The SCOPE programme in Zimbabwe is undergoing a process of launching the revamped, integrated land use design (ILUD) tool, after undergoing a re-strategising process that saw the organization shifting from just the ecological learning aspects to incorporate a phase which can be called ‘grounding’. It involves the community elders imparting the historical, traditional knowledge to the young people. This phase is designed to build on the experiences and lessons learnt from implementing the ILUD/ permaculture programme in schools since 1994. Linda Kabaira from NextGEN Africa reports.
Zimbabwe has suffered the spread of the private land ownership and modernization with the advent of colonialism and globalization. The attendant individualization of village life has undermined traditional collective management regimes over natural resources. In this interpretation of history, the individualization of property led to the breakdown of traditional authority and community regulation over common resources. As a result, common property resource regimes degenerated into open access.
The interpretation of the history of our land and resources is slowly being forgotten and overtaken by modernization, whereby the young Zimbabwean is not aware of their culture, tradition and history of their land.
Some scholars therefore believe that a return to the pre-colonial situation – when traditional institutions once prevailed – will empower communities to manage their resources more sustainably. The implicit assumption being that traditional systems of land tenure were characterized by collective action and common property management regimes that empowered local people to own and protect resources.
The SCOPE programme comes in to bridge the gap, linking the modern world to the past. The SCOPE programme is a unit of the Zimbabwe Institute of Permaculture (ZIP) which works closely with the Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture (MOESAC). It was launched in 1994 to promote a design tool and a process for developing integrated land use management systems in school landscapes. SCOPE also works to develop an educational curriculum that includes ecological principles, in which sound land use practices are based.
SCOPE has evolved over the years to become a resilience hub offering regenerative design principles in the face of peak oil, climate change, land degradation, biodiversity loss and economic volatility. The programme seeks to facilitate re-skilling, self-reliance, food security and independence, bringing regenerative whole systems thinking into the classroom to foster a future shaped by resilient and sustainable practices.
SCOPE is assisting schools and their local communities in establishing landscapes around the school grounds and the neighborhood that can be used as areas for student and community learning. There are three approaches to this learning. The first is through intergenerational learning: the sharing of the stories from the past by the elders to the young people, facilitating the reconnection to nature. Secondly, the development of the learning area (participatory mapping of the grounds, re-designing the landscapes using permaculture principles. Thirdly, the final developed product is used as a learning Centre (nature trail, an outdoor classroom, teaching and demonstrating with the available resources TALULAR).
The relaunch of the ILUD tool is aimed at ensuring the process remains relevant, creating a school programme that is not isolated, i.e. a piecemeal, or simply unrelated, work extraneous to the school. It is focusing on ensuring that it is a fully integrated process that relates directly to the needs of the young people, relating to the school curriculum, the management of the local resources and the school grounds. The tool then becomes another teaching pedagogy, an alternative learning style, and a strategy for implementing school based curricula. The revamped tool now focuses on bringing onboard the community in managing the resources.
The relaunch of the ILUD tool is also focused on ensuring the spreading of the concepts to other schools and communities using a cluster system approach; picking on the lessons learned from the implementing schools and communities through peer learning field days.
St Magret’s Primary school is one example whose landscapes are being useful in peer learning as a cluster focal school. SCOPE’s approach is a participatory process which demonstrates the relevance of engaging schools and colleges in facilitating restoration and preservation of Indigenous knowledge systems in fostering adaptive strategies that focus on addressing the current global need.
St Magret’s Primary School was selected as a first case study
The school is situated in Mashonaland East Province of the country, approximately 160 km from the capital city, Harare. The school is a comprehensive primary school with approximately 614 pupils of ages 5- 13 years. The whole school area is about 5 hectares. The school has an integrated, whole school plan that involves various projects and sectors over most of the site.
Much of the school site is on land of considerable slope with water runoff from the upper slope. The school is surrounded by residential development which has made it a strong nucleus for permaculture in the community. The school has also managed to harvest much of the water which flows down slope for their own productive use.
With major surveys and consultation with the school community, including training with pupils and teachers, the areas of the school identified as having the greatest need for improvement were identified using the integrated land use design step by step process, situational analysis (defining thresholds), defining values, broad scale landscape design and implementation.
St Margret’s Primary school permaculture activity is a unique and cutting edge sustainability example that was initiated by SCOPE in 1994 as a seed community for the pilot programme. The initiative aimed at creating sustainable environments such as food forests for the school and community, and to provide a learning platform for permaculture by the community. To date the school landscapes have been transformed into productive ecological, socially responsible, and financially sustainable permaculture landscapes that are replicable.
Over the past years, an outpouring of students and community members, both locally and regionally, have thronged to learn from the permaculture landscapes at the school. The availability of diverse herbs at the schools and a variety of tree seedlings on sale has often attracted the surrounding community to visit St Magret’s school and learn while buying produce, giving some financial gains to the school pupils.
The school has planted over 5,000 fruit trees, including Oranges, Mangoes, bushes, herbs, flowers, and vegetables, and is committed to transforming more areas into edible landscapes on their school grounds. St Magret’s School’s Permaculture Initiative is able to support local orphans and vulnerable children so that they may be able to pay their school fees. The school runs an organic market and nutrition garden which gives them a monthly income of USD30.00 – USD50.00.
The learners and school officials applauded the permaculture programme for raising a child and learner who has a world view and holistic approach to life. They had this to say, “The Permaculture programme has brought about practical solutions to this school community”. Children are taught to recycle and not burn or heap waste, tyres were seen to be useful in producing vegetables and flowers to beautify the school environment. These skills are learnt by children who, SCOPE believes, will remember and utilize them at some point in their lives.