Tsholotsho Agri-Course for Girls

Recognising the need to offer a second chance to girls who did not do well academically at school in neighbouring communities, Wilderness Safaris has initiated a sustainable life-skills programme focusing on agriculture.

Started in partnership with Blue Collar Traveller (Children in the Wilderness Zambezi’s long-term scholarship sponsors), the Agri-Course for Girls programme commenced at the end of November 2021. Fifteen girls enrolled on the course, and Foundations for Farming presented the initial training, which involved theory and practical lessons on conservation farming methods, including…

100-Fold Vegetable Gardens

These are 2m x 2m areas dug to 500 mm deep, levelled and laid with perforated PVC piping fitted with a bend and end-cap. Inorganic matter, such as old bags, are then arranged to fill half the pit level. The pit is filled with enough water to cover the inorganic matter, creating a reservoir. The pit is then filled with composted soil, and logs or rocks are placed around it to mark the permanent bed.

This is a conservation farming method ideally suited to an area like Tsholotsho that receives very low annual rainfall, and is characterised by Kalahari sand, which is low in nutrients and cannot retain moisture. This method helps reduce the amount of water needed for a garden, as just 20 litres is sufficient for a whole week – a welcome relief in these villages, where water is carried mostly by women on their heads from distant water points. The water is fed into the reservoir through the PVC pipe to keep the composted soil damp. This also helps reduce the spread of disease in the vegetable garden.

Meaning “maximised production”, 100-Fold gardens are incredibly productive when judiciously fed with compost. We therefore get a greater yield from a small piece of land, enabling us to conserve by not clearing bigger areas, yet simultaneously enriching the soils in the small areas we will use for gardening.

Zero Tillage

This method has been used in the cereals’ plots, where minimum soil disturbance is the best method of conserving our soil and rainfall. It prevents the destruction of the natural makeup of the soil aggregates (structure). When soil is ploughed, organic matter and humus are destroyed through oxidation. The soil becomes fluffy and light, looking and smelling beautiful, but has no nutritional benefits. Zero tillage is cost-effective as only a traditional hoe is required, which does not disturb the soil structure. An excellent option for subsistence farming in our rural communities.

Furrow Farming

Instead of ridging, this method has been used by the girls for planting sweet potatoes. Furrowing is essential in arid and semi-arid regions in order to conserve moisture. The furrow basins help trap and collect surface water run-off. These basins become a reservoir of water for a sustained period of time, especially when the furrows are mulched. Organic matter has also been added in the furrows to enhance soil fertility in the planting stations.

Obert is a local ex-teacher who is now mentoring the girls in organic farming. He was instrumental in the implementation of this initiative, and works together with Judith, the Head Teacher at Ziga Primary School, where the project is currently running. Our mentors are knowledgeable, energetic and passionate, harnessing the Wilderness mantra of changing lives in a positive and impactful way.

It’s been barely three months since inception, and Ziga’s training garden is already a lush and green, most encouraging sight, with the following already growing well…

  • Herbs and insect repellents – chia, marigolds, basil, chives, sesame, dill, dandelions, fennel and sunflowers
  • Tubers – sweet potato
  • Cereals and grains – maize, sorghum and millet
  • Legumes – white beans, butter beans and sugar beans
  • Other vegetables – spinach, tomatoes, green peppers, eggplants

Wilderness Safaris has recently provided more seeds to the group so that in the next few weeks, when their camps get busy, vegetables can be purchased from this garden. All camp kitchen waste is also being delivered to Ziga and other school gardens on a weekly basis for composting.

To ensure the girls and their families fully benefit from the lessons, materials were also given to each member to start a home garden, and the girls took turns to help each other start their little allotments.

By Shuvanayi Taruvinga, Wilderness Zambezi Community Liaison Officer

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