Welverdiend is a community located on the boundary of the Greater Kruger National Park in South Africa, and a close neighbour to the Southern Africa Wildlife College, our PACE hub in the region.  Back in August 2022 we visited to meet with the college’s RISE team (Rural Initiatives for a Sustainable Environment) and local educators who were all interested in using PACE in their schools and community groups.   We’re thrilled to see what has grown out of those early meetings and sure that the RISE interns who showed us around, will be proud of how their suggestions have inspired a now popular school programme.

Kruger is one of the world’s most famous national parks, it has amazing wildlife, stunning scenery and a lot of visitors. But local villages were displaced by the park when it was created, and many still feel side-lined. They are somewhat hemmed in by the national park, game reserves and nature reserves, and struggling with high unemployment and limited opportunity, especially for young people.    In 2022 the RISE interns gave us a tour, they showed us how water supply problems, shortage of fuelwood, and poor soils are limiting standards of living, morale and engagement with conservation and environmental management. They enjoyed PACE, immediatly started using it at home, which was a good sign, and said ‘We are really looking forward to engage more with PACE, we know it will make a difference in our community and our lives.’

This month the 2024 interns, who now work regularly with schools, organised an outing to a local horticultural business, as an introduction to the Soils module they will work through this term.  Fumani is a local entrepreneur, who has built a successful ‘green’ business producing fresh organic vegetables.  The Wildlife College and safari lodges are among his customers, and he also supplies local markets.  He started small, with little capital, and grows crops that many locals believe can not succeed in the area.   He talked to the kids,  gave them a tour that was infused with optimism and energy, and shared ideas that they’ll be able to practice in the school gardens they will soon be setting up in their PACE eco-clubs!

 

The kids saw different plant crops: cabbages, carrots, spinach, tomatoes. Mr Fumani explained how they plant, manage pests and the soil, and how he produces plant tea from the vegetable waste and cattle manure. They were shown drip irrigation that uses a minimum of water, and learned how when he had built up capital, that investing in shade houses helped him expand the business.

Next month the schools will receive their own seeds, copies of Action sheets and will start their own school gardens. We hope there will be gardens, tasty food and optimism in their homes as well.