Establishing permaculture homesteads in our local communities represents one of our main long-term strategies to improving quality of life. By starting at homestead level, these low carbon, highly productive human & environmental systems strengthen the heart of our communities.

growing resilient communities: part 1 (grc: 1) 

This project takes a participatory approach to improve food & nutrition security in the communities of Lobamba Lomdzala. In addressing the underlying causes of food insecurity & poverty, grc: 1, creates practical routes to understanding & responding to the social & environmental barriers to opportunity, providing a solid foundation for change.
the grc continuumFocus: Homestead Level Food & Nutrition Security

Duration of each project: 3 years (1 year monthly training, monitoring & support + 2 years further monitoring & support)

Total beneficiaries reached with each yearly intake

180 farming HH engaged in production & nutrition training, with regular on-farm support.

Direct beneficiaries with skills: 1021

Total beneficiaries reached: 3,061

This project aims to create resilient local communities capable of producing sufficiently diverse & reliable supplies of food using methods that contribute to ecological, social & economic prosperity.
Working from the premise that one size does not fit all, our approach to poverty reduction through increasing the productivity of smallholder farmers, utilises diverse solutions & approaches appropriate to the challenges of food security at a time of ecological, economic & social instability.


swaziland_flag_mapSince 2011, Swaziland’s fiscal crisis has worsened poverty. A quarter of households have suffered severe shocks when faced with rising food prices & loss of income, compounded by reduced life expectancy (48 years) & high unemployment rates (40%, with 59% youth unemployment). 63% of the population are considered below the poverty line & food insecure. With the highest HIV-prevalence in the world (26%), & a worsening fiscal situation,Swaziland’s attainment of its’ Millennium Development Goals are ever-further from reach.

Rural women bear the brunt of poverty, with 70% illiteracy, a discriminatory traditional land tenure system & poor control over decisions on asset-use within households. 75% of the 1.231 million population are rural, depending on small scale agriculture as their primary livelihood source, yet production is predominantly rain-fed, high-input & low yielding, only loosely informed by market opportunities, making it highly susceptible to social, ecological, economic & climate shocks.

75% of land in Swaziland is held in trust by the King, administered by chiefs as Swazi Nation Land (SNL) of which 75% suffers from severe degradation due to exposed soils, overgrazing, & lack of biodiversity. Farming an average 1ha of degraded land per household has resulted in poor yields of (primarily) maize for household consumption, increasing food insecurity during recurring droughts, with no strategies for diversification, soil-moisture retention or water capture.

Farmers face a number of obstacles that entrench poverty: According to IFAD, a lack of information on appropriate resource-use means that there is little for household consumption let alone surplus for market. Furthermore, insecure land tenure blocks access to financial collateral, leaving smallholders locked in a cycle of low productivity & poverty.

In response to the challenges raised by community members, Guba provides a range of quality services. This project is one such response to identifying sustainable, appropriate solutions to the challenges of high yield production using low cost, low input technologies. Community members & leaders have articulated that, without this initiative, family farmers will continue struggling to scale productivity ecologically & cost-effectively.

community consultation 

150 community members & leaders were consulted across the 3 communities comprising the Lobamba Lomdzala constituency (including youth & women), between August 2012 & December 2013.

Consultations took several forms: community meetings with Umphakatsi (chiefdom) leadership & local government through the local MP & his team; consultations with community members through focus group discussions & questionnaire surveys both at Guba & in the community at large.

Data highlighted inappropriate production methods & poor understanding of, & access to markets as the critical challenges to a more effective local agricultural economy. This information has greatly informed project development. The community expressed a need for training in high yielding, sustainable farming to address HH food insecurity & recurring drought in SD.

It was also noted that there is a high level of frustration with the government agricultural extension services (MoAC), which lacks the capacity to deliver meaningful, & relevant extension support.

consultation with grc: 1, intake 1 training graduates (2012) 

Demand was identified for a 2-stage approach to training & support:

  1. To embed ecological production for FNS at community level through a year long skills based training project (grc: 1) with a further 2 years of extension & support at household level.
  2. Successful graduates of grc: 1 would be invited to apply to join a market access project where training focuses on livelihood scale production, market analysis & access via Guba’s bulking & distribution service to identified contract markets (grc: 2).

To date, there have been two grc: 1 intakes providing the delivery team with an opportunity to fine tune their approach & materials. 23 successful grc: 1 graduates have now entered the first intake of grc: 2, piloting the market access stage of training & support.

For the purposes of this proposal, the focus will be to bring in a further two grc: 1 intakes (3 & 4). Graduates from these intakes will be invited to participate in grc: 2 market access training & support.

2012-05-09 13.04.05Training & support for resource-poor farming households restores & secures critical natural resources to promote sustainable production systems, resulting in increased household food security, resilience & quality of life. 
2012-07-23 10.49.58Improved access, cultivation & appropriate utilisation of an increased diversity of food crops leads to the consumption of a more varied diet with a greater proportion of food products being home grown without synthetic inputs. 
DSCN2597An enhanced understanding of human environmental interaction, the key role nutrition & diet play in human health & the value of sustainable & holistic approach to food production & ecosystem management combine to begin a shift in attitude within trainees towards a longer term, self motivated & empowered approach to problem solving, self, family & community development. 
2011-06-16 08.45.17Following community-wide consultations, beneficiaries will self-select to take part in selection training. During the selection training, participants will practise making fencing out of recycled materials & living plants. They will then be asked to construct a similar fence (excluding bought items) 10m x 10m at their homestead in an area near their kitchen or home where they could site a kitchen garden.

2011-07-25 08.58.32Having been assessed on the basis of skills & aptitude, 60 leader farmers will be selected for full training – each recruiting 2 follower farmers for shared learning (totalling 180 HHs). Via this approach, knowledge & skills will be diffused & embedded through field days & informal neighbour exchanges to a further 600 farming households. 

Over the first year of the project, 8 x week-long modules in sustainable production will improve diversity & yields for food security households, increasing social & ecological resilience & climate change adaptation.

The project will work endogenously by extending information & skills peer-to-peer, unlocking the capacity of farmers to address their own obstacles. Farmers will learn the scientific methods inherent in sustainable agriculture & will employ their findings in everyday practice, incorporating techniques such as soil & water conservation technologies, intercropping, contouring & terracing, storage technologies & seed saving to protect soil & rebuild wider ecosystem capacity.

Mixed farming & diversification will be encouraged for climate change adaptation, soil & wider ecosystem health as well as for food & income security. 

Food cooked & prepared at Guba during the production training is the starting point for a dietary shift among students. Fresh, grown on site, diverse, nutritious & easily cultivated at home, while remaining culturally recognisable & familiar. From here we move through key topics of optimising nutrition in food, energy efficient cooking technologies, food storage – evaporative cooling systems, drying, pickling, jams, chutneys etc. – through to how to grow each new plant, harvest & collect the seeds. Guba hosts seed swapping gatherings during training weeks to encourage trainees to increase their access to a wide variety of food.

The result is a repertoire of new recipes embedded in a solid understanding of nutrition with the skill to grow, prepare, preserve & consume a more varied, nutritious diet. 

Additional modules in participatory planning & decision making, gender, HIV, exchanges & community field days for household members & decision makers will strengthen & deepen support systems around the target farmers at household level.

The project will build the asset-base of participating farmers, facilitate an agroecological means of production to meet household food needs first, & then generate a surplus for sale. 

It is well recognised that solid outcomes require a greater understanding at household & community level about the often complex role of women as both carers & producers. This must include the trade-offs required, & an understanding that complex inter-generational arrangements rarely place the care of children in the hands of one decision-maker.

While agroecological production should increase the productive diversity of, & access to, a range of nutrient-dense foods, this in itself is unlikely to deliver optimal outcomes unless it is supported with information on nutrition, & in a supportive environment.

Essential factors are the division of labour (between household members, & between labour & care activities), access to & control over resources (including productive assets), & decision making over assets & investments (such as farm inputs, schooling, healthcare & the purchase of nutritious foods to augment those produced on-farm or harvested).

For this reason, it is important that the project attracts a mix range of trainees (in both age & sex), with an emphasis on fostering understanding & gender equity to improve equal access to productive resources & opportunity. This approach has proven to be successful in fostering mutually beneficial support, with examples of older generations supporting disempowered young through family politics & trainees coming together to represent others within their communities in an attempt to secure land when they have been made either homeless or access to land had been denied.  

By engaging leadership in 3 target communities, 21 leaders will be influenced, with the aim of deepening long-term impact & extending reach. As other community leaders become aware of livelihood benefits realised in target communities, so these successes are emulated by others. The aim of leadership engagement is to build support around target farming households. 
Institutional relationships will be deepened & strengthened by collaborating with existing service providers, creating buy-in & opportunities for adaptation & up-take of climate sensitive, ecological practices.

Low-cost production, aligned with peer-to-peer learning is a cost-effective strategy for national delivery in the context of acutely stretched services.

Given the strictures of Swaziland’s political environment, & a recognition that change happens slowly, we nonetheless believe that the size of Swaziland, coupled with strategically targeted engagement, can have a disproportionately transformative effect. 

A total investment of E174,4940.62 (£90,000) represents a value for money spend of E562.00 (£29.00) per person (total beneficiaries) or E1,706.00 (£88.00) per direct beneficiary.

In addressing the underlying causes of food insecurity & poverty, grc: 1, further intakes will create practical routes to understanding & responding to the social & environmental barriers to opportunity, providing a foundation for change.

With a focus on resource efficiency, external inputs will largely be mitigated. Instead this investment focuses on knowledge-generation, building ongoing capacity in sustainable practices at household & community level.

A peer-to-peer approach enables information to be cascaded to more farmers cost-effectively, while ensuring that skills remain in the community for future learning & impact to be realised.

Furthermore, grc: 1 graduates are positioned to take part in grc: 2 in which they learn to identify & produce for markets, & manage their business to sustain market relationships, providing viable & sustainable livelihoods as well as generating more diverse foods for the local foodshed.

This project, therefore, represents an important resiliency foundation for many of these farming households.







Gubaestablishing permaculture homesteads