November was a VERY busy month for Permaculture Explorers. We had a break from our usual permaculture and business development classes. December Ndhlovu, Community Gardener and Water Activist, delivered a class about the water crisis in the Bushbuckridge area which is severely affecting communities and putting the women’s food gardens and livelihoods, and thus the wellbeing of their families, at risk.
RDP Village where the women live is in the grip of a prolonged water shortage. The community gets water once or twice every two weeks, from communal taps. The municipality turns the water on at midnight, or 3 or 4am, so people have to set their alarm clocks and go and queue in the darkness. Often the water comes out in just a trickle, or runs dry before everyone has access. When confronted about this state of affairs, municipal officials apparently simply shrug and say that there is no water, which is incorrect as other parts of Acornhoek do have water.
December explained to the group what is going on with the water supply, what their constitutional rights are around water, and what they can do to take action. The women were very appreciative of his insights and input. Water is the most critical issue facing the women and their families every day.
The next week, we partnered with fellow NGOs Kruger2Canyon Biosphere and Hoedspruit Hub to bring in the foremost soil fertility expert in the country, Alan Rosenberg. Alan was here for 3 days of workshops, including one day spent with Permaculture Explorers and one day in Trygive’s Community Garden in Rooiboklaagte B. Soil fertility is the most important issue in farming and gardening, and the women absorbed and understood very complex concepts around how to improve their soil health. It was really phenomenal. We reviewed all of the most significant information at our next Permaculture class and reinforced it with practical applications. In total we trained 117 small scale farmers and people working with small scale farmers in the 3 days. It was a huge success by all standards!
We were also fortunate to have Candice Grover present the incredible initiative, From the Region, For the Region, which links small farmers to markets. Permaculture Explorers are invited to be part of this movement, and will receive help registering their businesses and formalising their processes.
In the business classes, we are very close to finishing the curriculum the women need to complete their business plans. Everyone must have a business plan by the time we resume in January. Agnes Rapau, who leads our Enterprise Development training, and Becky will be offering individual mentoring sessions over the holidays so that the women can bring their business plans in and get one on one tutoring with any issues/concerns.
The other big thing that happened in November was the installation of shade netting to the tops of all fencing structures in each woman’s garden. The African sun is so hot here during the summer that shade netting is really essential for growing year round.
The women participated by sewing pieces of their nets together and then our fencing expert installed them. We had the pleasure of a visit from some of our Dutch supporters SIETA, who assisted with the sewing. The women can already feel that the inside of their gardens are cooler.
We are currently fundraising to put in rain water catchment tanks that will catch up to 2,200 litres of water off the roof of the women’s homes. This will make a huge difference for the women in terms of irrigating their gardens, and having a supply of water for those long stretches when the water is turned off at the taps. We have started getting our first donations for this project and hope to be able to raise enough money to put one in at each home.
We could not do what we are doing with the support of our network. We started this project without 1 Rand and have raised funds all along the way to keep it going. There has been a huge amount of Grace around it and the funds have come in as we were ready for the next steps.
We send you our very best wishes for the holiday season!