Today was my first visit to the Xitsavi Food Security Project’s site, where I’ll be spending a lot of time over the next year. This project is actually the entire reason I am at my new site, and will be the focus of my work as a third year PCV. A little background on the project:
Hosi Nwamitwa started the Xitsavi Youth Project back in 2009, and small groups of learners started going through the new Fit for Life Fit for Work programme at that time. FFLFFW is a programme aimed at getting youth (18-30 years old) out of their houses and gaining important life skills, such as sexual and reproductive health, computer literacy, coping skills, and employment skills. From the FFLFFW programme, the Xitsavi Food Security Project was created to help graduates of the programme gain agricultural skills. Two years later, the Xitsavi FSP has about 10 hectares of land producing a wide range of vegetables year round, 2 duck and tilapia ponds, a banana orchard, and upwards of 100 moringa trees. Now, this is a pilot project in polyculture/aquaculture, and I am here to help it move into permaculture.
So to backtrack, today was my first day at “the farm”. I actually don’t really like calling it a farm, because that brings to mind fields upon fields of heavily fertilized, sprayed, monocrops….which this certainly isn’t. But for ease of writing, let’s call it the farm. I was basically just observing today and figuring out what their needs are…and wow, there is a lot I can help with, which is exciting. They are growing all sorts of delicious things: green beans, okra, tomatoes, cabbage, spinach, mustard spinach, peppers of all colours, beetroot, onion, bananas, moringa….and probably some other things I forgot. But one of their problems is that they are afraid to plant too much because sometimes finding buyers can be difficult. So through a series of events, I found myself in town, walking to about 6 different shops and finding out who would be willing to buy our produce. Three of the shops were very eager to do so, and asked us to bring samples next week so they could assess the quality of our produce.
Score! I was exhausted after walking all over the “mountain” that is Tzaneen (my counterpart’s words, not mine), but I felt really good about the prospects for this project in the coming year. Now to build a nursery…. 😀 After all, we are going to need a LOT of seedlings!