The benefits of skills taught in Food & Trees for Africa’s Permaculture Starter Pack (PSP) shine through in KwaNgubeni Primary School’s approach to sustainability. The school’s commitment and dedication to food security and environmental issues have been developed beyond this intervention, leading to their success in becoming self-sustainable.

Learning about sustainable development

“Our area of Ngubeni in Pietermaritzburg is impoverished. Unemployment is rife, and the school faces a shortage of basic infrastructure. However, most of the learners are eager to learn, and we encourage them to develop skills that will help them to make their own living,” says teacher Sethembile Tshabalala. She has been involved with Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA) since 2016, as well as other sustainability and health-focused initiatives like OnePlanetSA and the School Environment and Education Program (SEEP).

After teachers attended a workshop in Howick introducing them to FTFA, KwaNgubeni were keen to get involved with the organisation. “We entered a cluster competition through their EduPlant Programme, enabling us to develop and grow through sustainable development,” says Tshabalala. “We built ourselves up as a green school aiming to save, recycle, and reuse our resources inside and outside of the classroom. Our first project with FTFA gave us more insight into the natural biodiversity within the school and community. It uplifted the school to join the fight against climate change and improve biodiversity.”

PSP workshops provide vital skills

Tshabalala explains that FTFA’s interventions have laid strong foundations from which the school has been able to build. “In the PSP workshops, we were taught how easy it can be to lay out and structure a permaculture food garden for the first time. Learning how to make organic compost and plant seedlings has given us the skills to strive for a healthy school and community. We can achieve this through nutrition, by harvesting what we plant in our garden to feed the school and community members.”

She adds that the permaculture workshops have provided some of her best memories. “The workshops are so exciting and active. They have really helped us to build and maintain a food garden, school, and community that are eco-friendly and nature-loving. At the same time, they have given us the skills to create a living to help disadvantaged learners and community members.” 

Following the success of its own food garden, KwaNgubeni Primary has been an exemplar of skills transferral in the surrounding area. Tshabalala says that the school went on to create its own permaculture cluster of 12 schools, to teach these schools how to set up a permaculture garden. “As a result, we ended by hosting a permaculture garden competition amongst these schools, due to the positive involvement and feedback that the school was getting. We are delighted that these permaculture competitions developed schools in our community to continue with their permaculture gardens throughout the year,” she enthuses. 

A wider drive towards sustainability

The PSP from Food & Trees for Africa has been at the heart of a wider drive towards sustainability by the school, as Tshabalala highlights. “Permaculture has helped our community to pursue sustainability goals; it has instilled a culture of sustainability and conservation. This has had a positive impact in helping the community make use of used items and take better care of their environment.”

“Learners now willingly pick up paper and other material to recycle and reuse as a part of life at the school, while we have also learnt how to have a creative mind when it comes to reuse and recycling. This has helped us to develop a range of innovative skills,” says Tshabalala. “Now, we can create our own organic fertilisers, and we know how to save water by using jojo tanks, boreholes, spring water, and tippy taps. Our home-built solar cooker was even built from recycled materials found in the community!”

“We have also started an eco-club, building our learners to be leaders through sustainable development,” she continues. “By using permaculture and implementing information from well-known NGOs like Food & Trees for Africa, our community takes care of spring fountains and wetlands in the area. We are all more aware of climate change and the conservation of biodiversity in our schools and community.”

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.

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