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.