Beside tirelessly training farmers like Anna Molala and Maria, John Nzira also built a model farm, Ukuvuna Urban Farming Project in 2005, just outside Johannesburg, in Midrand, in Gauteng province. His one hectare model farm is a living proof of how you can produce many diverse goods without having a huge amount of land. To do so you have to design a system that provide those needs so that you don’t go and buy all the time.
We need to care for the environment by working with natural laws, adds Nzira. So on a small farm you have different components helping each other ultimately to support a family. The chicken manure is composted to the feed the plants. The chickens eat the snails to protect the plants. The plants in turn feed the chickens and the people.
Ukuvuna facilitates permaculture projects for smallholder farmers around southern Africa. “We identify potential cluster leaders per village,” says John. “The leader identified is the one who has a diversified food system at their homestead, has passion and is willing to help others. We met such women in Limpopo that were almost self-sufficient in food.”
“My focus is mainly on small-scale farmers because they are the ones who are actually producing over 70% of food in sub-Saharan Africa” says Nzira.
There is also a lot of space for innovation. As we have seen in South Africa, with John Nzira’s experience, small farmers are changing the way they use local seeds; cultivating them in ways more adapted to local climates and soil. This might help to counteract the effects of drought and other environmental challenges. Studying old collections of seeds with new insights might even bring some unexpected surprises.
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