The planning and design of a Sustainability Outreach Centre based at the Zuvuya Ecovillage (www.zuvuya.co.za) wherein aspects of sustainability, such as, natural building systems, alternative energy systems, ecotourism and organic farming will be established as a means to demonstrate and teach to the nearby First and Third World communities the essentials of sustainable development.
I was engaged by members of the Zuvuya Ecovillage, which is situated on some 380 ha in a pristine rural area, who were keen to “walk the talk” with the ecovillage and thus offer a service to adjacent communities. The project was then scoped as a planning and design project wherein the Zuvuya Ecovillage could become a Sustainability Outreach Centre with some sustainability best practices and use these for outreach training projects to adjacent communities. Funding for the planning and design was secured from Gijima, which was a government initiative within the provincial Department of Economic Development (DED) that was managing funds from the European Union for local economic development projects within historically disadvantaged communities. Gijima provided 70% of the funding whilst the 30% balance was provided in kind by the project team.
A multi-disciplinary project team was mobilised, which included, Permaculturists, an environmentalist, a geotechnical engineer, and, specialists in, natural building architecture, alternative energy, land legal issues and ecotourism. A very capable member from the Zuvuya, Samantha Rose-Ellis, managed this design project, whilst I provided project management support.
The project entailed a plan for sustainable agriculture; land / legal advice for the land holding entity; the design of a small training centre using natural building systems and alternative energy systems; an environmental and geotechnical scoping; an ecotourism scoping; and, the engagement of the adjacent Third World community of Impendle to scope some outreach projects. My specific contribution to this project was the overall Permaculture design, which included developing plans for sustainable agriculture.
The design process entailed the initial preparation of the funding proposal to Gijima, which included a detailed project plan, logframe and multi-disciplinary project team, that ensured the project process was well planned and resourced even before the funding was secured. The design process, as shown in Figure 1, entailed;- the preparation of the funding proposal; the stakeholder consultation; the preparation of a development plan; the planning a Permaculture pilot outreach programme; the planning of an alternative technology outreach programme; and, the planning of an ecotourism outreach programme.
Figure 1 - Design Process
When funding was eventually secured, an extensive stakeholder consultation process ensued in order to unpack this project amongst the members of Zuvuya, the project team, officials and community leaders from Impendle Municipality, and, officials from DED and the Department of Agriculture. This stakeholder consultation was essential since it also solicited feedback as to the needs of the nearby Impendle Community and the associated planning of community development projects.
The Development Plan component prepared a holistic plan that showed how Zuvuya could be developed to roll out sustainability outreach programmes, and included plans for a training centre, alternative energy systems, and, a Permaculture landscape. The Development Plan also provided the sectoral analysis for environmental and geotechnical issues; and, the land legal options for how the Zuvuya Ecovillage could be established in a manner that could provide security of land ownership for residents.
Whilst the Permaculture, Alternative Technology and Ecotourism Outreach Programmes were initially conceived as separate programmes, they were eventually all scoped in a holistic manner when the project team visited the Impendle Community and began conceptualising and planning community development projects. One such project entailed the planning of a “wellness centre” that included a Permaculture garden for food security; alternative energy systems; natural building systems; HIV / AIDS awareness centre; an orphanage; and, a community meeting and training venue. Other projects entailed adding value to existing agricultural projects by applying Permaculture design principles, and, several ecotourism projects.
The details of the Development Plan for Zuvuya or the outreach projects for Impendle are not provided herein, save for the specific Permaculture aspects. These entail the overall Permaculture landscape for the Zuvuya Ecovillage, such as, rainwater harvesting, windbreaks / firebreaks, food gardens, and, a financial analysis of the cost of providing this Permaculture landscape and its equivalent amortisation cost.
Plans for the Sustainability Outreach Centre at Zuvuya were developed, but the focus then shifted to the nearby Impendle Community to scope similar type projects since government funding was (and remains) more keen to develop community projects in impoverished and previously disadvantaged areas rather than the predominantly white owned Zuvuya Ecovillage.
Meanwhile, Samantha has created much goodwill within Impendle and is very proactive in several outreach projects from her base at Zuvuya, as evidenced by the following;-
Izintaba Mamas--Creative Crochet Divines: A Rural Women's Empowerment Initiative
Impendle Ecotourism: www.impendle-ecotourism.org.za
Uhambo Camps: www.lifelearningcamps.com
The sustainability design plans for the Zuvuya Ecovillage can still be developed by any future members when sufficient membership funding is available. However, the need to demonstrate examples of sustainability is sorely needed, especially in the general area which has a huge backlog of development needs in the Impendle community. At least, Zuvuya now has a very credible reputation within Impendle, and elsewhere, and has since been engaged in further work by the local municipality.
An important component of an ecovillage is the land legal arrangements. The whole spectrum of these land legal options was explored for the Zuvuya Ecovillage and can be applied to any similar development. Unfortunately, many aspiring ecovillagers live on the fringe of society and abhor any complicated financial institutions such as are imbued in land legal arrangements. However, the lack of security of tenure is the main reason why there are not so many newcomers to ecovillages. Aspiring ecovillagers need to be placated that their homestead in an ecovillage setting will appreciate in value just like elsewhere in the suburbs or cities. In fact, land in an ecovillage should appreciate more in value due to the socio-economic fabric and quality of life that is found in many ecovillages. For this reason, it is important for ecovillagers to be fully aware of land legal issues and the best system that can safeguard their investment within an ecovillage. To this end, and without being prescriptive, my advice is that one of the better land legal arrangements is a sectional title scheme wherein the homestead is fully owned by the ecovillager whilst the communal land is owned by a body corporate comprising the ecovillage members. The homestead can then be easily bonded and traded, and at worst, banks can only repossess the homestead but cannot touch the communal land, thus safeguarding the other ecovillage homesteads.
The financial analysis for establishing the Permaculture landscape for rainwater harvesting systems, windbreaks and firebreaks, and, substantial food security for the envisaged 25 families, amounted to an investment of some R126,000 per family. At the time, this amount was equivalent to a new midrange car, and a very reasonable investment for creating a sustainable landscape and much food security (for life!). It is interesting to note that whilst this planning project was underway, a runaway veld fire almost destroyed all the homesteads (one was lost), and made the residents of Zuvuya realise how vulnerable they are to the forces of nature, and hence, the importance of a Permaculture type sustainable landscape to mitigate against natural disasters. It will be interesting to compare this yardstick cost estimate for creating a Permaculture landscape with other similar projects.