Following the success of the Green Futures model, the Grootbos Foundation has embarked on a new training project to further our commitment to developing the local community. Growing the Future is all about food production, and 8 women will be trained per year in the growing of vegetables and fruit, beekeeping and the principles of successful animal husbandry.
Subsistence farming has always been integral to many of the South African cultures, but in recent years, as people have moved from rural areas to the cities in search of work, these skills have started to lapse. This is understandable as most of the people that move to the cities end up living in squatter camps under difficult conditions where arable land is hard to come by. Also, subsistence farming has taken a backseat to the luxuries that can be attained with money. For this reason we have decided to give Growing the Future a commercial edge, showing how people can provide food, as well as generate income. For example, strawberries can be eaten, but when they are made into jam they can be sold for a profit. It is important to us that the women have some exposure to, and learn the principles behind successful business. This will form a large part of the life skills component of the course, which will also include computer literacy, health education, numeracy and English.
The skills that these women learn can be applied in many ways; on a small piece of land in the township, each could grow enough vegetables to feed her family; through some form of co-operative land use, the graduates could grow produce on a commercial level; and if they were to return to their homelands, the arable soils there could provide the income that forces many of the young people in the rural areas to migrate to the cities in the first place.
To give the course recognition, we will follow the ABET guidelines, and graduates will receive a level 4 ABET qualification. This has two advantages; one being that graduates will be a cut above in the employment market, and secondly that the women can continue their education at any ABET centre nationwide if they are so motivated.
For the students the course is fully subsidised – they receive transport, tools, uniforms and all their study materials, as well as a weekly stipend to cover their living costs. From the Grootbos Foundations point of view, the project must be sustainable. To achieve this we cannot rely purely on donations and sponsorships, but part finance the project through the sale of the produce. This is a great way in which the students also contribute towards their education through their practical work.
Jaco Martiz is the project manager for the course, and eagerly shares his extensive knowledge of organic growing and permaculture with the students. In addition to Jaco, the Grootbos Foundation hopes to recruit volunteers with knowledge in any facet of the project, to come and spend some time with us, helping to empower these women to new heights.