Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA) is the leading authority on permaculture in South Africa. Having pioneered permaculture projects across the country for the last 30 years, our Permaculture Starter Packs help to target donor funding at projects with a high chance of success.
Over the last three decades FTFA has developed various structures, programmes, and assessment techniques that enable focused interventions and produce tangible results.
We offer a range of interventions to help beneficiaries start their own food security project. But how do donors decide where to invest funds, and feel confident that these funds are being used wisely?
“It’s about finding people who will make a project successful, no matter the level of support provided. This is central to FTFA’s process. We have the knowledge and the data to direct resources to the right channels,” says Chris Wild, FTFA Executive Director.
PSPs provide vital deep-dive evaluations
FTFA always advises potential donors to begin with a quick and easy Permaculture Starter Pack (PSP).
“PSPs provide an excellent barometer for what a beneficiary will be able to do with more significant investment,” Wild explains. “They strengthen the selection and assessment process; we narrow down potential projects by focusing on objective, quantitative criteria.”
PSPs provide a quantitative evaluation framework, allowing FTFA to evaluate a project’s potential. They play a crucial role in FTFA’s greater methodology and ecosystem, allowing us to direct funding to projects with greater potential to succeed.
“It is impossible to decide a food security project’s ‘worthiness’ or potential success based on a qualitative narrative,” says Wild. “There are thousands of deserving projects out there, doing the best they can with virtually nothing. We are finding and supporting these programmes through a focused process of selection.”
Focused interventions yield results
One of the major challenges facing any development project is the problem of “donor-driven initiatives” indiscriminately throwing money at projects.
“Unfocused, untargeted donations do more harm than good, reducing social self-esteem and instilling a dependence culture,” Wild emphasises.
These unfocused interventions essentially show beneficiaries that they will keep receiving money regardless of their own input. “We have done many clean-up projects in failing donor-driven projects. It is the most difficult thing we do,” he continues. “You have to fix physical problems, but you also have to change the attitude of everyone involved.”
It is far better to begin by investing minimally, and then assess how the beneficiary utilises aid. This is why a PSP is such a great assessment tool. “If a food security project receives a Permaculture Starter Pack and shows real commitment, it then makes sense to provide them with additional donor aid for a long-term project,” says Wild. “This directs money into deserving projects and hugely increases our success rate by ensuring wise donor funding investment.”
All of this means that FTFA has an impressive conversion rate from PSPs into long-term programmes. “For the last seven years we have been defining quantitative statistics to analyse what makes a project successful,” says Wild. “For example, while we originally thought soil was the most important factor for success, it actually isn’t that imperative. It may sound obvious, but water is way more important.”
Removing sentiment from selection
FTFA’s quantitative assessments conducted during PSPs ultimately allow decisions to be made for the right reason. For example, no matter how compelling your story is, your project cannot function if you have no access to water. The kind of access you have to water also makes a big difference. A strong primary water source is the basis for any successful project. While rainwater tanks are a great secondary source, they will always need to be supplemented due to the irrigation demands of even small projects.
It is also crucial to assess both situational and behavioural factors, meaning that input and motivation of those running the project is just as important as having the right tools and infrastructure.
Another aspect of permaculture projects is the central role of women. “There are obviously regional and other variations, but we have found a direct correlation between the number of women participating in an agricultural project and its success,” notes Wild.
These are just a few examples of what FTFA looks for when assessing the potential success of a permaculture project. Donate now if you are interested in helping to bring food security to schools and communities across South Africa, or contact us for more information about PSP applicants and funding options through Food & Trees for Africa.