School nurtures the future

2018-04-25 06:02
Witbooi Mokgadi, caretaker of the permaculture garden of the Tjhabelang Primary School in Bainsvlei. Photo: Supplied

Witbooi Mokgadi, caretaker of the permaculture garden of the Tjhabelang Primary School in Bainsvlei. Photo: Supplied

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A permaculture vegetable project has become vitally important to over 120 learners of the Tjhabelang Primary School in Bainsvlei.

The initiative has been boosted by supermarket chain Checkers and its implementation partner, Food and Trees for Africa, to enable it to thrive.

The store also provided tools, plant and educational materials, water management facilities and a crop cover, to protect the plants from birds and to manage weeds.

The caretaker of the garden, Witbooi Mokgadi, has received training in sustainable permaculture-based farming as part of the partnership.

Shandor Potgieter, project manager, said they were already reaping the rewards.

“Permaculture results in healthy children – inside and outside school,” said Potgieter, a musician and community activist.

“Before we were introduced to permaculture techniques, we had never seen anything like it. My colleagues and I agreed that permaculture was either going to be crazy or brilliant. In fact, it turned out to be brilliant.

Potgieter has been project manager at the school since 2013. He explained his vision for the garden.

“We want to ensure that our learners never go hungry – either in or out of term time.”

Achieving the vision was not easy. Potgieter and his team made encouraging progress by establishing a garden consisting of fruit trees, medicinal herbs and vegetables.

“The learners collected chicken manure to fertilise the plants. Each classroom played a role in maintaining the beds, but the garden was not productive throughout the year.

“Worse still, many learners who were healthy and active during term risked becoming undernourished once the term ended, as their families couldn’t always afford to maintain their nutrition levels.”

A turnaround came after basic monthly training on permaculture in September 2017.

“The improvements have been dramatic. It is now helping to reduce the school’s monthly food bill by providing a regular supply of fresh produce to the feeding programme.

“It provides breakfast, lunch and snacks.

“In addition, surplus produce are sold to community members who cannot afford to buy food in mainstream shops.”

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