Ensuring food security through permaculture gardening

Since 30 January, EduPlant, the national programme that teaches educators, learners and communities how to sustainably grow their own food, has been rolling out 45 workshops across all nine provinces.  The workshops will teach participants permaculture gardening methods as a viable means of addressing food security in South Africa.

EduPlant is the South African schools’ food gardening and greening programme and competition that was started by national greening and food gardening social enterprise FTFA in 1994.  It began as a simple greening competition in Gauteng province only and has now developed into one of the most effective national school programmes in the country, focusing on sustainable development through greening and permaculture food gardening.  EduPlant has three funders, namely Absa, Engen and the Woolworths Trust, while FTFA coordinates the programme nationally.

“Permaculture is now seen by many schools to be a definite way forward for food security and improved natural resource use and management. It has given hope to many for a brighter and more sustainable future,” says Joanne Carty, EduPlant Programme Manager.

The programme encourages youth to live in harmony with the environment while reaping the benefits of healthy food and a more eco-conscious lifestyle.  The National Department of Basic Education supports the initiative as it means the learners who are fed from the permaculture food gardens are better able to learn.

In 2011, EduPlant focused on imparting skills through a series of cluster workshops to allow local schools to share information and knowledge.  36 clusters were identified around the country. Up to fifty schools in a vicinity participated in each cluster.  A series of six workshops will take place at each of these identified clusters.  The main themes being covered at these workshops include: Effective garden design and layout; soil and fertility; cultivation; staple food systems; health, food and nutrition; plant propagation and seed saving; integration of trees and Introduction to global warming.  During the workshops schools were also provided with plant materials, seeds, trees and educational resources to help to make their permaculture food gardens more sustainable.

The workshops equip educators and parents across the country with the necessary skills to allow them to cultivate permaculture gardens in their own schools and, in this way, help address food shortages in their communities.  Many of the educators who have participated in previous workshops have become so engaged in the permaculture way of gardening that they share their new found skills, resulting in more gardens and more sustainably grown food in their communities.

Food security is an urgent issue with millions in Africa going to bed hungry every night and this will be exacerbated by climate change. It is thus vital to teach communities, and especially the youth, that for minimal financial investment they can sustainably and independently grow their own good food and improve their quality of life,” says Jeunesse Park, Founder of Food & Trees for Africa.

Even though the workshops are aimed at educators, the success of the permaculture food gardens often depends on a team effort which ropes in learners, community members and parents.

The school’s permaculture garden then becomes a rallying point for various sectors of the community to work towards a shared objective – literally benefiting from the fruits of their labour.

All schools participating in the workshops have the opportunity to enter the EduPlant competition this year.  Schools stand the chance of winning great prizes as well as a trip to Gauteng for representatives of the 60 finalist schools in October where they will spend four days in exciting workshops and presentations aimed at broadening their skills before the overall winners are announced.

Orange trees for Indigo

Chartered Wealth Solutions gives back

On the 24th of September 2011, as part of the Moving Planet initiatives around the world, Indigo Skate Camp set out to plant 111 orange trees in and around the Zulu village of Isithumba in the Valley of 1 000 Hills, Durban.

This was an ideal follow up from a Plant-For-The-Planet visit to Indigo Skate Camp in August to promote growing trees to offset carbon emissions.  Through a partnership with Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA), Chartered Wealth Solutions was able to provide Indigo with an abundance of trees.

Chartered Wealth Solutions assist their clients in retiring successfully by firstly, determining their life goals and dreams; a vision of the life they want to lead in retirement, and then, by designing a unique and thorough retirement plan that can fund this vision.

We encourage our clients to consider fulfilling the non-monetary areas of their lives when planning their retirement.  ‘Giving back’ is just one of the eight areas on our ‘wheel of balance’ for achieving a successful retirement.  For this reason, we have decided to donate the money that would have been spent on end of year gifts for our clients, to Indigo Skate Camp.  We are delighted to be supporting this initiative, together with and on behalf of our clients.” says John Campbell.

On 24 September, there was a great turnout with over 80 Plant-For-The-Planet ambassadors aged between 5 and 20 who were there to plant for their future health and the health of their planet.

Says Dallas Oberholzer, CEO of Indigo Skate Park, “It seems a bit incongruent preaching to some of the lowest impact people on our planet about living a sustainable lifestyle when they have such a comparatively low ecological footprint. But this message needs to be taken everywhere as we can all contribute to the survival of our planet and its inhabitants.”

This initiative will have direct benefits for the community at large particularly during the winter months when immune systems are weaker.  The typical diet in this community lacks fresh food intake.

A note on the skate park…

The idea of introducing skateboarding to a rural Zulu community has proved to be a stepping stone to the opportunities tourism (and a skate camp) can provide.  Skateboarding to our expanding group of youths is more than a fun activity, it is a way to meet friends from faraway places, develop social skills and learn firsthand about the hospitality industry.

The local Zulu chiefs in the valley have given their blessings to the project and have given further land to build a concrete skate park and further accommodation.  There is also a fledgling organic farming project as they would like to have a low impact effect on the natural environment. Intending to live in balance with nature and respect the ancient knowledge and customs of the Zulu nation is the credo of this NGO.

 

Feed Africa

Food and Trees for Africa launches Farmer Eco-Enterprise Development Programme (FEED AFRICA)

The global crisis in food prices has made substantial headlines, obviating the need for detailing its severity.  Suffice to say global maize and wheat prices have soared by up to 80% in the last year, and the price of rice has doubled.  One billion on the planet are already severely malnourished and food riots are increasing globally.  Food insecurity is thus acknowledged, as is the fact that the poor are being hit hardest, particularly in Africa.

South Africa has an opportunity to present solutions that can be scaled up across the continent, as well as providing its own poor with the choice of livelihoods and dignity.  But small farmers often lack the managerial and technical competencies necessary to succeed in the highly competitive farming industry.  Implementing projects with poor communities that have impact, in terms of employment and income generation, and sustainability, in terms of long term commercial viability is currently high of the agenda of Government.

Food & Trees for Africa’s (FTFAs) new programme, Farmer Eco Enterprise Development (FEED), implements projects utilizing management, training, mentorship and marketing.  FEED addresses the needs of emerging farmers to enable them to become players in the mainstream agricultural economy.  Implementing projects with poor communities that have impact, in terms of employment and income generation, sustainability and long term commercial viability, is currently high on the agenda of government and international agencies, and offers excellent Enterprise Development, Corporate Social Investment and BEE opportunities.

Coordinating FEED Africa for FTFA is Quinton Naidoo, a man with a wealth of experience in business and agricultural development who previously headed Lonrho Agribusiness, which contracted growers throughout Africa to produce for its value chain which supplies numerous international retail giants.  Quinton has also worked with Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade & Industry.

A FEED project is already underway in the Bronkhorstspruit area and the investment into community has been made by one of SA’s corporate giants under the mantle of their Social & Labour Plan.  This project is aimed at providing sustainable economic growth and diversification in the communities where the sponsor operates.  Under the agreement, FEED Africa will work with local subsistence farmers to develop a farming cooperative that will deliver the yield, volume and quality of production necessary to establish a commercially viable agricultural business.  The agreement is the sponsor will provide the funding necessary for FEED Africa to design and develop the infrastructure, irrigation, farming and greenhouse facilities necessary for the cooperative to be able to produce on a commercially viable scale.

Quinton Naidoo, FEED AFRICA commented, “I am delighted to have been chosen to develop this project.  The time is ripe for a new agrarian transformation.  The need for food security and sustainable livelihoods among the poor is crucial.  FEED enables emerging farmers to join the mainstream agricultural economy and the opportunity to replicate similar projects across South Africa can have a significant impact on poor communities and their sustainability”.

FEED presents a practical, pragmatic and scalable model of how business can help affect this new and necessary agrarian transformation.

For more information please contact info@trees.org.za.

Carbon Neutral flying to King Shaka International Airport for COP17

In the build up to COP17 Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA) were excited to be teaming up with Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) to help visitors arriving in Durban to make their journey a carbon neutral one.  In the face of climate change, and specifically anthropogenic warming due to carbon emissions, the reality of the cost to the environment of delegates, rock stars and world leaders flying in from around the world, cannot be ignored.

However, the legacy of COP17 need not be an enormous carbon footprint.  As South Africa’s longest standing climate action and greening social and environmental enterprise, FTFA offers all an opportunity to leave their tree in Africa to help solve this dilemma.  ACSA’s King Shaka International Airport in Durban celebrated one year on 1 May 2011.  The airport is currently handling almost 5 million passengers annually and with the current trend of an increase in passenger numbers in the past few months the airport was well and truly set as the gateway to Africa for COP17.  Passengers that arriving at King Shaka International Airport from around the world, will not only be able to calculate the carbon emissions generated from their flight but also offset these, as soon as they land.

This can be done easily and efficiently by using the My Tree in Africa carbon calculator, the first South African calculator of its kind!  This uses the Global Greenhouse Gas Reporting Protocols which aim to harmonize GHG accounting and reporting standards internationally, to ensure that different trading platforms and other climate related initiatives adopt consistent approaches to GHG accounting.

The total carbon emissions produced can then be offset by buying a tree, or trees.  Trees act as natural carbon sinks, sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide.  What’s more, this can all be done straight from visitor’s mobile phones as soon as they land by going to another groundbreaking first, the mytrees.mobi website.

International, or local visitors, wanting to commemorate their time in Durban can go to mytreeinafrica.org from the nearest computer to buy their tree(s).  Each purchase comes with a certificate of the specific tree bought which also serves as a reminder of their commitment.

Alternatively, by simply walking straight out of the International arrivals hall at King Shaka and heading for the ACSA FTFA stand, visitors can guarantee that their flight was a carbon neutral one. The friendly people at the FTFA stand will calculate individual carbon emissions as well as the number of trees needed to offset these emissions.  It’s as easy as that!

Visitors can also make a pledge on FTFA’s Climatree, a beautiful wire art baobab sponsored by Pick n Pay.  By buying a leaf for the Climatree at only R10, individuals can make their own personal climate change pledge.  Each leaf represents a commitment towards a lower carbon future.  For every 10 leaves added a tree is planted for a disadvantaged community in a barren, dusty township, adjacent to the airport precinct.

The Airports Company of South Africa always strives to give back to the community, and this way it can help spread environmental awareness and change further than its boundaries.  ACSA staff will assist FTFA in the planting of the trees purchased during COP 17, in the form of a sponsored team-building event.

While the outcome of COP17 remains uncertain, there is one certainty that visitors can hold on to, that while international leaders may not be able to agree on how to reduce our global carbon emissions, they attended COP17 knowing exactly how to reduce their own.

ACSA and FTFA are working together to leave a green legacy for future generations.

Feeding the planet

AVIS offsets vehicle emissions

Avis Rent a Car continue to contribute to their sustainability drive and in a recent collaboration with Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA), planted a hectare of bamboo plants at Blue Disa, south west of Johannesburg.

Chief Executive of Avis, Wayne Duvenage says, “Our goal was to offset vehicle  emissions from this year’s Put Foot Rally, an event that saw crews travel throughout Africa discovering  the many loved, admired and respected destinations and in  support of one of South Africa’s young and dynamic charities: `The Bobs for Good Foundation”.

Avis has always believed that environmental responsibility is one of their top priorities to help make the world a little greener.  With this in mind, Avis partnered with Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA) in their Bamboo for Africa programme. Amongst some 1 200 uses, Bamboo also provides a high impact carbon sequestration opportunity with multi faceted community beneficiation and is the largest and fastest growing plant on the planet.  The programme is introduced to the community with plantings at public schools and on open/tribal land.

Blue Disa is a community based organisation on the outskirts of Lawley Township 25Km south west of Johannesburg.  Reverend Kopano Mohapi is the CEO and runs a feeding scheme for 300 children on a daily basis and is entrenched in the local community development.  They applied for and were allocated a derelict farm adjoining the community, which is being developed to become a hybrid food crop and energy plantation farm.  The farm will produce food and sustainable solid and liquid fuels to the community.  The sponsors such as Avis, who support this community development, will in return get VCS credits to offset their carbon footprints.

From the data collected it was calculated that 26 bamboo plants would need to be planted, but Avis chose to increase that number in order to fill a hectare of land, planting 231 bamboo plants in total.  The bamboo was planted by a dedicated team from Avis and partners, FTFA.

Avis was able to fund this project with the recycling rebates received from EnviroServ, who were appointed in May 2010 to assist with the management of its integrated waste management programme, which is largely focused on office waste and household recyclables.

 I recently presented at Al Gore’s 24 Hours of Reality and believe that climate change and environmental issues need to enter the public domain so more people become aware of the role they can play in ensuring a sustainable future.  Avis demonstrates that when being green is a company policy, the impacts are powerfully felt.

We have made it part of our core mission to consciously make an effort in bettering our carbon footprint through initiatives such as this one,” concludes Duvenage.

Food garden celebration at Khayelitsha Special School

Over the last year and a half learners at the Khayelitsha Special School, with the help of ConVista, have had the opportunity to learn permaculture food gardening skills.  In early June they launched their garden which signifies the culmination of everything they have learnt.

The Khayelitsha Special School, the first black school of its kind in South Africa, caters for 420 special needs children from the local vicinity that have various physical and mental disabilities. Facilitated by Food & Trees for Africa, and under the supervision of dedicated educators, the children have now learned skills that will last them a lifetime, basic, effective and simple teachings that are relative to life as well as the garden.

The children loved the practical and healthy work in the garden.  The garden was developed around permaculture design principles that maximises production as well as aid in sustainable use of water and soils.  The garden can therefore provide the feeding scheme at the school and learners are also receiving cooking lessons to prepare healthier meals.

Kirsten Zsilavecz, one of my FTFA permaculture facilitator commented that this is a good model of the Chinese proverb: ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime’.  And in this case we are teaching the school community to grow so that they can eat for a lifetime.

The amazing thing about permaculture is it will also satisfy its own requirements for soil fertility and seed, wind protection and waste management.  A worm farm is used to turn kitchen waste into extremely high value soil, as well as supplying liquid fertili-tea which is applied when watering the garden.  Trees have also been planted to create a wind break, and indigenous medicinal plants will attract insects and birds and supply bio-mass for the compost pile.

In terms of maintaining the garden, we taught the children to leave some of the vegetable plants to seed, and to collect and use them for subsequent planting which overall reduces maintenance costs.

Trees to bring biodiversity to Langa

Thanks to the wonderful support from kulula fans, 3 000 trees are already in the ground and doing their thing to bring back the birds and the bees to the communities of Tembisa and Mt Moriah.

The International Day for Biological Diversity was launched by the United Nations on the 22 May of this year.  The aim is to increase our understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. In short biodiversity is a measure of the wellbeing of ecosystems, the Earth, our home. With increasing urbanisation worldwide, biodiversity has steadily been dropping, most likely due to the destruction of habitats.  Can you believe that almost 18 000 species have gone extinct this year alone? 

The theme for this year is forest biodiversity, which is fitting seeing as 2011 is the International Year of the Forests.  It therefore seems appropriate that in a time where 1.5 million hectares of forest are lost per annum, kulula and FTFA team up to plant over 100 hectares of urban forest in disadvantaged areas around South Africa.

kulula fans raised an amazing R1 million to support FTFA’s efforts to respond to climate change and improve environments, especially for the poor.  This was achieved through kulula’s Project Green Programme, which aims to combat the atmospheric carbon loads and greenhouse gases released by their aircraft.

By February 2009 Project Green had planted 2009 trees.  Now, thanks to the thousands of kulula fans who contributed money every time they flew, thousands more trees and hectares of bamboo will be planted for disadvantaged communities this year.

The residents of Langa were very excited to have been chosen as one of the recipient communities of the kulula Trees for Homes project and received their trees on the 27 and 28 May in celebration of the International Day of Biodiversity.

Check out My Trees; it is a new mobile phone site supported by kulula that allows users to calculate their carbon footprint and neutralise this through the planting of trees.

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