Permaculture is used to design all aspects of our work, though it is mostly known for its application in agricultural practices. This is a big focus for the Soft Foot Alliance, with much of our time spent on sharing and training the community around Hwange National Park to improve soil quality, catch rainwater and grow abundant and varied food on smaller parcels of land without using any chemical pesticides or fertilizers. This work we have done to-date includes:
- Training in highly water efficient wicking-bed construction and compost making.
- Water harvesting and introduction to permaculture
- Holistic grazing planning and training
- Training in the construction of fuel-efficient earthen rocket stoves and hot boxes.
As the community is exposed to and applies more-and-more of this knowledge, there is a real sense that simple techniques exist to create harmony with one another and the natural world. But this is not only about introducing new information, it also harnesses traditional knowledge, which re-connects people with their historic skills, land and the biodiversity. There is nothing more exciting for the Soft Foot Alliances than seeing the growing number of people testing permaculture techniques in the community.
At the Soft Foot Alliance, we take community members to see people and projects who have been practicing permaculture for a long time. These site visits can be combined with more in-depth training on water harvesting, seed saving, food processing and peace building. We also cover the costs of trainers to come out to the community to work with local people to find solutions to local problems. Given the increasing number of requests, we are training more community members to deliver permaculture design locally, which, in turn is expanding both nutrition gardens and market gardens in the region.
In permaculture every element must serve several purposes, this can be seen in the inter-connections with our work at the Soft Foot Alliance. Herders working together to regenerate the land, and protect livestock from lions. In turn, this herders learn skills that bring economic opportunities for them such as making bee hive fences and zero visibility mobile bomas. The bee hives protect fields from elephants and improve pollination of crops. They protect the bees from having their hives destroyed and create economic opportunities for the community to sell honey and wax products. The bomas increase crop yields and fertilize fields for many years, livestock are protected and so are the lions.