The project is located on 40 hectares of land in Njhakanjhaka Village in Limpopo. Participants are drawn from the villages of Nwamandzi, Shivambu and Nkuzana with a population of over 8,000 people with 60% being female. The project lies in the central part of the Western section of the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve (VBR), GEF Small Grants Programme’s priority landscape area.
The project that seeks to develop a viable agro ecology community initiative that may inform long term programming for the VBR. The project is comprised of men and women both young and old who are keen to protect indigenous biodiversity and integrate it with crop production. The team’s philosophy is that the project can be easily adapted to showcase ecological agriculture whilst educating and informing potential visitors on the wealth of natural heritage in the area. The project is being implemented by the Nombhela Gardens & Cultural Village Cooperative directly involving nine members, six of whom are female the rest, male.
The main aims of the project are to:
- Capacitate project and selected community members to design, implement and monitor agro-ecological activities.
- Capacitate the organisation to liaise with the communities and stakeholders sustainable agriculture and agro-ecology approaches.
- Implement effective and sustainable Agro-ecology on a one hectare (1ha) to be used as a demonstration site and for commercial sales.
- Establish nine household agroecology food gardens at project members' homesteads.
With the funding support from the GEF Small Grants Programme and capacity support from Afristar/ University of Venda, the Cooperative designed a 1ha agro-ecology demonstration site. They employed the services of an agroecology consultant who spent several weeks with the community on the site, implementing sustainable agricultural systems. This involved clearing the site, developing soil fertility through composting, fencing the site, installing irrigation systems and passive water harvesting, planting food crops and developing herb and medicinal gardens to be used for primary and preventative health care. The project members also developed home food gardens often in extremely challenging conditions constrained by access to water and almost totally relying on rain fed systems.
- Afristar / University of Venda provided hands on support and capacity building on project design, activity planning, record keeping, project and project member profiling, financial management, project reporting, development of a social media presence and documentation of members’ experiences.
- The project has used its existing profile and leveraged the successes of the GEF SGP project to establish an indigenous plant trees nursery with support from Limpopo Economic Development and Environment & Tourism (LEDET) for the VBR and the establishment of a community ecotourism project that has developed four self-catering units to date aiming to expand to nine by the end of 2018.
- Lack of market access for garden produce hampered income generating opportunities is quite a challenge as the garden produced surplus vegetables. The limited time frame only allowed to date for the implementation of basic food security systems and there is plenty of scope for more complex and sustainable systems to be developed with the potential to branch out into nutrition and primary and preventative health care.
Quotes from Project Members:
- “The cooperative started in 2014 with 16 members involved in agro-ecology. What inspired us to start this form of farming is to see people eat healthy food and our environment protected. In 2017, the GEF Small Grants Programme funding supported nine members to be active in the production of food crops using the agro-ecology approach. The University of Venda’s Institute for Rural Development assisted us with training and capacity building support. Through this assistance, we managed to expand the garden and start small individual home gardens. We have made remarkable progress and sales of products from the gardens aside from what we consume. We believe that the cooperative will grow to impact positively in our society through job creation." - Mathebula Falaza, Chairperson
- “I am one of the experienced elders in the Cooperative who mentor the younger generation on traditional farming approaches. The essence is to maintain our traditional farming systems and to avoid farm costs related to mechanisation and using damaging pesticides. It has helped those without start-up capital to be involved in farming for a living given that the agro-farming required little or no financial resources. There is a strong belief that if everyone is empowered to be independent, our country will prosper.” - Shirindza Elias Grayne
- “My name is Tsakani Mkhabele, I am one of the farmers involved in the project where we learned about mulching to trap water on the ground. This is a traditional irrigation system adapted in our community because Limpopo is among those provinces with insufficient water. We put natural manure using cow dung to fertilize the soil. Everything about our garden is traditional and nature friendly."- Tsakani Mkhabele - Deputy Chairperson
- “I am a beneficiary of the scheme. I have my own food garden at home. Nonetheless, we grow tomatoes, spinach, pepper, cabbages, and several other fruits and vegetables as well as medicinal trees for commercial purposes as well as for subsistence. Although, the production is still very small but we hope to expand to meet with larger-scale demands." - Mikateko Rikhotso
- “I am the operator of the cooperative’s shredder used in grinding the wood properties to produce compost. I also maintain our working resources such as drip, spade, and wheelbarrow, watering bottle, water tanks etc. I also have my own home garden." - Doctor Mthombheni