By James Cook
When I was in Zimbabwe we would spend time each week at a local school. Our time there would include playing with the young children, teaching the older ones (a whole new respect for teachers came of this experience!) and working with them on their Permaculture Projects.
A Permaculture project is a small scale agriculture project. It is designed to work with the natural ecology of an area, and as such only plants that will prosper under the natural conditions are planted. It is completely organic and if done correctly will greatly improve the areas soil conditions for years to come.
The projects are community run with a view to having the communities becoming more self sufficient and less reliant on imported food. There was also a strong sense of ownership of these projects and everyone involved was extremely proud of what they had achieved.
Instead of playgrounds the children of St Margarets have lush Edenesque gardens with Orange, Guava, Banana and Lemon trees. The children do all the maintenance on the gardens and share in the fruit that comes from their labours. The hope is that they will carry the lessons that they learn here and apply them in their own homes.
At the back of the school there was a section split into 15 plots. These plots were given over to local orphans to work on and cultivate their own food. Again the children were extremely proud of their plots and very eager to show us their work and what they were planning to do. The projects also taught them the importance of setting goals and working to achieve them.
Another local project that we visited was the honey processing plant. This consisted of a building (built by the community) that housed the equipment to process, refine and, package honey. The foundation of this project lay in the beehives that were located around the village. The beehives cost $4 and there were around 500 in the local area. Each hive is harvested twice a year and the honey was sold to the safari ranches and local vendors in the area. The reason that the focus of the community was honey, was for its sheer simplicity. Each hive requires little or no maintenance and will pay for itself many times over before it needs replacing.
These projects got me thinking a lot about where my food comes from and how it is manufactured. When I am settled down for a significant length of time I want to start my own small Permaculture project and until then I am trying to buy as much locally as I can from farmers markets. I think that seeing first hand the positive mentality of the local Zimbabweans involved in this project left me feeling optimistic for the future of their country.
To quote John F. Kennedy. “Children are the worlds most valuable resource and its best hope for the future” The schoolchildren I met at St. Margarets are proof of this and I wish them all the luck in the world with any future projects that they may start.