Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Permaculture in South Africa

by Jason Hanslo
grade 4 teacher and Permaculture Ambassador

The Sunrays in flowers project was defined not too long ago on a popular South African television show as being a vehicle of change for an impoverished community of Delft South, just outside Cape Town. The project, born was born out of my concern for the learners of Sunray Primary school's nutritional well- being. Amidst the community's socio-economic ills, I managed to create an oasis; a permaculture garden.
Impoverished areas usually showcase the best examples of reusing of recyclables. Children use spent tyres instead of a ball to play catch.

A seasonal wind blows in from the south and hijacks the fertile top soil that sustains the little vegetation left after wreckless ploughing by the bulldozers in lieu of the thousands of new houses being built. These developers are having no regard for the sensitive sand dune fynbos that once overgrew this area. The shifting sand dunes make driving in Delft impossible, but the creator of the Sunrays in flowers project have come up with a tad bit of ingenuity. They use empty 2L beverage bottles. Collected through incentivised competitions, bottles are collected by learners, filled with sand and then used as erosion banks around the beds; that way, they cultivate good soil by protecting the microorganisms and decomposed matter of the fertile top layer.
2L bottles curves around our beds protecting our top soil, but also acting as a design feature.

Alarmed by the developers, I started reintroducing rare and endangered fynbos plants to the area by creating a planetarium. I joined with the South African National Botanical gardens and has since been actively participating in their Greening Program. We even have some licensed Encephralatus species!
Intermingled with projects like Earth day and celebrating Mandela day by planting trees I joined with local NGO’s, the University of Michigan and government organisations to create a food garden.

The green triangle above shows what we accomplished in two years.  
A malicious grass type was removed and composted, and litter ranging from Meth needles, to light bulbs were removed from the site before they were ready to plant!
Their current supplier of organic fertilizer; Neutrog SA, sponsored a year supply of fertilizer to the Sunrays in flowers project and has just recently sponsored another years supply for 2014.

Last year the Sunrays in flowers project were joined by an organisation called Trees4schools and the Townhouse Hotel group, 300 learners, staff and other friends and planted over 600 seeds, seedlings and herbs in one day.

This year the project, joined by two volunteer horticulturists are busy educating the community starting with the parents. The initial project, called the Food App., teaches basic vegetative propagation and cultivation practises. They have started the program using the Permaculture Association's modules and would like to offer accredited certificates including a Diploma in permaculture in the near future.

Please visit their facebook page for more about them and please also ‘like’ their page.

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