Tag Archive: organic


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.

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I first met Julious Piti and his wife, Taurai Mutembedzi, at their home in Chaseyama in October 2011.  Driving through the dry and dusty valley on the approach, to arrive at the Piti family property provides a surprising contrast.  This is a 14ha permaculture site that acts as a demonstration project for anyone who would like to learn about the benefits of this way of living/farming in such an environment.

Piti registered the PORET Trust with three other expert Board members in 2006, having spent the previous 10 years slowly transforming his land from a rocky desert to a verdant green haven. It is the central hub of Chaseyama Permaculture Club, which has 31 members and developed around the site as the community saw, with their own eyes, the benefits of permaculture.

The project aims to create food, employment and inspiration at the community level. There is a nursery with indigenous trees and herbs, but the main focus is sustainable food production. “People must see that permaculture is not just about planting trees and conserving the environment; we must also grow food and get rid of hunger” said Piti. At Chaseyama, they grow herbs, sorghum, sugar cane, cassava, sweet potatoes, mango, passionfruits, lemons, nartjies and other seasonal vegetables.

They practice zero-tillage, meaning that NO ploughing is done and the soil is minimally disturbed during planting. Bagasse (waste from the sugar cane plants) is used as mulch.  Nitrogen-fixing crops such as sunhemp, pigeon pea and comfrey are grown to organically enrich the soil, rather than applying any artificial fertilizers. In fact, the whole property is ‘organic’, in that no chemicals are applied to the crops.

A key aspect of the land rehabilitation project has been the recovery, harnessing and intelligent management of the local natural water sources and catchment flows. Piti uses swales and tree-planting to reduce soil erosion during the rains. The community are now protecting the forest around the springs to help stabilize the area’s water supply. PORET has a tank atop the hillside, which is fed by one of the natural springs and uses gravity to bring piped water down to the house and garden.

The Permaculture Club is perhaps the most inspiring aspect of this project. It began in the form of “look and learn tours” and internships for local Jinga Village farmers. The project “inspired many farmers and stakeholders to learn non-destructive methods of production, and to participate in the project’s decision making processes (community-based planning)” (www.poret-zimbabwe.org). At Chaseyama, they have created a space in which people can learn and adapt permaculture techniques and methods that improve the quality of community life. Piti stressed that ‘a sense of community ownership’ was essential to a project like this, which can raise local potential and capacity, and transform the socio-ecological environment in a positive way. “People need to learn how to live with their natural resources in a sustainable way, without hunger” said Piti.

In 2007, the project won the National environmental award.  The Trust has a long-term vision of creating an on-site education centre where students or farmers and their families can attend courses and be properly accommodated. They also plan to build a kindergarten and a library.  Piti’s more immediate goals include continuing to expand their outreach program to support farmers in developing their own permaculture systems and also to plant more trees in the Chaseyama area to stabilize the soil and restore the catchment area more widely.

Watch this video for a brief introductory tour of PORET Trust with Julious Piti as your host!