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A. Introduction

A sustainability evaluation of urban agriculture (UA) projects in specific wards in Nelson Mandela Bay in 2012 (Phase I) and 2014 (phase II) has shown that 97% of the school garden were not sustainable. Most projects did not aim to empower gardeners to the point of rendering the garden autonomous. A recommendation was therefore made to test a permaculture – based model of urban agriculture and promote the latter if proven sustainable.

The proposal made is for establishing a Permaculture Design based vegetable gardening cooperative (or some such suitable entity), which, by becoming self–sufficient in term of effective resource use and able to generate both food and income for the members of the cooperative, would be both socio-economically and environmentally sustainable.

B. Overall Aims

In addition to testing the permaculture model of food production, it is aimed at building a functioning suitable entity which is based on the real empowerment of the members.

It is also hoped that this set up becomes a centre where Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) and Permaculture Design Courses (PDC) would be taught and promoted.

Finally, should the above be successfully established, it would thereby promote the localization of food production and related inputs/outputs in the ward where it would be situated.

This would fully respond to the UA survey recommendations and establish the centre as reference model for sustainable socio-economic development.

In summary the aims are the following:
– To test the permaculture model of growing food in an urban township environment
– To test a cooperative model of growing food crops in an urban township environment using Permaculture Design principles.
– To support localization as a more resilient socio-economic system

The objectives are:

1. Establishment of a permaculture garden model, through a participatory process
2. Setting up of effective management and maintenance systems for the permaculture garden and centre
3. Establish ABCD and PDC curricula and training for local communities.
4. Become a significant centre for the promotion and development of food security localization initiatives.

C. Facilitators

1. Renewable Energy Centre (REC)


Pierre Louis Lemercier is one of the founders of REC and presently its coordinator. The latter was originally established in Oct 2008 and is a registered Non-profit Public Benefit Organisation, based in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa.

We are dedicated to promoting and applying Permaculture Design and Asset Based Community Development principles, methodologies and practices, to the psychological-social-ecological development of severely disadvantaged local urban and rural communities.

Vision (as revised in 2013)

Within 3 years REC, based on the impacts of the projects it designs and implements in disadvantaged communities, is recognized by local government and educational institutes as having played a key role in demonstrating Permaculture Design methodology as the technology of choice for developing social-ecological systems resilient to the shocks of climate disruption, peak oil and social unrest.

1. Awareness-raising about the need to define/implement a Low Carbon Development paradigm in order to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel dependence
2. The creation of a platform for networking and development of ideas and solutions, through the Renewable Energy Centre Website
3. Lobbying government and various institutions
4. Mobilizing community members towards change in light of the above vision and providing practical opportunities for community involvement.
5. Forming a steering committee responsible for the networking of specialized groups and projects relevant to the different aspects of Transition including food, water, energy, environment, social, industry, waste management, transport etc.


2. Calabash Trust


Alhyrian Laue (REC Member) is a Permaculture designer/educator who has been consulting, designing and educating for Calabash Trust since 2012. From 2012 Calabash Trust aligned itself with permaculture ethics in order to promote and facilitate community led development and ecosystem restoration through food and water security. Carla Collins (Calabash Trust Manager and ABCD facilitator), and Alhyrian work together with communities in previously disadvantaged, low-income area schools in Nelson Mandela Bay, Eastern Cape, South Africa.

In African culture, the Calabash has always been a useful item for communities – from being harvested young to eat as a vegetable, hollowed out and dried for carrying water, storing, making musical instruments and hats, and more recently being used as a helmet on motorcycles – it is adaptable enough to be used in many different ways. This is how Calabash Trust operates, in a reflective and adaptive manner, ensuring it remains relevant and useful to community partners.


Calabash Trust, the philanthropic arm of Calabash Tours, is a non-profit and public benefit organisation in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, which has been working, for over 14 years, on various programmes in partnership with local schools and communities in the urban township areas. We facilitate community schools (that are willing partners) through parent and community engagement, using Asset Based Community-led Development (ABCD), story-telling, arts and permaculture design as tools. We help people acknowledge their own assets to use for social and economic resilience.


In essence ABCD principles align with those of permaculture, and naturally complement each other. ABCD is an approach to development that appreciates and builds on the existing assets (human, social, natural, material and financial) of a community, instead of making “need and lack” the focus. The ABCD workshops create a platform which allows the community and school to self-assess the skills and resources they have available and to express what kind of activities, business, and projects they would like to get involved in. Since food and water security are key in every culture and community there is usually an undisputed realization of the importance of creating sustainable food gardens. The permaculture design process is the logical follow up.

Vision: Empowered, confident and resilient communities taking charge of their own lives; utilizing local resources; working together towards social, environmental and economic equality and justice.

Mission statement: To empower and support previously disadvantaged communities in Nelson Mandela Bay through the facilitation of “community schools”, thereby unlocking inherent potential, increasing capacity, stimulating self-reliance and leveraging existing community assets.

D. Trainees

1. Andile Velile Honono


I was born in Transkei (South Africa) in Qumbu District. I grew up there herding cattle and goats to and from the bush. We also plough fields and gardens. Our mother used to plant some vegetables. She showed us how to plant those veggies and irrigate them. We fetched water from the river because there was no tanks at that time. In 1990 I came to Port Elizabeth to stay with my father and I went to Ighayiya technical college. In 1997 I got a job and worked in different firms and companies. From 2009, I worked at Emzomncane Primary school, where I met Alhyrian in 2012. He gave me some tips about gardening, which I used to add to my experiences about planting vegetables.

At my house I’ve got small plots and in the school where I work there is a garden too. In February 2014, I joined Alhyrian’s group to study about permaculture design, which teaches me more about Nature. I want afterwards to encourage communities, other peoples and children at school to plant fruit trees and veggies. When I will visit home, I want also to teach them about this course or show them something new from the permaculture course.

2. Linda Bartman (W.B. Tshume Primary School – tel 041 467 9030 – 076 483 4840)


Talking and learning about permaculture is a wonderful experience. It was in the middle of July 2011 when Alhyrian & Carla were walking in dusty location of Salamantu looking for community members to come for a meeting at one of the nearby schools to introduce permaculture. We first started with workshops and after that were the practical. I do have a little knowledge about planting because at the age of three I did go to the rural area where there was my granny’s farm. At the WB Tshume School, some kids have joined me to maintain the garden. We even have formed a group called the Qhamani Garden Club.

It was then another training, organized by “Food For Africa” that involved the school kids. My Garden club mastered the questions that were asked about permaculture. It was a competition for which we were in the top 5. I love to work with the kids. They keep me young with all the questions they ask and I have to answer them. I like the permaculture slogan that says “work with nature and don’t work against it”. What a connectivity. I love it. I got it and I would love to teach others as well.

3. Nomahlubi Eleanor Apleni.


I stay in Zwide Township (PE). My mother was involved in school gardening, which was supported by the Calabash Trust. Alhyrian and Carla introduced permaculture to the community. My mother is old and not well. So I decided to join the group. I found what they were doing very interesting work. We use Emzomncane Primary School garden. We planted fruit trees and vegetables. We are a community group of 10 women. We find this permaculture very interesting because we are used to agriculture.

We learned about soil & climate. At the moment more peoples from the community show interest and our group plans to teach them about permaculture. We also want to teach young peoples and make them aware about taking care of the soil and climate. They must know that nothing can survive if we don’t look after the soil. Even this climate change can be defeated if everybody is made aware and look after the environment.

4. Shiela Neliswa Xawuka


I am a South African citizen. I live at New Brighton location in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape Province. I worked as a volunteer at Charles Duna Primary School, helping children with their home work and cleaning classrooms after school hours. During March 2014 Alhyrian and Carla of the calabash Trust came to the school. They taught us (including the children) about permaculture gardening. The land was very stony but we managed. We even built a cement tank for irrigating our garden e.g. vegetables, fruit trees and herbs.

I was then given the opportunity to go to Missionvale Campus to learn more about permaculture from Geoff Lawton. There I was coached by Pierre Louis Lemercier and Alhyrian. They really inspired me because I have started practising permaculture gardening at my home garden and at school. Our aim is to help feed our families and communities to survive through these difficult times of high inflation and unemployment.

5. Daphne Thinzi


I was born in PE then I went to Transkei to live with my aunt. She ploughed every type of vegetables, she had cows and chickens, and we were assisting in the work. From the garden to the cattle life was easy at that time because we were not buying everything. The garden and the cattle were helpful. Then I went to PE again. My mother did not have a job because of the Dom pass (a terrible pass system used in the apartheid era). Then I took the responsibility, I worked at the bakery as a domestic worker. Then I went to skills school where I learnt how to sew.

I later met Janet Cherry from NMMU, she took us to training about waste management and recycling. Now Janet introduced me to Pierre Louis and Alhyrian our class teachers I have received a lot of information that I did not know of. I want to visit other schools and communities to share this information. I say thank you to Janet and Pierre Louis for giving me this opportunity.

6. Simpiwe Kaya


I was born in Port Elizabeth in 1979 July 06. At age of four in 1983 I moved to the village called Ndileka in King Williams town. It is in this rural settlement were I was exposed to a life close to nature. I came back to Port Elizabeth in Motherwell a rural urban area at the age of 10 where my father had cows in his backyard. The place is rural because most people were from the rural side and came with their agricultural knowledge.

The urban settlement was not designed to cater for the poor animals. In 1994 my father had to sell all those cows at once .Not because there was minimal opportunities to have cows but also cow theft was becoming a fashion.

At the time I was friends with a number of small farmers. I could assist sometimes until I could find myself in their circles. At the same age I joined a local drama group which amplified the story telling, dance and music in me. I have been practising the art till today.Involved in theatre, radio drama and short films. Arts I believe drove me to us and the community and to be more concerned about the latter at large.

Late last year I met Carla Collins from Calabash trust through ABCD (Asset based community led’ development) workshop who introduced me to Alhyrian Laue who mentored me since August 2014. Charles Duna Primary school wanted to have a garden but never had enough water although the school had water flooding at the parking lot when it rained heavily. Alhyrian started his workshops with water harvesting where all the design started from. We harvested water from the roof with rain collectors and runners pipes turning to the ferrocement tank we built. Reeds College (UK) helped to build this cement and wire tank which can fill up to 22 000 liters of water.

We started opening up a swale from the parking lot and all the beautiful design came from that meandering swale. Then the workshop continued with storytelling, sometimes in a classroom or under the tree, the group shared their background experiences from the rural living, farming experience, even ploughing methods.

The workshop continued to soil and mulching, where we built compost pits at the centre of garden beds where the children, parents and school’s kitchen are bringing their kitchen peels. We were introduced to planting in a Permaculture style and we planted our pioneers. So far we have beans that will fertilize the soil, sweet potato to loosen it up and now we even have spinach…and the workshop still continues.

Now I’m attending Geoff Lawton’s PDC course I am growing with knowledge that I wish to share. I am still playing with ideas…maybe documenting the workshop processes by writing, pictures and videos and present them – compose songs, storytelling etc. So far it’s still a word of mouth rolling.

7. Sakumzi Nyendwana, 29, visual artist (photography, painting, printing, sculpture), 85, Ingwe street, Motherwell PE


I started to love art in Primary school when I was 9 years old. That continued till high school but unfortunately that school did not have art and culture classes to further my knowledge but I didn’t give up. I just kept doing drawings and portraits for my teacher.

In 2006 I started doing sign writing for local businesses such as Salons, crèches and shops…….and never stopped. I also teach art to groups of under privileged kids including my own brother.
I have exhibited my work in local and national museum and galleries and sold some of it to tourists, including foreigner tourists. Currently I own public arts next to my studio at home.


One day I was invited by Carla and Alhyrian to attend a permaculture meeting at W.B. Tshume Primary school, where I heard about something so interesting called “Permaculture design”. Later I was so happy to be part of this Permaculture Design Course because as an artist I love design, patterns as well as challenges and Nature. I am willing to learn more on the permaculture subject. But honestly, I was lost on the first day of the training because some terminologies were a bit too difficult for me. I tried to concentrate and Pierre Louis and Ally help us very much by summarizing each video. I now understand so much more about Nature, the Earth and the importance of energy. So this permaculture course will make so much difference in my creative journey. Thank you Geoff, PL and Ally.


From Left: Linda, Andile and Sakumzi
Finally this Permaculture Design Course will help me to keep my community clean, rich and to save the Earth and energy.


From left: Daphne, Shiela and Nomahlubi
E. Group questions

The location where this group is living and implementing their PD knowledge falls within two recognized biodiversity hotspots. The rich biodiversity of the Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth) is partly attributed to the fact that it is in an area of convergence of five of South Africa’s nine biomes …the Fynbos, Subtropical Thicket, Forest, Nama Karoo, and Grassland biomes …… such a juxtaposition of biomes within a metropolitan municipality is unparalleled in the world. The members of this group live in the areas surrounding the Swartkops estuary which is dominated by what is called Albany thicket. According to the Koppen-Geiger climate classification we fall in BSh (Arid, Steppe, Hot Arid). According to the new South African National Standard 204-2 [1], we fall in coastal temperate.

1. How to plant in a stony soil? (We are in an Ancient River bed with small to large rounded stones dominating the top soil)
2. If you want a chicken farm and you are afraid of thefts and you want to secure your place, what advice can you give? (livestock theft Is a problem in the townships where the members of the group live)
3. How to control pests in our gardens?
4. Somebody told me about planting potato in a sack and as new leaves grow keep adding soil. I put that sack in a car tyre and the potato died. I would like to know if it is good to plant potato in car tyres?
5. Can we design our home plot for accreditation certificate purpose even it is very small (around 20X15m). In that case how can we design it?
6. My garden in my yard is 1 meter wide and about three meters long, which is front of the veranda. What advice can you give me to make a swale that would collect water running from the roof to the veranda in that tiny garden?
7. If I want plants, vegetables as well as small livestock in the same place. How can I do this (Daphne)?
8. We as a group have been discussing our climate. We are in Port Elizabeth (Eastern Cape South Africa) we are in the subtropics on the south coast. We learned that because we are in the subtropics we are supposed to have summer rain but we can get small drizzle all year round with most of our rain in autumn to winter (which can causes floods) but we also get another rainy period in October December . In summer Jan to feb is the hottest and driest months of the year and August to Feb is very windy. We get between 350 and 450mm of rain per year. Can you please help us understand this strange climate?
9. Raised beds have a tendency to dry out in summer but flood in autumn due to the wet and dry extremes we experience.

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