Permaculture Explorers: Above the Line-Addressing Extreme Poverty

Our new project Permaculture Explorers:  Above the Line launches today in the government housing project (the RDP) in Acornhoek.  We will work with 20 women-headed households, teaching the women a combination of Permaculture gardening–so they can grow their own fresh, healthy food–and small business enterprise development–so they can learn how to run a small enterprise and sell the extra veggies they grow, or start some other business to bring extra income into the family.  We will also teach them about Climate Change and come up with very practical things they can do to adapt to and mitigate the effects they are already living with—hotter temperatures, longer heat waves, unpredictable rainfall, and extreme weather events.

All of the households are well below the international extreme poverty line ($1.90 per day), with one household at 59% of extreme poverty and the rest below 50%, down to 6.3% in the poorest households.  These are among the poorest women in the world.   Our goal is to provide the resources and opportunities to raise these 20 households Above the Line.

Our project design is based on research about what is effective in alleviating extreme poverty, and the latest brain research on how living with unrelenting poverty affects the brain.  Poverty changes our brain circuitry.  Executive function skills are the most affected.  Circuitry gets overloaded and it compromises the quality of decision making in the moment.  But the good news is the parts of the brain that control executive function remain plastic—they can be developed.  You can actually rebuild brain wiring through the right kind of coaching.  That is our intention with our Above the Line project.

We incorporated into our project design the 12 steps for effectively lifting people out of poverty according to Paul Polak, one of the leading experts in the world at looking for practical solutions to global poverty. 

Here are his 12 steps from his book Out of Poverty:

  1. Go to where the action is.
  2. Talk to the people who have the problem and listen to what they have to say.
  3. Learn everything there is to know about the problem’s specific context.
  4. If you come up with a solution Think and Act Big! Reaching a million people is better than 10.
  5. Think like a child.
  6. See and do the obvious.  Immersing yourself in the problem helps.
  7. If somebody already invented it, you don’t have to.
  8. Make sure you have positive measurable impacts that can be brought to scale.
  9. Design to specific price targets. Affordability rules the design process for poor customers.
  10. Follow practical 3-year work plans. Unless you can create an effective 3-year work plan you will never get there.
  11. Continue to learn from your customers.
  12. Don’t be distracted by what other people say.

Watch this space for stories and photos about how Permaculture Explorers:  Above the Line is progressing!  To support our work, please go to our donation page  Please join our email list to stay current with everything Zingela Ulwazi is doing.

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