The Living Soils Community Learning Farm, an initiative between partners Woolworths, Spier and the Sustainability Institute, is a learning farm situated in Lynedoch, Stellenbosch that will demonstrate ecologically-restorative methods to grow nutrient-rich foods to improve community food security.
Since the pilot project was launched in March this year, great strides have been made in establishing the project. “The focus to date has been to prepare the first hectare of land and soil for planting, and to develop the project plan to ensure that the learning journey for the young farmers will be successful. It has been a great learning opportunity for everyone involved,” says Rirhandzu Marivate, Project Manager for the Living Soils Community Learning Farm.
This week the first crops were planted, and a variety of crops will continue to be planted into the summer. “Our first harvest will be in November, and the food grown will be harvested to ensure that the beneficiaries of the programme have a constant supply of food,” says Marivate. “The food harvested will go towards the school feeding programme of the Sustainability Institute, which provides daily meals to approximately 200 impoverished and at-risk children from the Lynedoch community that attend one of the schools at the Institute. Children cannot concentrate on an empty stomach, and these daily meals help them focus better in class and in turn reach their full potential.”
The farmers are using regenerative agriculture as the farming method to grow food, which will not deplete the available resources. The first step was to restore the soil, and now they are working towards restoring the ecological system of the farm to contribute to the local biodiversity.
An important goal of the farm is the provision of training and learning that empowers emerging, young farmers with the skills to tackle food insecurity and youth unemployment. The young farmers’ part of the Living Soils project are three local women from Khayamandi, who are completing their internship practical experience required for their AgroEcology Academy qualification. ”The young farmers are very hands-on and focused on self-development. They are eager to enhance their skills in regenerative farming, farm and business management as well as facilitation and community engagement. Under the guidance of farm manager Eric Swarts and additional support provided by Spier farm manager Orlando Filander, Sustainability Institute’s permaculturist Yoliswa Mahobe and Woolworths Farming for the Future expert Kobus Pienaar they are receiving the best possible support,” says Marivate.
Through dedication and commitment to a shared vision, the teams are working together to develop the best approach for regenerative farming that can one day be replicated in more communities, with the hope of improving food security in communities in South Africa.