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.

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