Permaculture at school
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Nyika, Mugove Walter. 2001. Permaculture at school. Spore 93. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to cite or share this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/46216
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One of Zimbabwe s major rivers the Save is now just a sea of sand. This is happening to many of our rivers and is due to serious loss of top soil and deforestation. A lot of these problems are the result of inappropriate methods of land...
One of Zimbabwe s major rivers the Save is now just a sea of sand. This is happening to many of our rivers and is due to serious loss of top soil and deforestation. A lot of these problems are the result of inappropriate methods of land husbandry in conventional agriculture, which is less and less viable in terms of profitability and sustainability. Children should be taught to think about these issues at an early age and learn what alternatives exist. That does not only concern agriculture, food security and income but also how your environment looks and how it can be maintained. SCOPE started in 1994 with one primary school and one secondary school in each of Zimbabwe s nine provinces. The programme is quite straightforward. Two teachers of each participating school are trained in the principles of organic agriculture or permaculture. These can be science teachers or even interested English or mathematics teachers, since agriculture is not a compulsory subject at school. Besides we aim at integrating permaculture in the entire curricula and not treating it as a separate subject. It is meant for the entire school and does not only include gardening or greening the school; it may also involve water harvesting, improvement of health and nutrition, income generation for the school, constructing or growing windbreaks around fields or teachers houses. Furthermore, I see the programme also as an entry point into the communities. What the pupils learn is brought home to their families and villages. Parents are more sceptical of new ideas. They, as well as agricultural officers, go back to what they learned at school when they were young. Children are more adaptive and responsive. Besides, the youth are the future farmers. However, we involve parents and local extension officers. No preconceived plan Representatives of parents, pupils and staff attend a week-long ILUD (Integrated Land-Use Design) workshop at their school, facilitated by SCOPE. The trained teachers then start to discuss the programme with the other pupils, parents and other staff and a plan is made. We do not have a preconceived plan but work on the basis of different designs for different environments at individual schools. The participants together make a situation analysis, which addresses questions like what are the major problems and what are the available resources. We then ask the group the broad question of how they feel the school should look like in 20 years time. That gives a good inventory of interests and wishes. Some want to see fruits, others a garden, more shade on the school grounds or simply a beautiful place. The next step is the actual plotting of the ILUD map and finally a concrete plan of tasks is drawn up: what class could take up which tasks and when should these be finished. The implementation of this design involves contributions by parents and school staff. Parents for instance can supply seedlings of local plants and in turn learn from what is taught to their children and put this into practice. It is amazing what can be achieved in a couple of year s time and what differences emerge between schools. Banana Republic The Chireka primary school in Bindura is now nicknamed the Banana Republic because the school is almost hidden in a wood of banana trees. Bananas are sold to the children during breaks at a much lower rate than on the market. St Vincent Secondary school in Ruwa decided to focuses on ornamental plants like flowers and flowering shrubs. Besides the usual exceptions, the programme caught on well and we now have 54 participating schools, 3 primary and 3 secondary in every province. In 1997, the programme strengthened its partnership with the Minister of Education. They now select the schools, teachers and facilitate finding funds. The government is an important partner, because if you want to change the curricula, you inevitably need to change the workbooks as well as adapt the exams. In that respect the programme is of course not all roses yet. Some teachers find it difficult to deal with permaculture and conventional agriculture in the same time. I think it is actually a good idea to try both out and have the students compare them. A bigger problem is that parents get different messages. On one hand, permaculture through their child s schools, whereas on the other hand the village agricultural extension worker still focuses on conventional agriculture. Farmers depend on the latter for instance for obtaining farmers certificates. Agricultural education and extension receives substantial sponsorship from agro-chemical companies. That gives us a new objective. Besides expanding the current programme to at least one primary and one secondary school in each of the 63 districts, we also want to include permaculture training in teachers and agricultural colleges, where future staff and extension workers are being trained. This programme can be implemented in other countries as well. We were involved in a three-week workshop in Zambia to explain our programme and get a similar initiative started. [caption to illustration] Mugove Walter Nyika is coordinator of SCOPE (The Schools and Colleges Permaculture Programme), part of the Zimbabwe Institute of Permaculture (ZIP). A geographer by training, Nyika left secondary teaching in geography when he became aware of the value of permaculture as a viable alternative to conventional agriculture. Permaculture permanent culture is an ecological design science: a way of understanding and using the many ways the parts of living systems interact, without bringing them off balance. The opinions expressed in Viewpoint are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CTA.
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