Creating learning communities among women in rural areas who want to grow their own fresh, healthy food and lift their families out of poverty.

Above the Line : Helping rural women raise their income above the extreme poverty line


I was sick long ago but now because of the vegetables I am eating better.  Stress free.  My family is excited because they are eating different things they have never had before like strawberries  – Ester

In Africa, 80% of agricultural production comes from small farmers, most of whom are rural women.

In March 2019, Permaculture Explorers launched ABOVE THE LINE, a project in RDP Village (the government housing development) in Acornhoek, Mpumalanga, for 20 women headed households. The 20 households (118 people in total) are all well below the international extreme poverty line of US$1.90 (ZAR27.00) per day, with the most affluent household at 79% of extreme poverty and the poorest household at 12% of extreme poverty.  These women and their families are some of the poorest people in the world. We named our project Permaculture Explorers: “Above the Line” because our ultimate goal is to help raise the 20 families above the extreme poverty line.

Our purpose is threefold:

  1. To provide Permaculture education and the things needed to start a home garden, so that the women can grow enough fresh, healthy vegetables to feed their families, plus extra produce that they can sell to generate additional income.
  2. To provide basic small business training to the women so they can raise their family income “Above the Line” of extreme poverty through selling products or services to people locally.
  3. To enable women to understand how climate change is already affecting their lives, and what action steps they can take to adapt to and mitigate the effects.

Our first class graduated in March of 2020.  We continue to support and work with our first class to extend their knowledge around permaculture and business.

Graduation ceremony for the first year Permaculture Explorers, March 2020


We now have a second class of 22 women from the same village.  All of the households are getting fenced garden plots installed with shade netting over the top.  The fences keep the goats and chickens out and the shade cloth protects the gardens from the fierce African sun.  Each woman is learning how to grow pesticide/chemical free food for their families and will sell the excess to neighbours.  Organic vegetables are in short supply and high demand.  They are also learning small enterprise development so they can bring in extra income and move “above the line”.



I walk with dignity. I am doing everything in my house with dignity.  I know myself now.  I am not ashamed of who I am.  – Agreement

The participants have to successfully complete each series of modules in order to advance to the next level, and earn the things they need for their gardens, as well as other items they may want.  We are developing leaders from this group who will hold the knowledge and pass it on to others in the community. This is our next generation of facilitators, as we scale the project up.

We utilise water efficient technologies to ensure that every drop of water possible is captured, collected and conserved.

Participants learned how to build a Tower Garden in their third Permaculture class, which is an excellent water saving device and a great way to increase yield. 



Eating healthy really changed my life. Getting together with other ladies makes a difference.  I am a woman who does not go anywhere.  But now I know how to communicate with other ladies and other people.  – Phindile

Our partner organisations bring their unique expertise and resources to amplify our impact.


Agnes Rapau has over 20 years experience teaching enterprise development in rural communities

Emerencia Mohlolo teaches mathematics in the Enterprise Development class


Our plant experiments focus on indigenous African grains, seeds, fruits, vegetables and trees that have high nutritional and medicinal properties.


I budget now. I never had a budget before. I can buy my own seedlings to plant. Now I have money to use for my children. – Mamcy

If you would like to be a part of this exciting new initiative, please click on the donate button below and it will take you to our donate page to see your options.  We will share stories as we go along and update you on the progress of the project from time to time, through our email list. So please, if you do nothing else, sign up to be on our email list to be part of the journey.

You can also follow our blog here.

Permaculture Explorers is a project in partnership with a number of different organisations – poverty has multiple causes so we approach this work from multiple angles. Thank you so much to our partners for your collaboration!



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