When my counterpart and I attended the PC PermaGarden workshop in Bray, it was with the expectation that we implement those practices at our schools and hold trainings in our communities. Essentially, we were promising to undertake gardening as a secondary project. I was a little afraid that my counterpart would get too caught up in “school stuff” to worry about changing the current gardening practices, let alone hold trainings for people in the community.
Boy was I wrong! Mma Ntwayabokone loves to garden, and she has spearheaded things at my school. Often, PCVs have great ideas, and can’t get people from the school to support and implement their ideas. However, on a few different occasions, I’ve modeled PermaGardening practices or have spoken about things that needed to change, and before I could blink twice, she had taken charge and made the changes. This is really rare, and I really appreciate having her as a counterpart!
Anyways, during the training in Bray, we sat down and planned out a mini-PermaGarden workshop that we would hold at my school. We gave ourselves a few weeks after Term 2 started, but planned it for April 20, relatively quickly after the workshop. I was a little afraid it would happen, but Mma Ntwayabokone and I got the wheels rolling and found ourselves hosting about 20 people at a workshop on Friday! We had invited 3 schools, besides our own, and the local clinic. However, only 2 other school sent people. Still, we had a great turnout and the people who came seemed to want to make changes, at school and in their home gardens.
We made a compost pit and discussed the importance of using compost to enrich the soil. Because it is super windy in my village, and my school has absolutely no shade near the garden, we couldn’t really do a compost heap, which is what our materials and handouts talked about. But we explained the difference between the two and why we were choosing to do the pit method.
After that, we dug two small trench beds and taught why trench beds are so much more beneficial to the plants than traditional garden beds. I’m sure they loved to see the lekgoa digging and planting and playing with manure…white people don’t do that here. But I like to break stereotypes!
Finally, we discussed intercropping and natural/organic pest control methods, and I hope we can hold another workshop in a few months to cover that more extensively, as well as crop rotation. People grow corn here all the time, or “mealies”, but they never plant crops that give nitrogen back to the soil. Thus the mealies I see around the village are in pretty pathetic shape.
After we finished with all the hard work, the school treated us to a delicious meal of rice, chicken, potato salad, chakalaka, and “soup” or gravy. One teacher got up and talked about how the food “was a little bit raw, because that’s how Permaculture people eat it.” This references the fact that PermaGarden people talk about how overcooking the food means all the vitamins are cooked out, and therefore the veggies are not very beneficial. To me, the food tasted perfectly cooked. Americans and South Africans have a different definition of “done”. The food was delicious regardless, and I ate so much I didn’t even have dinner that night!
I realized that I could be perfectly content doing this sort of work for the rest of my life. I loved seeing the people understanding and embracing new concepts…concepts which can directly put food into hungry bellies. So, if you know anyone looking for someone to train gardeners in the developing world, I’d love to take the post in about a year and a half! Meanwhile, I’m loving my secondary project!