The Institute of Rural and Community Development (IRCD) is involved in several initiatives aimed at teaching rural and peri-urban communities throughout Africa, the necessary skills to produce food sustainably and to generate an income through food production. The IRCD assists people who want to start a community project by planning and implementing a project design. According to Steven Barnard, director of IRCD, the focus is on micro farming and niche markets rather than large scale farming. They have several projects, including the Garden of Life and Farmer Kidz.
Garden of life
Through the Garden of Life necessary skills are taught for raising vegetable crops on a small scale in areas that would usually not be suitable for crop production. This is done by planting simple crops, such as spinach, in tyres filled with compost. A very basic hydroponic system is incorporated by placing a plastic bottle with drainage holes in the centre of the tyre. The tyres can successfully transform any small area, not usually suitable for food production, into a sustainable micro farm. By turning equipment that will usually become trash into sustainable farming systems, micro farmers can be self-sufficient within a period of 8-12 weeks.
Farmers of the future
Farmer Kidz is a programme that focuses on the development of children by teaching them basic farming skills. Pre-school and school going children learn how to cultivate and cook about ten different types of vegetables. The veggie farming initiative is very popular among children and the IRCD found that they are much more excited about it than the older generation. The reasoning behind approaching the younger generation is twofold. Firstly, the average farmer in South Africa is currently 60 years old, and thus we have a lack of younger farmers who will produce food in the future. Secondly, thousands of children die annually in South Africa due to nutrition related diseases. The project aims to train school teachers who will in turn teach the children and form part of their educational activities.
A success story
Farmer Kidz has been extended to form part of early childhood development (ECD) at day care centres, especially in townships. The Farmer Kidz pilot project at the Maranatha Tembisa day care centre in Tembisa, Johannesburg recently won an award for the most innovative ECD centre in Ekurhuleni (East Rand region of Gauteng). The children are involved in every step of production, from planting and harvesting to cooking and eating. The headmaster, Thulani Mazibuko says that since the implementation of the veggie garden, the children appear healthier and grow faster, thanks to the much-needed nutrition they get from the vegetables.
E-learning and fun
The educational material for the Farmer Kidz project is also available online and makes learning fun with videos and songs on the website, www.farmerkidz.co.za. Each vegetable has a character and comes with a song that teaches children about the nutritional properties of each vegetable as well as how to grow them. For example, to teach children about tomatoes there is Tammy Tomato. Watch the video below to learn more.
The Farmer Kidz project is divided into phases. Children from grade RR to grade 6 learn the basics about vegetables and how to farm them. As the children become older they are taught more advanced agricultural concepts. The second phase, Young Farmers teaches children how to develop a production unit that can supply small shops. For example, if a spaza shop needs 50 bunches of spinach a week, the children are taught how to supply such an enterprise sustainably. The third phase focuses on creating Agripreneurs – farmers who know how to market and sell their produce. These phases, implemented at a very young age, are designed to develop communities who can sustain themselves and helps prevent them from becoming part of the ever-growing unemployment statistic in South Africa.
Schools, pre-primaries, farmer groups, companies, communities or individuals interested in these programmes can contact Steven directly on 082 6513456 or email@example.com. –Ursula Human, AgriOrbit