a group of 20 or so volunteers, with much emotional and physical support from the Knuth family. Supported by their own vivacious energy and passion, and donations from overseas friends, they began in 2001 by building eco-logical buildings that would form the physical structure of the hosting centre. Diving in with open hearts, Kufunda recruited and hosted their first youth leadership training in 2002.

The centre practices and offers workshops and training in permaculture, herbal medicine, sustainable technologies and leadership skills. Integrated into this, are regular yoga, aikido and other holistic therapies, community development activities and ‘art of hosting’ events. There is now a whole village complex of thatched dormitories and rondovals, A-frame houses, a communal dining room and kitchen, pre-school, classroom, bomas, herb lab and gardens, nestled amidst verdant forests and fields. In summer, you’ll find an uncanny array of wild mushrooms sprouting up from the carpet of dense leaves and rich humus beneath the trees. Cutting down trees for firewood is not allowed here and the ground is not swept bare of all life, for fear of snakes, as in most Zimbabwean homesteads.

The core community comprises of about 15 resident families, who either began as founders or joined after participating in a Kufunda youth program. Different tasks and roles are delegated among the community depending on skill base and interest. There are cluster groups, such as the technology/energy group, the herb team, the permaculture team, and the youth team. There are also paid cooks and pre-school teachers, for working with the resident children and the visiting youth.

The community have a meeting every Monday morning, where a participatory communication and learning model is followed. The group passes an object around their circle gathering, and all respect the sole right of the holder to speak (or not speak) at that time. As the object moves around the circle, each person shares how they are feeling and what has been going on with them in the past week. This patient process is designed to encourage active, democratic participation and the honouring of each person’s unique talent, standpoint and contribution. After this process of ‘tuning in’, tasks and issues are discussed. The cluster groups also have similar, more focussed meetings on a regular basis to plan and deal with their special responsibilities.

A wonderful and pioneering aspect of this community is their human waste management! Early on in its development, the community had to grapple with these ‘toilet’ issues. As a rural project, there is no sewerage or mains water system here. Unlike most other rural communities in Zimbabwe (where unproductive ‘long-drop’ loos and, in some places, open defecation, are the norm), at Kufunda, they recycle human waste (or ‘humanure’) using composting toilets. There are two types of composting loos at Kufunda. One is the ‘arborloo’, where a mobile upper loo is put above a pit, and moved on once the pit is three-quarters full. Topsoil is added and a tree is then planted in the pit. The other type is the twin composting loo, which cycles the process of decomposition and compost production over a period of about two years. Two pits are made inside a permanent outer structure. Once the first pit is full, it is covered with a concrete slab and the other pit is then utilised. After about a year, the excrement in the first pit has decomposed into a safe compost and it can be emptied and used as an organic fertiliser. The cycle continues as the second pit fills. In both of these types of toilet, one puts a few cups of leaves, ash and soil into the loo after use and this helps to ward off evil smells and cover the deposit, as well as aiding the production of a fertile, well-structured compost. In this way, human energy ‘outflow’ is transformed into a valuable input to the agro-ecological system; waste is transformed into non-waste, at no cost.

The village has existed for over 10 years and it has been a changing and challenging journey so far. As with all projects that are embedded in community- indeed, as with anything that involves people working together- conflicts of interest and divergences in opinion have arisen many times. A key challenge has been for individuals to develop full a sense of collective ownership and responsibility. Particularly when times are tough, it has been difficult for some residents to come to terms with the challenges of joining a volunteerist and collective enterprise, given that most of the time, people are living without a salary/income. In hard times, it is all too easy to question one’s own past decisions and current options, or to look to displace responsibility onto someone else, a presumed ‘leader’. But at Kufunda, the goal has been to consciously distribute and collectivize leadership and responsibility at the whole community level. This is a courageous and inspiring model of community living, not without its challenges.

But ultimately, Kufunda is a place of hope. Having first visited in 2011, I have since returned five times and each time, I come away with a sense that despite existing in a context where economic hardship, political unrest and environmental degradation are rampant, another world is possible and is in action here. This is a community that constantly seeks to be together in a way that nurtures and values each individual, while at the same time working to appreciate and sustain ecological life.

Although deeply grounded in a local, place-bound community, this project is very much shaped by contemporary emergences at the international level, such as the internet, social media, the global village concept and the transition movement. This is evident in, for example, the inception of the project through an international email invitation. International volunteers and trainers, researchers and visitors like myself, as well as youth trainees, regularly pitch up and participate, becoming an ephemeral part of the local Kufunda community. Moreover, through social networking sites such as Facebook, such participants are able to maintain an emotional and discursive connection to and involvement with the village. In fact, most of the material donations that fund the youth program and other developments are generated through these online and trans-local connections. Kufunda is thus actively participating in global networks and mobilisations, whilst simultaneously embedded in a unique context and constellation of villagers. In communion and connection with other communities in disparate geographical locations, the village actively experiments with building a more compassionate community, positively transforming relationships and thus creating more holistic, healthy and sustainable socio-ecology. In pursuing this agenda, Kufunda eschews any sense of completion and is instead an exciting place of promise, consciously unfurling like a spiral.

Other resources:

http://kufunda.org/

http://kufunda.org/author/kufunda/

Wheatley, M., & Frieze, D. (2011). Walk out walk on: A learning journey into communities daring to live the future now. Berrett-Koehler Store.

Watch a Kufunda video introduction here!

Ebenezer runs a two year fulltime apprenticeship that enables young people (17-23 year olds) to start and run their own small-scale farm/agribusiness. It has a zealously Christian agenda, with compulsory bible studies and Christian education classes mixed in with a curriculum of business studies, maths, English and agriculture. Mornings are spent in the fields doing practical work, with afternoons spent in lessons.

The Centre has been running since 2007 and is located in Mablauwuni Village in the dry Matopo area of Matebeleland South. It is situated on a farm owned by the family that set up this youth training project.  The development of Ebenezer was largely enabled by the completion of a new dam on the farm, which has allowed irrigated agriculture to take place.

The Centre is co-ordinated by Renee Cunningham and in 2012, there were approximately 30 resident apprentices, all from the local area and not required to pay any enrolment fees. For the first six months, the apprentices gain basic skills in agri-business. The system is quite unique in that it is based in an ‘earn and learn’ principle. That is, after six months, each apprentice is allocated a small plot of land on which to grow their own cash crops (tomatoes, onions, beans, cabbages, etc). At this point, each apprentice is required to contribute $30 a month towards their food and accommodation at the Centre. They each utilise at least three 30mx30m plots and are encouraged to cultivate at least three different kinds of crop.  A contract is entered into between the apprentice and the company (the Cunninghams have a family agro-processing business), who provide the initial agricultural inputs.  They sell their produce to the buyer- a guaranteed market- and split the profits 50:50 until they are able to independently purchase their own inputs and therefore shift into a new contractual (90:10) relationship. By the end of two year period, successful apprentices will have managed to buy their own tools and saved enough to start their own small agri-business when they return home.  The system thus encourages discipline, forward-planning and entrepreneurial behaviour.

The Centre does not teach or promote organic production; they apply chemical fertilisers and pesticides and also use spray irrigation 24-hours a day. (They do encourage the use of mulch, manure and crop rotation). Ebenezer is developing and expanding a broiler chicken enterprise and aim to increase their monthly turnover from 3000 broiler hens sold per month to 8000. The students are graded on the basis of ‘the average Feed Conversion ratio and mortality rate’.  There is clearly not a huge emphasis here on environmental sustainability and holistic health. They are though, committed to supporting the economic and social development of the participating youth and promoting business ethics and entrepreneurial initiatives in the local community.

Introducing Ebenezer Agricultural Training Centre from Pamela Ngwenya on Vimeo.