Soft Foot Alliance Vision

Our vision is to work to create a peaceful and abundant future in the communities living along the edge of Hwange National Park.

By supporting and being a part of facilitated dialogues within these communities we know practical and pragmatic training opportunities are one of their main desire. There is a determination to create local jobs and enterprise to uplift the whole community. Through active participation, training, determination and compassion we are seeing the community in which we live develop. In just one of SFA’s projects,  young men in local communities have have been trained in carpentry skills and plumbing skill, trades that are desperately needed in the region.

As we build on our collective learning and expand on our exciting projects our vision is to see the community, which we call home, thrive and live peacefully alongside healthy wildlife populations.

Through working together towards this goal of a landscape that is regenerated and flourishing our hope is to inspire and to help train other communities to do the same in Zimbabwe and further afield.

To find out more about Brent Stapelkamp and Laurie Simpson.

Rufaro – Trustee

Rufaro’s Story: I am working on creating self-sustaining homes, at two different home set ups. One home is located in the Mkoba high residential area and the other is a plot in Rayland, and both of them are in Gweru. What is common in both places is the growing rate of chronic inter-generational poverty, and the limited opportunities to have an average quality lifestyle.

The focus is on

  • Increasing the ability to utilise the abundant local resources
  • Coming up with long term agricultural solutions that secure a resilient and productive future, with most inputs being generated from the homes
  • Creating an environment that encourages deligence, responsibility, ability to hold ourselves accountable for the success or failure of projects and the use of information to cope up with dynamic changes.

The hope is to practically prove that we do have enough resources to meet our basic needs. I believe that a family is a basic building block of a community. Creating a stable family, means increasing the capabilities of a communities.

Where did all this come from? I remember the day l got an offer letter for my first job so vividly. We had been told that we were more than 500 people who had responded to an advert by this company and l had gotten the job. The unemployment rate was above 90% and l was now one of the 10% lucky ones.  My parents had given up so much to share with their siblings and children, a tool they believed would make life easier, that is, education. I gave education 101% effort doing everything by the book the best way I could. Getting this job was a great opportunity to prove to my parents that they did not make a mistake.

In the work place, it seemed like the education we had, had limited application and it felt like we were taking more from the system than we were giving and it was not sustainable. I would interact with some of my peers who were not employed and they would tell of vain efforts they were putting to get employment and I realised there was nothing special about me, l was just fortunate.

I have always been a reflective person, this time, l really began to question everything. Questions that crossed my mind were, ‘Where are we going?’, ‘where are we coming from?’ and ‘where are we?’ as a community and as individuals. I looked deeper into my own life and of those around me. I was shaken by how instead of progressing we are stagnant or even backsliding.

The goal of living a more convenient, abundant and satisfying life, which led people from especially my parents’ time to move into urban areas was short lived. Back then, it was easier to feed a family, provide shelter and access water without using a lot of physical effort, in urban areas than in rural areas. It only required an investment in education and afterwards getting a job and it was guaranteed that a good life followed. It worked for sometime, but by the time my generation got to be in the working class, the model was highly selective and only worked for a minority, because there were hardly any jobs to talk about. Nowadays, towns have so little to offer, people walk for long distances to get firewood, electricity is occasionally available… salaries can barely cover food and accommodation costs.

There is still so much hope in education bringing a good life, the thing that has shifted though, is where the good life is. For a few it is still within the country, but it is in a different and better neighborhood. For the majority, especially the educated ones, a good life is only found outside the country. We are back to square one, right where my parents started, ‘running’. Moving to a different place where a good life already exists.

What gives us the guarantee that, unlike the temporary good life in urban areas, the countries we are running to, will always offer a good life for everyone? Already things have changed in the benefits that used to come with moving out of the country. The support that a person in the diaspora could give to people back home has reduced, getting jobs in these countries is becoming more and more difficult and even the reception of foreigners in such countries has changed for the bad, an example is xenophobia incidences in SA or in general the effects that are coming as a result of increased immigration.

Its highly likely that, whichever new place we will find, that offers a good life, will only have room, for just a short while. This leaves one solution, of creating a good life right where we are. Using all the acquired knowledge, formally or informally learnt, to extract the benefits that are offered by resources surrounding us, while at the same time protecting these resources, for the sake of the future generation, so that they never have to ‘run’.

This realisation made me want to know more about how l can benefit from things available to me already. In my search, l discovered that there are alternatives to a conventional lifestyle and amongst the new things l learnt, there was permaculture and regenerative agriculture. I was also privileged to witness a family, choose to live a rural life, and strive to create a good life not just for themselves, but inclusive of others. I saw practically, how it was possible to create a good life. It was even easier because l became a part of soft Alliance and I did not have to be isolated when l decided to try out an alternative way of life.

Just as I had predicted, my contract ended 5 years after l has gotten the job, because the company I worked for could not afford to keep us. Some colleagues left for greener pastures in other countries, and those that could not, waited to be called back, as there were very limited opportunities in other companies. As for me, l decided it was time to stop running and went back to where l grew up, to try and make things work there.

Already l have seen a transition from losing money in attempts to carry out multiple projects that are meant to bring in money, to an increased resilience to both changing climate and an unstable economic environment through increased utilisation of internal/ readily available resources. There is so much more potential to stabilize economy wise at a larger level through simple family level grassroots solutions.

Soft Foot Alliance 2018 Annual Report