ACT recognises the value of nutrition in education, particularly during a child’s foundational years, and has been developing gardens at impoverished schools and crèches since 2010. Food insecurity in children leads to nutritional problems, including stunting, low body weight, lowered immunity and increased illness. Providing a needy school with a garden will assist with the necessary nourishment required to attain academic goals.
With funding provided by the Bel Foundation we are currently developing gardens at three Early Childhood Development Centres in the KwaJobe region, north of Mkhuze Game Reserve. The crèches are non-fee paying schools and so financial resources (for meals and educational materials) are limited. The gardens will supplement their daily feeding schemes, while also supporting the community outreach work of Project Rhino. At the moment, meals are predominantly starch based, consisting of bread and maize meal. The three crèches support a combined total of 167 children, aged 0 – 6 years.
We recently implemented the Umgeni and Hlabisa Rainwater Harvesting and Food Security Project; a large-scale food security initiative funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (now the National Lotteries Commission). Gardens will be established at 20 schools and 12 ECDs across KZN, together with training and mentorship for teachers and community members. The project is divided into two regions: Hlabisa (near the Hlulhluwe-iMolozi Park) and the uMgeni Municipality (including Howick, Mpophomeni, Nottingham Road regions). In addition to this, approximately 5,000 additional homestead permaculture gardens will be created and supported. In a strategic relationship with the Future Farmers Foundation Trust, over 70 young black aspirant farmers will receive accredited training in ACT’s NQF Level 2 Agro Ecological Farming Practices course. ACT is now the single largest employer of Future Farmers in South Africa.
ACT permaculture teams also saw the development of 21 gardens in rural schools in the Richmond region, part of the Zakhe Outreach Project. The project included the installation of water tanks, erection of fences and the planting of fruit trees and seedlings. Lush harvests have already been seen in a number of schools. There is a strong focus on Conservation Agriculture principles and 21 trainees received training at the Dovehouse Institute. A number of local job opportunities have also been provided.
In 2010-2012, ACT implemented two Rainwater Harvesting and Food Tunnels projects in northern KwaZulu-Natal, which support 25 schools and 16 pre-schools; benefiting around 20 000 pupils each year. The schools were provided with rain water tanks, drip irrigation systems, vegetable shade houses, seedlings and indigenous fruit trees. Local community members were employed in tunnel construction teams, and agricultural students from Mangosuthu University of Technology, University of Zululand and the Owen Sithole College of Agriculture received one year in-service training, which assisted them to complete their studies and gain work experience. The agricultural students provided assistance to the local community members who were employed by the project.
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