In the face of rising food prices, malnutrition, obesity and poor land management, schools in the Eastern Cape are taking a stand. From the 3rd to the 7th of October, a Permaculture workshop run by School’s Environmental Education and Development (SEED) took place at Project Lulutho, a burgeoning educational hub and resource centre in the centre of the Xhosa community of Mthwaku, 120km north of East London.
Primary and secondary school teachers from Nqamakwe, Butterworth and Umtata came together on the Lulutho campus to gain both theoretical and practical skills, including the ethics and principles of Permaculture, how to plot and design a flourishing garden, conserve and reuse water, make compost, build up soil, conserve nitrogen using an earthworm farm and plant their seeds effectively.
National Coordinator of SEED, Mike Bird commented, ‘The workshop covered a multitude of topics relating to permaculture, environmental education and food security, all with ties to the national curriculum at schools.’
For ten years, School’s Environmental Education and Development (SEED) has been equipping teachers with the necessary skills to grow sustainable gardens in their schools and disseminate the knowledge in their communities.
They have developed a curriculum for environmental education and green entrepreneurship and initiated the creation of many robust outdoor classrooms in under-resourced schools across South Africa. SEED is currently working at 33 schools in 5 provinces across the country.
Every step monitored and evaluated
The SEED outdoor classroom program rolls out at schools over a three-year period. This process is monitored and evaluated every step of the way and aims to capacitate key stakeholders with the skills necessary to maintain the educational, nutritional and economic growth of the Permaculture garden well into the future. SEED’s experienced facilitators work with school educators and learners in this partnership to deliver a curriculum that is an inspiring and unique part of the learning process.
Project Lulutho is a joint venture between the Kay Mason Foundation (KMF), which eliminates educational barriers for disadvantaged South African children in the Western Cape, and the community of Mthwaku, Eastern Cape. In 2008, KMF Chairman, acclaimed novelist Richard Mason and KMF Director, Nelly Tom Bulana travelled through the Eastern Cape and were struck by how much talent was stifled by a lack of resources and training. In partnership with the Mthwaku community, they embarked upon a plan to provide a place for skills transfer and learning and empower rural communities.
Lulutho’s central goal is therefore to create a campus for practical learning and community upliftment in the heart of the Eastern Cape. This includes establishing an ignition centre for small, sustainable businesses, restoring a ravaged eco-system, and providing clean water not only to Lulutho but also to 5000 people in the surrounding villages. Lulutho sits on a bed of aqueous rock with a potential capacity of 100,000 litres of water a day.
Equipping members with practical skills
Along with other planned educational facilities, Lulutho’s entrepreneurial school will equip community members with practical skills, and assist budding entrepreneurs in the start-up and maintenance of their businesses. This has already happened with Luluthoâ€™s Head Gardener, Zibonele Manyathelo, who attended a Permaculture workshop at Lulutho last year, excelled, and was appointed to the Lulutho staff. He has built a flourishing vegetable garden of his own, using the skills he gained at Lulutho, and is now selling vegetables to his neighbours.
Nelly Tom, co-founder and Director of Lulutho said, ‘Our short-term aim is to equip people with the necessary skills to change their lives for the better, and restore the landscape by nurturing the existing eco-system. Long- term we are looking to boost sustainable agricultural and other businesses in the Eastern Cape, and create a replicable model for rural development.’
In the last year alone, over 40 community members at Lulutho have enhanced their skills in Permaculture, traditional building, mud plastering, compost toilet and solar shower construction, mud brick housing and fencing to name a few.
Lulutho and SEED hope this workshop will increase sustainable and productive gardening in Eastern Cape schools and communities, and will continue to work together to ensure this happens.
Workshop Participants quotes:
‘I am learning so much that I can take back to my school. The workshop has been fun and educational and it has been great to connect with other teachers from the region. Now we can plant healthy food to eat in our own gardens. On with Permaculture!’
Nolita Ndiki, Girdwood JSS
‘Thank you to Lulutho and SEED for organizing this workshop. I thought planting a garden was very difficult, but now I see we can do it easily and I am looking forward to teaching my new knowledge to my students. I would definitely come back for another workshop. Thank you for looking after us so well, the food has been delicious!’
Tongiwe Feleza, Ngcisininde
‘This workshop has been multi- purpose. Firstly it is too preserve the environment and create food security in the Eastern Cape. We see so much soil eroded here and vegetation dying and now we can change that. Permaculture is going to create job opportunities for the surrounding communities, which are mostly poor. And we have been equipped with new skills to alleviate poverty in our communities. It has been a great learning curve and many friendships have been made. This is a new beginning for us. Thank you Lulutho and SEED!’
Saddaam Khwatsha, Esithemeni JSS
‘We need more workshops like this! There is still so much to be done in our communities, and we have to apply this knowledge of farming and Permaculture. Thank you for the opportunity. I have made many friends and the Lulutho and SEED teams have hosted us so well!’
Lindiwe Manquina, Ngcisininde