Living Soils Community Learning Farm

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Launched in 2019, the Living Soils Community Learning Farm is an initiative between partners Woolworths, Spier and the Sustainability Institute.

The learning farm is situated in Lynedoch, Stellenbosch and will demonstrate ecologically-restorative methods to grow nutrient-rich foods to improve community food security.

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.

Woolworths provided funding of R4.4 million for a three year period, Spier contributed three hectares of land and farming equipment and the Sustainability Institute and its AgroEcology Academy will host and drive the project with a dedicated Project Manager, and conduct research as the project progresses.

During August 2019 the first seedlings were planted, and the first harvest took place in November 2019. AgroEcology Academy graduates Phutuma Mgu, Thandiwe Mtyingizani, Vuyolwethu Zicina and Sindiswa Mdodana are part of the project, supported by programme manager Rirhandzu Marivate.

Over the next three years, this pilot project will be carefully documented to ensure that it can be replicated successfully in other communities.

News articles:

The Team

PROJECT MANAGER: LEARNING FARM

Rirhandzu Marivate

LIVING SOILS JUNIOR MANAGER

Phuthuma Mgu

LIVING SOILS JUNIOR MANAGER

Thandiwe Mtyingizani

LIVING SOILS JUNIOR MANAGER

Vuyolwethu Zicina

PERMACULTURIST

Yoliswa Mahobe

PROJECT ASSISTANT: LEARNING FARM

Mpumie Cebekhulu

LIVING SOILS JUNIOR MANAGER

Sindiswa Mdodana

PROJECT MANAGER: LEARNING FARM

Rirhandzu Marivate

Rirhandzu Marivate is a dynamic and enthusiastic individual who is passionate about working to better communities. She has an academic background in Natural Sciences. Her research interests are on multi-stakeholder engagement on environmental and natural resource planning and management within rural and peri-urban communities, and optimisation of livelihood building activities, while protecting the environment in order to build community resilience and economic development.

Previously, she worked as a sustainability and environmental scientist for the Council for Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) and is a project manager for a programme that provides pro bono environmental services to disadvantaged groups and businesses across South Africa. She has also worked as a researcher with the Climate Systems Analysis Group (CSAG) at the University of Cape Town, with research focused on socioecological freshwater systems and how local ecological knowledge held by different stakeholders affects their water management priorities.

At the Sustainability Institute, Rirhandzu is a regenerative food systems coordinator, and she currently oversees the running of the SI Permaculture Food garden and is the project manager of the Living Soils Community Learning Farm project. The project aims to establish a self-sustaining learning farm that produces food using ecologically-regenerative farming methods for the benefit and development of long-term food security, while incorporating training of young and emerging farmers and the community at large.

She is part of the Global Shaper Community Stellenbosch Hub, and volunteers for the Kayamandi Parkrun. She enjoys running, hiking, gardening, traveling and exploring different kinds of food.

LIVING SOILS JUNIOR MANAGER

Phuthuma Mgu

She is originally from Engcobo, Eastern Cape, but moved to Cape Town as a teenager where she completed her schooling. She is a dynamic individual who started her own business as a hairstylist in 2005. She conducted her business for 15 years, but decided to further her education when she discovered the AgroEcology Academy where she completed her studies. Phuthuma was happy to be one of the twenty people chosen among the three hundred applications.

She went on to complete an internship with the Living Soils Community Learning Farm at the Sustainability Institute. She is now a Junior Farm Manager for Living Soils overseeing the coordination and management of farm activities under regenerative farming practices, and her main responsibility is overseeing plant production, from planting to harvesting. She is excited as it is the first time she feels like she is a proud working woman, and she is happy to be part of the SI, where disadvantaged youth are groomed to be independent. It is Phuthuma’s hope to learn more about what she has been studying, and that someday she will own her own farm and help others like her who are willing to grow their own organic food gardens.

LIVING SOILS JUNIOR MANAGER

Thandiwe Mtyingizani

Thandiwe studied with the Agroecology Academy and completed her internship with the Living Soils Community Learning Farm, at the Sustainability Institute.  She is now a Junior Farm Manager for Living Soils overseeing the coordination and management of farm activities under regenerative farming practices, and her focus is soil health and water management on the farm.  She is looking forward to applying her knowledge and experience on the farm. Thandiwe also wishes to pass her knowledge to others and hopes to manage her own garden.

She was born in the small town of Tsolo in the Eastern Cape and she, together with her four siblings were raised by their parents until her father passed away. She is married with two wonderful boys. Thandiwe considers herself to be shy, but is always smiling. She loves cooking, listening to music and spending time with her family.

LIVING SOILS JUNIOR MANAGER

Vuyolwethu Zicina

Vuyolwethu is a junior farm manager with the Living Soils Community Learning Farm. She manages the SI Permaculture garden with a team of enthusiastic and dedicated gardeners, and she is also responsible for nursery plant production and grows seedlings for the garden and the farm.

She, together with 20 other students studied with the Agroecology Academy and she also completed her internship on the Living Soils Community Learning Farm at the Sustainability Institute. Growing food has become her passion because she knows that there wouldn’t be life without food and the country’s economy would be affected. She hopes to see the learning farm grow even to other provinces so that it can feed the nation. It is also her hope that she one day owns her own farm together with her colleagues.

Vuyo is from Zwelitsha, a small area in King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape, and now resides in Kayamandi in Stellenbosch. She is married with three boys.

PERMACULTURIST

Yoliswa Mahobe

Yoliswa is the Permaculture expert at the Sustainability Institute. She loves beauty, nature, food and people. That love has been a journey of discovery and has enabled her to reconnect with Agriculture in a holistic way.

She studied Horticulture, and during her early career she was introduced to Permaculture. Permaculture enables her to do what she loves, which is working with people where everyone shares and learns in ways that are sustaining human lives. She is inspired by being able to work with nature through growing food in a manner that respects the earth, while also co-creating beautiful living spaces in a landscape that humans will enjoy for peace, silence, beauty and learning.

She worked for SEED as an environmental education co-ordinator, facilitating curriculum linked lessons in school while establishing food gardens using Permaculture principles. Yoliswa is part of an organisation called Amava Oluntu, which works with communities in urban and rural cities to build learning journeys. She is also involved with the Muizenberg Community Schools, creating gardens linking into Xhosa lessons.

At the Sustainable Institute she is the training coordinator for the Living Soils Community Learning Farm where she is responsible for capacity building opportunities for the team, and supports community engagement work around food security on Lynedoch. She also facilitates experiential garden lessons with the Lynedoch Small School, Lynedoch Children’s House AND Youth programme by guiding them with garden activities in the SI Permaculture Food Garden and the Living Soils Farm.

In her spare time she enjoys reading, dancing, eating food and travelling. She has two beautiful sons, from whom she learns a lot!

PROJECT ASSISTANT: LEARNING FARM

Mpumie Cebekhulu

Mpumie joined us in 2019 as a project assistant for the Living Soils Community Learning Farm.

She obtained a National Diploma in Management at Cape Peninsula University of Technology in 2012, specialising in management and financial management. Mpumie is a friendly individual, who enjoys working with diverse people. She always looks for opportunities to learn and expand her knowledge. “I am honored to join the SI as I am granted the opportunity to learn and expand my footprint at a personal level and in my career as a whole.”

LIVING SOILS JUNIOR MANAGER

Sindiswa Mdodana

Sindiswa studied with the Agroecology Academy and completed her internship with Living Soils Community Learning Farm, at the Sustainability Institute.  She is now a Junior Farm Manager for Living Soils overseeing the coordination and management of farm activities under regenerative farming practices, and she is the general site manager.

Like many others, Sindi who was born and raised in Ngqeleni, Eastern Cape, moved to Stellenbosch to find better opportunities for herself. She lives in Kayamandi, where she works in her local ward as a youth development councilor. She is incredibly passionate about people, and through her studies and experience in farming has realized that she is also able to support youth through farming. Her dream is to start a farming community centre in Kayamandi and back home in the Eastern Cape.