Introduction & Background

The Matsila Community Development Trust has been established by the Matsila Royal Family in terms of Section 6(1) of the Trust Property Control Act, 1998 to facilitate and co-ordinate socio-economic development activities within HaMatsila Village and surrounding communities. This trust was established by the Matsila Royal Family in consultation with members of the Matsila Community.

One of the Trust’s key responsibilities is to facilitate socio-economic development partnerships between the Matsila Community, private sector and government. The priority areas of focus in terms of socio-economic development as identified by the community include agriculture, environment, tourism, arts, culture, sports and social services.

Matsila Community Development Trust in collaboration with Resource Africa is currently involved in a comprehensive rural development program which funded by the National Lotteries Board and Supported by the National Department of Rural Development and Land Reform. Amongst other key objectives, this project seeks to facilitate sustainable socio-economic development within Ha-Matsila and the surrounding villages.

This is a Community Public Partnership (CPP) intervention being initiated by The Matsila Community Development Trust in partnership with the Africa Resources Trust trading as ResourceAfrica.

This project is geared towards the revival, promotion and preservation of indigenous knowledge on environmental management and conservation of natural resources through eco-organic farming. This project will adhere to a sound social development approach which will empower the Matsila Community and surrounding villages to achieve acceptable levels of Household Livelihood Security (HLS).

This initiative shows the viability of integrating sound environmental management principles and eco-organic farming as a livelihood strategy and development option that will increase food security, reduce poverty and disease whilst contributing to soil, water and biodiversity conservation. Working with and for the community, this project will promote the integration and application of indigenous/traditional knowledge in environmental management, conservation of natural resources and sustainable development.

This project will thus improve the capacity of the Matsila Community and surrounding villages to recover, revive, promote, preserve and use their Indigenous Knowledge (IK) to secure livelihoods whilst protecting the environment and natural resources. This will be done through a replicable model providing sustainable land-use options with immense benefits to local people and their environment.

Therefore, the key goal of this project is to promote Community-based Sustainable Land Management (SLM) which is firmly rooted on the recovery and application of Indigenous Knowledge (IK). This will facilitate sustainable development through interventions that mitigate threats to biodiversity and maintain ecological processes necessary to secure livelihoods in rural areas.

Sustainable Benefits to Community & Society

The main goal of this project is to increase the ability of smallholder farmers to diversify livelihood opportunities by producing sufficient food to feed their family, generating cash income, increasing the productivity of their farming, and conserving their natural resources. A livelihood model to be followed in this project will ensure that communities continue to derive environmental and social benefits for the rest of their lives.

This will be achieved by strengthening capacity to development and implement projects on organic farming to improve rural livelihoods. Importantly, this project strategy aligns with the expectations of the Government of South Africa’s policy and programs on rural development and land reform.

This Project will also improve the capacity of the Matsila Community to achieve a diverse range of livelihood securities including those for food, nutrition, environment, fodder, energy and income. The creation of thousands of jobs is targeted, and a multiplier effect through regional replication will reduce poverty, enhance quality of life and upgrade overall community socio-economic standing and well-being. Business development through training and skills development will provide the necessary skills and capacity for growers to move up the value chain and fully operate Farmer Controlled Enterprises (FCEs). In this regard, the first step towards implementing successful organic farming activities and bio-diversity stewardship among the Matsila Community is to capacitate local people to use organic farming techniques, methodology and approaches. This will be done through intensive training of emerging farmers.

This training will enhance the ability of participants to deliver on production, planning and management of organic crops and livestock. The organic agricultural product market allows small-scale farmers to compete internationally on something other than price, while at the same time helping to preserve endangered habitats.

Particular emphasis will also be given to gender responsiveness and inclusion because there is the need to overcome the inherent gender biases in our societies, cultures and organizations. We will also insure that the youth and people with disability derive tangible benefits from this project especially with respect to opportunities for skills development and gainful employment. This will require the setting of a 50% target for women, youth and people with disabilities.

The following is a conservative estimation of jobs that could be created through this initiative:

Project Beneficiaries

The beneficiaries of this project will be local people of Matsila Community located at HaMatsila Village (including other surrounding villages) in Limpopo Province within Makhado Local Municipality. This is a Vulnerable Rural Community (VRC) residing in a remote, marginalised and sensitive environmental landscape with dense and expanding human settlements where African traditions were disrupted over decades of societal disruption through Apartheid.

Poverty, high unemployment, poor nutrition and health problems are rife within this community. It is estimated that 52% of the population lives below the poverty line. The combined threats of demographic changes and poverty within the community have caused wide-ranging ecosystem stresses and environmental damage. This situation has been exacerbated by unsustainable practices of modern agriculture that is intensive on the use chemicals that endanger both the environment and people’s lives.

Background & Rationale

Today, humanity faces a serious challenge. Much of the Earth’s biodiversity—the richness of its many species of flora and fauna—is at risk. The areas that are home to the greatest numbers of threatened species are also home to large numbers of rural people, many of whom are desperately poor and dependent on their environment for livelihoods. Ultimately these ecological disturbances have severe repercussions on the socio-economic life of communities.

Local agriculture, as the main provider of food and livelihoods to these people, must expand to meet rapidly growing world demand, keep up with burgeoning populations, and prevent hunger. Yet agriculture, as currently practiced, is a chief cause of the destruction of valuable habitats, pushing species towards extinction.

Research shows that agriculture remains the economic base for the majority of the poor in Africa and accounts for about 33% of Africa’s GDP and for the bulk of employment. Most agricultural production comes from small-scale farmers, with women playing an extremely important role. Agricultural production, distribution and sales directly affect food security and the nutritional status of household members.

Moreover, there is a high multiplier effect for agricultural growth. Higher incomes from high-value agriculture also make the provision and use of social services in rural areas sustainable and affordable.

Importantly, the economic contribution of agriculture (i.e. providing food and livelihoods) can only be maintained if its base (i.e. natural resources) is preserved and their functions (environmental services) are enhanced. In pursuit of this noble goal, the project seeks to harness the existing entrepreneurial energy in rural communities through promoting balanced approaches to environmental management and sustainable development.

This project also takes into account the historical reality that African agriculture was premised on indigenous practices and ecological knowledge of small-scale farmers. This has been part of our heritage acquired through centuries of adaptation to changing environmental conditions. Amongst other strategies, our communities utilized rotational farming and interspersed different plants to enrich the soil and deter pests from food crops. In essence, this is the African heritage and knowledge which this project seeks to revive, promote and preserve for generations to come.

Research also shows that environmental resources and indigenous knowledge have been disrupted and today, agriculture can hardly be defined as sustainable. Indigenous Knowledge (IK) and related social and cultural practices are important but neglected resources for agricultural development.

Encouragingly and despite the introduction of agro-chemicals, many small-scale farmers continue to rely on indigenous farm practices and their local knowledge. These indigenous agricultural systems are by default organic agriculture and older community members enthusiastically embrace the organic farming techniques – finding them to be reminiscent of how their parents and grandparents once gardened, as well as low-cost alternatives to the use of chemicals.

The project further aligns with what is termed “Environmental Rights” enshrined within the Bill of Rights of South Africa’s Constitution and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. It states: “Everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health and well-being; and to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevents pollution and ecological degradation;promote conservation; and secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.

Therefore, developing intensive environmental learning programs is important. Environmentally literate individuals are able to consider the ecological sustainability of development, to work actively to reverse environmental degradation, and to manage and use the country’s natural resource base more wisely and democratically.

The development of environmental literacy should be a key concern in rural areas. It is only when people are knowledgeable about environmental issues and competent to address them that they can consider appropriate development options and contribute to sustainable living patterns in an informed way.

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In summary, the project will promote the following values and principles within the community:

Knowledge

Indigenous Knowledge (IK) for sustainable livelihoods. Provide individuals and communities with a basic knowledge and understanding of the environment, the biodiversity and their interrelationship with humans.

Awareness

To promote awareness and a sensibility in individuals and communities about the environment, the biodiversity and its problems.

Attitude

To encourage individuals and communities to value their IK and environment and consider it important in order to inspire participation in the process of improving and protecting the environment for the betterment of their own livelihoods.

Skills

To provide people with skills to identify, predict, prevent and solve environmental problems and to make them capable of utilizing limited resources in a sustainable way.

Participation

To strengthen community organizations and networks for IK transition to the younger generations and to nurture an entire new generation that understands the importance of living in harmony, rather than in competition, with nature. Provide individuals and communities with the opportunities to actively participate in solving environmental problems and to make educated decisions about biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.

Organic Farming, Outputs and Production

The project aims to offer a steady year-round supply of exceptionally high quality products with outstanding organic and food safety certifications. These include, delicious and nutritious, high-value, high-quality organic greenhouse vegetables like cherry tomatoes on-the-vine and wax-free, thin-skinned, long seedless cucumbers and crisp bell peppers.

The project will maximize production through intensively managed, large-scale contract growing partnerships with the Matsila Community small-scale farmers, supported with extensive farm assistance and supervision programs to fulfil the complex grocer supplier quality requirements and phyto-sanitary standards.

The first phase of production includes a combination of in field, netted tunnel and greenhouse production of high value specialty salad and culinary crops including cherry tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, peppers, carrots, garlic and chilli. The organic tomatoes and lettuces will be produced in greenhouse tunnels with 10 tunnels spaced on a one hectare site with a total of four hectares under tomato and lettuce production.

Sustainable production will also focus on the broad-based socio-economic benefits from the tomato paste facility that will be established through this project. This facility will export its canned tomato pulp and paste ensuring a constant market for products supplied by all the small developing farmers. The farm will also have its own 100 hectare netted tomato farming facility. The facility will provide the initial stock for the plant.

In order to promote environmentally friendly farming with livestock, dairy facilities for the production of healthy milk and meat from cows and goats for communities will be established. This will further enhance the project’s contribution to poverty eradication and sustainable livelihoods.

Fish Farming will also create an important opportunity for local people to secure a critical source of protein necessary for their daily needs. Excess fish produced could be sold locally to generate income that will be utilised to meet other social needs of the community. Talapia and cat fish have been proven to be the most suitable breed of fish to be farmed in rural areas in Africa.

Worm farming will also supply the project with vital biological pesticides and organic fertilizers. Worm farming and composting will for the basis for the supply of organic fertilizers to farmers. Organic waste from community households and local urban areas will be collected and channelled through the worm farms to generate organic fertilizers for farmers.

The chicken facility will comprise of a 20000 bird facility split into egg production and broiler sections. The potential income will be substantial and will also employ a lot of staff at every established new farmer. The main emphasis will be local production of healthy organic eggs and chicken meat to meet the daily needs of the community.

Environmentally friendly and organic farming described above will promote the following:

Effective sustainable use of biotic resources as a positive force for conservation because it can provide positive incentives to maintain wild species and habitats.

Management of semi-natural habitats for biodiversity.

Organic farming practices that contributes to greater environmental preservation; reduces agricultural runoff and increases habitat for wildlife.

Community ownership and fair distribution of benefits.

Water management to provide habitat for biodiversity and reduction in agriculture water usage through organic farming practices.

Community and youth education that aims to foster a shared sense of “Eco-mmunity” and “EcoHealth” through environmental education and social marketing.

Gender considerations that recognize the vital role women play in the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. As providers of family food, water, fuel, medicine, clothing, income, and household goods, women depend on healthy and diverse ecosystems. Often being responsible for gathering fuelwood, building materials, medicines or food, they are also frequently most directly affected by a local loss in biodiversity.

Women are rich sources of knowledge about uses and patterns of local biodiversity and they will be encouraged to take active leadership roles. As mothers and educators, women also have a central role to play in raising awareness amongst future generations as to the importance and value of conserving and sustainably using the country’s biodiversity.

Carbon-neutral Renewable Energy alternatives. Overall the project has a low-carbon profile and mitigates GHG emissions via two soil and biomass sink oriented initiatives namely, (i) Organic Agriculture and Agro-forestry (alley cropping with nitrogen fixing trees integrated into organic fruit and vegetable growing providing valuable mulching material Integrated into the project will be an innovative waste or biomass burning renewable fuel production process that produces bio-diesel and three soil restorative high-carbon fertilizers (ammonium bicarbonate, ammonium sulphate and ammonium nitrate), while actually removing net CO2 from the atmosphere.

Cross-sectoral partnerships with the health sector as it is well known that HIV/AIDS limits the ability of individuals and communities to conserve their natural resources. People living with HIV/AIDS have heightened nutritional needs and less labour capacity, while others in their households require significant amounts of time for care giving. Nutrition is paramount for people infected with HIV and a balanced and healthy diet is crucial for people infected with the virus and is an essential part of their treatment, as it helps to slow down progression of the illness. HIV infection reduces the intake, absorption, excretion, and utilization of micronutrients and infected persons have been found deficient in Vitamins A, B6 and B12, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E; and zinc, magnesium, and selenium. Organic farming is pivotal to nutrition treatment for people who are ill. Organic produce is proven to contain higher vitamin, mineral, antioxidant and lower pesticide residue levels than agro-chemically grown foods so a healthy calorie-protein diet, provided through organically produced foods, can be the primary nutritional tool for communities to combat under-nutrition and HIV/AIDS.

Project research, knowledge, monitoring and evaluation including ecological, economic and sociological (social capital) surveys and poverty impact assessments (PIA), M&E indicators monitoring and outcome mapping (OM) tracking the behaviour of community members toward the environment and the effects of conservation activities on their health and welfare. Sustainable land management (SLM) indicators will be tracked and an EQuIS (EarthSoft’s Environmental Quality Information System) project geo-database structured. “EcoHealth” outcomes and impacts will be clearly defined and regular monitoring, by third party organizations, will be undertaken to a measure results against set targets. Co-ordination and collaborative sharing of all project documentation, research and learning will also be addressed. Indigenous Knowledge and organic farming research will be accumulated and disseminated.

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