Posted by & filed under Aid Projects, Building, Community Projects, Eco-Villages, Irrigation, Land, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Soil Rehabilitation, Village Development, Water Contaminaton & Loss, Water Harvesting.

by Monika Goforth and Terry Leahy, University of Newcastle, Australia

To use permaculture lingo, Chikukwa can be described as a real edge, both in terms of ecology, culture and language, and the edge effect has certainly produced something rich. The community here has a sense of being both somewhat innocent and progressive at the same time. It is as if they skipped the industrialized phase and went straight into becoming a sustainable community. — Lindhagen 2010


This shot shows how the Chikukwa lands looked in the early nineties,
bare hillsides and soil erosion, with the consequence in poor nutrition.


This picture shows a small section of the Chikukwa clan lands as they are now.
The houses nestled among orchards, the bunds with vetiver grass in the
cropping fields and the extensive woodlots are all typical of this design strategy.

The Chikukwa Ecological Land Trust (CELUCT) is a unique community permaculture organisation in the Chimanimani district of Zimbabwe. Set in the highlands bordering Mozambique, the region is heavily populated and has suffered from deforestation, serious erosion and soil degradation since the area was named a Tribal Trust Land in the colonial era. In this setting, the Chikukwa community has developed a successful permaculture program involving around 8,000 farmers in what Chan (2010) calls “one of the largest and relatively unknown permaculture sites in the world.” So, how did a remote Zimbabwean farming community learn and implement permaculture techniques? What have been the effects?


Eli Westermann, one of the founders of the ‘Strong Bees’ club
and the CELUCT project.

The story starts with Eli and Ulli Westermann, a young German couple, moving to Chikukwa to teach in the secondary school. Eli and Ulli acted as the catalysts for an intense and effective grass roots community mobilization. Their contacts with people outside Chikukwa and their ongoing recognition in the community as community members has allowed them to play this dual role, an edge effect, as they put it.


Mai Matsekete is the leader of the permaculture club in this village and is
hosting the conflict resolution workshop. The women are meeting
inside the kitchen after a shower of rain.

After they arrived as teachers, Eli and Ulli lived as part of the community, growing their own subsistence crops, building their own thatch and mud hut and adopting two children. During their first decade in Chikukwa, the neighbourhood spring dried up, being silted over by heavy rains washing soil into the spring. After two years of repeatedly digging the silt clear, Eli and her friend, known as Mai Bee, began discussing ways to deal with this problem in the long term (Eli Westermann Interview Day Four). This is when the first permaculture training was organised with Eli and Ulli’s friend, John Wilson, presenting the workshop. John Wilson had become a friend as a fellow teacher and had gone on to found Zimbabwe’s first permaculture organization, Fambidzanai. At this first Chikukwa workshop, key community figures and interested farmers were invited to the training. It is here that the community agreed to prioritize water retention, protection of the spring from cattle and goats, and to plant trees on the hilltop catchment area.


Peter is one of the founders of CELUCT in the nineties and is now the head of the
permaculture department. He is showing us the spring where it all started,
now restored to full health, surrounded by indigenous trees.

This paper will study the permaculture works and organisational structure of CELUCT to discover some of the factors contributing to its success and identify some of the ongoing issues which they are dealing with at present. We will first review key permaculture techniques that increased food security in Chikukwa and introduce the role of traditional spirituality and farming-for-subsistence as keys to its successful implementation. Then we will discuss CELUCT’s development of a democratic bureaucracy for transparency and community ownership. Finally, we will discuss the effects of donor aid on the organisation to consider the difficulties that they are facing in maintaining essential funding.


This village headman is an active member of CELUCT and
still a keen gardener at 80 years old.

Permaculture for Food, Spirit and Independence


Baba Matsekete is showing us the swale that his family have constructed
to prevent erosion in their cropping field and to direct water to
the orchard on the lower side of the house.

As CELUCT grew in community support and accepted international funding, regular permaculture workshops were organised for neighbouring villages also part of the Chikukwa clan. Trainings and working groups were held at local farms where villagers learned to build swales and check dams, and knowledge was shared between farmers. Since most farms are located on hillsides, they shared similar problems with erosion, water retention and infertile soil. Therefore, they also shared a similar zoning design and plant varieties. Uphill of the farmhouse, woodlots and orchards hold the soil and take advantage of the first horizontal swale that holds water. Here, the trees can access sunlight without shading crops below and encourage water to seep under the topsoil. A yard of hard packed mud pavement surrounds the house, as is typical in Africa. Here the roof run off and the water running from this pavement is directed to the next level down the slope – downhill to herbs, vegetables and water-loving plants. Nitrogen-fixing plants are on the uphill side of vegetable gardens so their nutrients filter down with gravity. Further downhill, larger crop fields grow maize between bunds planted with vetiver grass to hold the soil. The swales in the fields catch fertile topsoil to naturally level out into terraces. Permaculture isn’t used exclusively; some farmers still use artificial fertilizers on maize fields.


This working party in the early nineties were re-planting
the tops of the hills to manage water in their catchment.


Another shot of the Chikukwa lands in the early nineties. In this shot we can
see the beginnings of the system of contour bunds and swales that were
implemented by the project.

One of the most serious environmental problems in Chikukwa was devastating erosion that washed fertile topsoil from uphill farms into homes, shops and farms below. The problem was solved by building bunds and swales to retain the soil and water to benefit both the uphill farmers and their neighbours below. As July put it:

During the late eighties, we had a lot of rainfall, and due to this fact, our field has been eroded by runoff, so we had poor harvests, due to the fact that the topsoil was going away. So we have to search for some advices. And there are this friend of ours, Permaculture. When it started, they gave us some ideas. They have just given us the vetiver grass which you are seeing there. And we planted this so that whenever topsoil is going away it is going to be stopped by the vetiver grass, and it continues like that, down the slope. And when it comes to this, to this swale here. It is like a dish. When water goes inside there, it doesn’t go away. It stays there and it goes down bit by bit until it disappears in the swale So they helped us a lot because we are no longer getting too much erosion into our fields. Even our next door’s here. They are benefiting from this swale. Because they are not experiencing a lot of erosion in their field. (Interview Day One)

Chikukwa’s secret ingredient to water and soil retention was a truckload of vetiver grass. This deep rooted, climate-tolerant grass stabilizes bunds and starts revegetation in hardpan soils (Chan 2010). Vetiver grass thrives in soils with a pH from 3.3 to 12.5 and it tolerates toxins, heavy metals, salinity, chemicals and fire; yet, “it is non-competitive and non-invasive, dying back once shaded out, therefore a great pioneer species for converting eroded land back to fertile forest systems” (Chan 2010). The steady supply of vetiver is also useful for compost, mulching and thatching (Chikukwa.org). The Chikukwa terracing was begun by bringing one truckload of vetiver grass to be distributed. As vetiver can multiply by 20 times in a season, that one truckload has by now supplied the six whole villages of the Chikukwa clan with vetiver grass for an extensive system of bunds and swales.

CELUCT organised the construction of water tanks with plastic poly pipes to supply tap water to homesteads and communities. The community worked together moulding and firing clay bricks and carrying sand, cement, asbestos sheets and bricks up the hill (Chikukwa.org).


One of the water tanks constructed to supply villages and households
with water from the restored springs in the hills. Above the tank we can
see a typical woodlot of eucalypts.

The water tanks made a pronounced improvement in the quality of life, greatly reducing women’s workload. The building of the tank is a fantastic example of community ownership and cooperation as a water committee maintains the pipes at a high standard to reduce wastage. Farms re-use grey water, each of them having outdoor dishwashing areas where water runs off into banana circles or other water-loving plants. Golay Matsakete described the layout of his fields designed to maximise water retention and re-use grey water, showing detailed understanding of permaculture techniques.

When it rains we have run off from the roof there and the water goes into the garden there. And it irrigates the bananas there and some of the crops that are in the garden. And at the back there, there is a bathroom. And the water from the bathroom it goes … we have put it there so that the water, the run-away from the bathroom it goes to the bananas again. And over there we have got a swale there, which catches water from the roads there. A part of it comes to this garden here and the other one goes right over there where you have seen some bananas over there. So throughout the year, each drop that comes this way is used. And over there, we do our washing there. And the water that we use there we will use to water the flowers and the lawn there. And there over there, is the tap. And the water from the tap there, we use it to wash some plates. And the extra run off is put in the garden and the other one there. We don’t throw it elsewhere, we throw it into the garden to water some…. you see some yams there, that’s the water that we use. (Golay Matsukete Interview Day Three).


Mai Shumba and her friend are working their orchard together.
They are growing bananas, pineapples, oranges, mandarins, mangoes,
avocados, cassava and pomegranates.

Retaining their fertile soil and holding water in their crop fields, the Chikukwa villagers successfully grew a diverse variety of food crops including vegetables and herbs, grain crops, fruit and nuts, and livestock such as fish and poultry (Lindhagen 2010). The list includes: maize, bananas, tomatoes goats, chickens, pigeons and cattle at the Mayozo farm; sugar cane and a castor oil plant at the Matsakete farm; covo (a kind of cabbage), carrots, peas, potatoes, beans, groundnuts, tomatoes, potato, rape (canola), tomatoes, and potatoes at the Makleza farm; and orchards with bananas, pineapples, oranges, mandarins, mangoes, avocados, cassava and pomegranates at Mai Shumba’s farm.


Mai Shumba with an avocado from her orchard.

Most of these foods are for family consumption (for example, the pigeons and chicken eggs), while some provide an opportunity for income. Mai Shumba spoke of selling some of her produce to local vendors or to CELUCT for catered training days. Mai Shumba and others also process some of their fruits into jams, juices or dried fruit snacks. These skills are taught at CELUCT training programs for both food security strategies and as income opportunities. Although there have been no scientific studies, Eli Westermann is certain the vast array of food growing within the community has improved their nutrition and food security over the last ten years (Interview Day Four). In fact, Chikukwa’s permaculture farms were doing so well, that drought-related food shortages in the rest of Zimbabwe brought people buy food in Chikukwa, where food was still growing abundantly with their permaculture designs (Ulli Westermann Interview Day Four).


This is a flourishing community nutrition garden.
Crops are grown by households for their own use and to distribute
to the homes of vulnerable families.

The community’s ability to produce surplus food for sale was not of central interest to CELUCT and its members. These permaculture farms were successful because the decision of what to grow did not rely on market food prices. As in many African communities, twenty years ago some Chikukwa farmers were trying to make a living from cash crops (Lindhagen 2010). However most farmers were preoccupied with the problem of providing food for their families while yields deteriorated and topsoil was being lost. Dealing with ever disappearing topsoils and falling market prices, permaculture was introduced at the right time to fix attention on sustainable food production for subsistence. In one case, CELUCT carefully calculated the costs and income from selling peas on the market to find that the villagers were producing peas at a loss. Many farmers also decided not to grow coffee because it takes the best land for low coffee prices. This was a cost-benefit analysis that demonstrated how cash crops were not smart investments. This conclusion led the farmers to prioritize subsistence food production over participating in the destabilizing cash economy.

Permaculture provided techniques to increase food production without investing money on supplies. The farmers could build soil fertility without buying artificial fertilisers. Intercropping mixed varieties of plants and setting up plant guilds protected their gardens from pests. Using living fences reduced the need to buy fencing materials and simultaneously improved soil using nitrogen-fixing plants or mulching. The community developed and retained open pollinated varieties of maize so they did not have to depend on buying hybrid seeds. They learned how to save seeds from their vegetables and how to grow fruit trees using grafting techniques. Telling us how permaculture has improved her life, Mai Makleza describes how permaculture creates a complete closed system – manure to the fields, crops to the livestock and back around again. She says that this system allows for crop diversity so that if one crop fails this year, they will still have food from another crop.


This woman is selling some of her chickens to another household.

We also plant some OPVs here [Open pollinated varieties] here … when we usually don’t use fertilizer. We use manure. We were taught to interrelate the field and our animals that we keep here. So we take manure from the kraal there we put it into the field. And the residues from the fields to the animal. So they are helping each other. We are getting something from the animals and from the field. (Mai Makleza Interview Day Three)

The self-sustaining system of permaculture had other positive side effects for the Chikukwa community including increased self esteem, independence and stability. Farmers increased food productivity without debt from expensive inputs required under the cash-crop farming system introduced during colonialism and maintained under neo-liberal globalisation. Under the mainstream development construct, Escobar (1997: 92) describes the negative self-image that comes with the low status given to local traditional culture coming from the application of western (external) standards of development. While Permaculture is also a set of ideas introduced from outside, the grass roots implementation of permaculture helped people to take ownership of their future. As well, the community linked their traditional knowledge and spirituality to the environmental messages of permaculture, a graft which made sense of what was being done. So permaculture techniques increased the Chikukwa community’s self esteem and confidence because it complemented traditional knowledge. It also sets standards of success based on the farmer’s ability to grow diverse foods with no expectation to grow food for the whole country. Permaculture knowledge empowered the farmers to increase their food production without requiring participation in the volatile cash economy.


This is Chester Chituwu, the current director of CELUCT. Before this,
he was the headmaster in the local primary school.

The union of permaculture with traditional spirituality built community self esteem and ownership of permaculture strategies. Traditional reverence towards nature complements permaculture principles of working with nature’s flow. For example, the sacred indigenous forests which the Chiukukwa people were able to re-establish with their new community organization are traditionally protected by house spirits that guide the community (Ulli Westermann Interview Day Four). This viewpoint fits with permaculture’s respect for a zone 5 of wild nature as an essential aspect of a constructed human agricultural system – space for vegetative cover and for wildlife around farmlands. Based on his conversations with Chester Chituwu and Eli Westermann, Lindhagen (2010) proposes that permaculture also strengthened traditional leadership because the permaculture organization that was set up insisted on traditional leaders being represented and traditional rituals of the land being maintained. The success of permaculture techniques combined with ritual and prayer reaffirmed spiritual leadership and unified the community around the project. For instance, the first work to reclaim a spring and its associated sacred forest was blessed in a ritual in which the Chief used gifts of snuff to communicate with the spirits (Eli Westermann Interview Day Four).


This is the first working bee following a conflict resolution workshop.
The workshop was formed to consider the conflicting interests of different
village households. The issue was a gully that was eroding some fields
and depositing rich silt in other fields.

The work of CELUCT has been encouraged by the traditional leadership all along the way. The Chief offered land to build the permaculture centre and has also partaken in the conflict resolution training. The whole process has also meant an empowerment of the traditional leadership, which helped keep the community peaceful during the [political] crisis. (Lindhagen 2010)

As Ulli Westermann says:

Permaculture really links up with traditional concepts, and that I think is a major point in why it has taken root in this community and in Zimbabwe as a whole. There is no contradiction in terms of working with the land, working with traditions, between that concept and traditional concepts. (Interview Day Four)

Representative Democratic Structure

Pretty explains that sustainable agriculture:

… needs more than new technologies and practices. It needs agricultural professionals willing and able to learn from farmers and other stakeholders; it needs supportive external institutions; it needs local groups and institutions capable of managing resources effectively; and above all it needs agricultural policies that support these features. (1995: 1249)

Eli and Ulli’s connections to foreign ideas and networks were a key catalyst in local application of permaculture techniques and later, CELUCT’s permaculture centre. But their connection to the community (as members of the community), their engagement in the learning process, and the cooperative development of a CELUCT bureaucratic structure is what makes CELUCT sustainable and effective.

You have to be integrated in the community if you want to work in the community and if you want to achieve anything. And you have to know the people. It’s very difficult for outsiders to quickly jump in, do a quick two or three year program and then move on and phase out. That is not how life usually happens and that is not how development can happen. So for us, definitely, it was very essential that things grew from the community and we were part of that community and grew with it. (Ulli, Interview Day Four)


This is the original gardening group, the ‘Stong Bees’ which evolved
to become the present CELUCT organization. Their slogan was
“ Like Bees We Shall Work”.

When Mai Bee and Eli started their ‘Strong Bees’ (Nyuchidza Dzakasimba) club to work on the spring and catchment area, there was no clear intention to set up a large formal organisation and transform all six villages and 7000 people in the Chikukwa clan. It was basically a gardening club organized by nine neighbours who met regularly to plan their own permaculture gardens and to deal with long term problems or erosion, wood supply and water in the community. These original members were joined by others in the community to help them on community working bees, putting in fences around a spring, planting trees in a woodlot, making swales and planting vetiver in the fields. The strong bees were community members working on a particular project that inspired other members to join. No official NGO was created until years of cooperation had already passed ensuring that the community was truly committed to the work.

The fact that permaculture and the ideas of sustainability were not imposed from the outside but a result of community members’ concern for their own environment and their food and water security has made Chikukwa a fantastic example of a sustainable development that is truly community owned. As a result, when Nyuchidza Dzakasimba [Strong Bees] was registered in 1996 as CELUCT- Chikukwa Ecological Land Use Community Trust, its function was mainly to compile the proposals from the village members through the PCC [Permaculture Committee] and put them forward for funding. This is diametrically opposed to most NGO projects where ‘experts’ assess communities needs and provide funding for the projects that they deem necessary. CELUCT is today run entirely by community members and 50% of the board members are women, which makes it not only community owned, but also representative. (Lindhagen 2010)


The kitchen garden at the CELUCT centre with
the administrative office in the background.

As CELUCT projects grew from spring reclamation to constructing water tanks to building a permaculture centre with paid employees and a conflict transformation program, a highly evolved bureaucratic structure grew. The bottom-up decision making structure links to the central management, which coordinates across departments and with traditional leaders. Starting with the deepest of the grassroots, the villages nominate a head of the permaculture club which leads their village subcommittee on decision making and implementation. Representatives of the six village subcommittees meet with two stakeholders (for example, an agricultural department officer, a representative from the high school) and a CELUCT manager to make higher funding and accounting decisions and deliver feedback to the management team. The CELUCT management, including the Board of Trustees, the Director, the accountant and other paid employees, coordinate projects with the department committees and cooperate with traditional leaders. It should be noted that unlike many development projects, the professional middle class members of the management team are not fly by night outsiders, brought in for a few years to train the locals, but are local people themselves, working on behalf of their own community and bringing their education and skills to bear on local problems, providing the expertise necessary for handling money and dealing with an aid project. For example Chester Chituwu, the current director was for many years the principal of the local primary school and knows local villagers as long term friends and often as ex students.

Decentralised decision making is very strong… [Workshops] are planned by people, they are trained by the involved people, they are organised by the people, they are really completely the decision making. (Eli Westermann Interview Day Four).

The traditional leaders have an important role in the implementation of the programs. Linking the protection of the land, soil, water and plant life, the spiritual leaders support organic agriculture for the care it gives to the land and the spirits that reside there (Zedi Chikukwa translating for Kevin Chikukwa Interview Day 5). Zedi Chikukwa claims the traditional authorities can fine community members for cutting sacred fig trees or for not having contour ridges on their property, which institutionalises social acceptance of these practices within their religion. The spiritual leaders link CELUCT’s projects to their mission of protecting traditional knowledge, spirituality and traditions that call for people to live in harmony with nature. So the traditional leadership’s authority has reinforced the influence of permaculture, which returned the favour by adding to their legitimacy as leaders guiding the community to prosperity.

And also we are in line with CELUCT in the use of organic agriculture. We are not supposed to use some artificial fertilisers because it damages the soil. Also in our tradition, we encourage our committed members to work in harmony with nature. So we know, it is there to sort of strengthen the rules and regulations of our community. Because if you bypass one of the laws, it is a criminal … I mean it is a crime, I say, it is a crime because you will be asked by the judicial court of the Chief to pay a fine. If, for example, you cut a fig tree, you are supposed to pay a goat. And if, you, if you in your field you don’t have contour ridges, you are supposed also to pay a goat. Because you have to preserve or conserve the soil. So it is there to sort of strengthen our traditional culture. So that’s the relationship between CELUCT (Zedi Chikukwa translating for Kevin Chikukwa Interview Day 5).


These men are fixing their gully with a rock bund, vetiver grass and
indigenous trees. They have decided to do this following a
conflict resolution workshop.

Beyond the role of the traditional leaders, CELUCT’s structure demonstrates the deep rooted participation and representation involved in CELUCT decisions. It ensures that the constituents have a strong voice in the direction of projects with bottom-up communication and decision making. The community is mobilized and empowered through this institutional arrangement because of its representational structure. The professionalised meetings that review financial accounts and record minutes add legitimacy to each committee, ensuring transparency and accountability of the central organisers. Mai Bee spoke of the first time CELUCT received funding and the community discussed how they would use it, choosing to build a permaculture centre (Interview Day Three). This is significant because it demonstrates how the community as a whole decided how funds would be allocated and chose to build a hall to represent the organisation – clearly indicating their sense of ownership of this process.

Of course, designing this representative structure came with some serious disputes that eventually gave way to improvements. In one case, the community became very distrustful of the paid management when they were seen driving the CELUCT car for private use. The animosity became so serious that people were not coming to training programs. They felt betrayed asking, “Are we a community organisation or are all the last years just words?” (Eli Westermann Interview Day Four). The upshot was an intensive conflict transformation program that opened discussion with role plays to express each point of view. This led to a more serious effort at transparency through committee review of accounts so all members know how much employees are being paid and if they are working without pay for a period. This example demonstrates how conflicts became opportunities for improvement and growth as a community and organisation. The conflict resolution program that was begun at this time has become huge, drawing people in for training from all over the district and Zimbabwe as a whole.


At morning tea on the day of the conflict workshop, CELUCT provided cordial,
apples and bread to the participants. These were all ‘luxury’ foods that were not
part of villagers’ typical diets. They made the workshop a special event.

The permaculture organization of the Chikukwa villages has become just one part of a broad ranging community organization. Each section or department is organized through bottom up committees organizing local clubs to work on local issues and sending representatives to the central organization. In all cases suggestions come from below and action by the CELUCT team is in response to these ideas. For example at present there is a department for the pre-school which is run at the centre, another department called “Talking Time” which has been set up to deal with HIV/AIDS and is having great success, a department for women only discussion groups to talk about issues like domestic violence or family disputes, a catering group which is rostered on to provide meals for village workshops and community working bees as well as to provide food for people from other areas coming for workshops at the Centre and of course the Building Constructive Community Relations department to mediate disputes. All these organizations are in fact necessary to develop a healthy environment and food security – food security comes out of a community that can work together and that is only possible if all aspects of community life are as harmonious as possible.

Aid for the project and problems with funding

By 1996, CELUCT drew the attention of donor organisation, WFD, who wanted to support this unique grassroots organisation. The decision to accept official funding wasn’t taken lightly, and the community discussed the pros and cons of accepting money from outsiders. The Chief reasoned that “you usually you don’t get anything without them wanting something back. Let us really think about it” (Eli Westermann Interview Day Four), indicating a justified wariness of external influence on the community. However, the community decided that there wasn’t too much risk in accepting WFD’s generous donation, and set about making plans for the permaculture centre. More recently they have accepted donations from the Tudor Permaculture organization in the UK.


A typical collection of small livestock for the home garden, poultry,
goats and pigeons. Goats are always penned or tethered.

With the introduction of external funding, CELUCT workshops and project implementation accelerated beyond what could have been possible working on a completely voluntary basis. Nevertheless, external funding does have an effect on organisations that is often unforeseen by the members. To start, the funding created a new dependence on sustaining funding. Paid staff left their previous teaching jobs, electricity was connected to the centre, the internet and a car were introduced – all of which require continuous cash inflows to maintain. Mai Bee discussed people’s roles in the organisation and notes how they can now make a living by serving the community, rather than having to volunteer their time (Mai Bee Interview Day Three). The funding was necessary to prevent burn out and to move their projects further and faster. However, the community has not been able to maintain these community projects without continuous donor assistance. One of the problems of an organization like CELUCT is that it has been so successful that funding organizations think it is time to go on to another more needy project. And yet in fact there is no easy way an organization like CELUCT can provide its own funding or do its work without funding. Local people hardly have enough money to supply their children with a school uniform or school exercise books, even with the best use of their small surplus on the market.


These girls are collecting termites to eat.

The present income for CELUCT is about US$60,000 per year which is very small amount of funding for about 5 paid employees on the management team, to run a four wheel drive utility, to pay local people for catering for workshops and the like. Yet this funding is only guaranteed for another 2 years. We would like to conclude this article by asking permaculture enthusiasts around the world to help this organization to continue its amazing work for years to come. This is one of the world’s most successful and far reaching applications of permaculture principles. Beyond that is a model for an aid project anywhere in the developing world. To sustain a project over 20 years and totally transform a community’s physical environment and establish reliable food security is a stunning achievement as anyone who has worked in development will be aware. We in the permaculture movement in the rich countries should make sure that this project is sustained and can go on doing work maintaining what they have established and providing education and input to similar initiatives in Zimbabwe and Africa more generally. As stated at the beginning of this article, this project is also an example for us of what can be achieved to make an enjoyable life with a low energy budget, it is a working example of a transition town.


Olivia Mazoyo is a young farmer who was explaining her family’s agricultural
strategies to us. Pigeons are common livestock in these villages.

How to Donate to Chikuka

Please write to the Director and accountant at this email address and ask the best way to send money:

Chester C. Chituwu, Director of Chikukwa Ecological Land Use Community Trust. “Like Bees We Shall Work”
Private Bag 2029
Chimanimani, Zimbabwe
– celuct (at) zol.co.zw
– celuctaccounts (at) zol.co.zw
Phone 026 – 2784
Or 263 773231572

Patience Sithole – Mai Bee (Centre Adminstrator) 0773 -225610
celuct (at) zol.co.zw

Note – How this paper was prepared

In 2009, Terry Leahy, a lecturer in sociology of development, met representatives from CELUCT at the International Permaculture Conference in Malawi. He was extremely impressed with the story of their work and vowed to go there at the first opportunity. In 2010 he had that opportunity and was able to visit Chikukwa for two weeks to find out more about the project. During that visit he was accompanied by his sister, Gillian Leahy, who is an Australian documentary maker. They spent the two weeks filming the villages and farms, doing interviews with local people, filming 35 hours of rushes. At present they are trying to get funding to use this material to produce a documentary on CELUCT. Monika Goforth is a student in the Master of Social Change and Development. She worked to transcribe the rushes of the filmed material and used her knowledge of this material to draft the first version of this paper and she and Terry collaborated on this final version.

References:

  • Chan, Jonathan (2010). “Vetiver: the One Grass Revolution.” The Permaculture Research Institute of Australia..
  • Chikukwa.org. CELUCT Presentation: Chikukwa Ecological Land Use Community Trust.
  • Chikukwa for Gill, unpublished personal correspondence by Terry Leahy (2010).
  • Escobar, A. (1997) ‘The Making and Unmaking of the Third World through Development’, in M. Rahnema with V. Bawtree (eds.), The Post-Development Reader. Zed Books: London. [pp.85-93]
  • Interviews: Days Two, Three, Four and Five. Unpublished personal documents by Terry Leahy (2010).
  • Lindhagen, Elin (2010).“Chikukwa- A Lesson in Self-Reliance.” Barefoot Education.
  • Malena, Carmen (2000). “Beneficiaries,Mercenaries,Missionaries and Revolutionaries: ‘Unpacking’ NGO Involvement in World Bank-Financed Projects”. IDS Bulletin 31 (3): 19-34.
  • Pearce, J. (2000) ‘Development, NGOs and civil society: The debate and its future’, in D. Eade (ed) Debating Development: NGOs and Civil Society – Selected Essays from Development in Practice. Oxfam GB: Oxford.

20 Responses to “Permaculture Successes in a Zimbabwean Community”

  1. CP

    A very inspiring article. I would like to email and ask about making a small donation but cannot see a valid email address anywhere, can you help?

    Reply
  2. A Lyons

    A wonderful story, however the next chapter needs to formulate a strategy to break the cycle of dependence on funding and donations now established. The positive changes wrought thus far cannot be regarded as sustainable unless this is accomplished.

    Reply
  3. Monika Goforth

    Dear CP,

    The email address for CELUCT organisation is provided above under the contact details, I re-write it here for your convenience. Just replace the “(at)” with the @ sign and make sure there are no spaces. (the addresses are written in this way to protect against spam.

    celuct (at) zol.co.zw
    or
    celuctaccounts (at) zol.co.zw

    If this still doesn’t work, please comment and I will look into correcting this problem.

    Monika

    Reply
  4. Farai Matirekwe

    I am truely overjoyed to findout that my home village has gone as far as this in such a wonderful conservative project that educates and empowers our community. This project started when i was still in school right there in Chikukwa around the ’90s. Well, as we were growing up we thought it was just one of those crazy projects just to get people working for food(food for work as we used to call it. Mr C C Chituwu was my headmaster at Chikukwa P school and Mr and Mrs Westermann were my teacher at Mukombiwani sec. I am proud of you guys. Infect I am proud of the whole village at large. I love you all. Thank you.

    Reply
  5. Carine Tredgold

    Dear Monica and Terry,

    We are working on a documentary about Chikukwa. It would be great to use some of the old ref photos that you have included in this article. Is it possible to send them to me by email? We only need the old ones from 90’s or before to be able to make comparisons and comment on progress.

    Kind regards,

    Carine

    Reply
  6. Terry Leahy

    Hi Carine,

    I am interested to hear that you are working on a documentary on Chikukwa. I am doing this with my sister Gillian who is an Australian documentary maker. We have taken the rushes after a two week shoot in December 2010 and have now produced the trailer version and are seeking funding. I am wondering what stage you guys are at. You can see the trailer at

    http://vimeo.com/33761246

    In terms of donations and email addresses, I am finding the best way to send money is through Ulli Westermann.

    His address is:

    ulliwe@iwayafrica.co.zw

    Write to him and ask him to send you his bank details for a donation to the CELUCT project,

    Cheers,

    Terry

    Reply
  7. Gillian Leahy

    In response to A Lyons, the permaculture community at Chikukwa is sustainable. The additional funding is needed to keep running workshops to spread the message further and to manage an educational facility. Anyways that’s what I observed when there. Gillian Leahy

    Reply
  8. Terry Leahy

    Yes, I agree with this reply from Gill. The positive changes in terms of food security and community development in Chikukwa are very likely sustainable without any further funding. At the same time, the funding is certainly helping to maintain this. For example trained and full time employees of the centre attend and help out at community conflict resolution workshops. If it was not for their salaries they would be back as high school teachers or local farmers and if it was not for the four wheel drive they would not be able to show up at remote villages, and if it was not for some funding they could not readily afford the special (treats) food that makes the workshop an ‘occasion” (some white bread, apples and fruit juice). So at least some of the funding they are getting is going into this and making it work. The other part (and by far the most of it) is organizing workshops for poor farmers from further afield in Zimbabwe and other African countries. Lyons is probably right that it would be good if they could get themselves into a position to tax the villagers and become a quasi local government to pay for the costs of their centre. There are however a few problems with this. One is that it would send altogether the wrong messages to the political parties of Zim about what they are doing. The other is that actually, given the very poor transport options for these remote villages, strategies that require farmers to grow a surplus for sale on regional or national markets do not actually work. They have been tried. In so far as this is practicable it is being done by some more successful and entrepreneurial individuals and they are certainly encouraged and helped to do this by the project. These people however are only very marginally better off than other villagers. Even as a group they would have no chance of raising the $70,000 per year needed to sustain the project team and their four wheel drive. We have seen these farmers and know what we are talking about with this! For example the only two houses in the 6 villages that have electricity (and hence mobile phone charging and internet etc) laid on are the centre itself and the chief’s house ( for the whole 6 villages). I suppose that from a broader philosophical perspective I think that the demand for “self sustaining” projects in the context of a capitalist economy is a bit of a dead weight that is more likely to stuff up project design than be useful. What really made the food security stuff work in Chikukwa was the decision to increase the production of subsistence crops for local consumption rather than to work on a strategy to make money. Really, if you look at this on a world scale and try to imagine things outside of the context of the capitalist economy, there is only a small fraction of the world’s population necessary to produce the material industrial goods that we would actually need in a green economy. The best way to distribute those things is as gifts, without the expectation or demand for reciprocity of equivalent value but according to necessity. We in the West have certainly taken more than our fair share for many centuries without equivalent reciprocity and I think now that those of us who can see the situation clearly are making sensible decisions to donate some of the world’s wealth to these marginal people. I do not think that demanding that they produce and market equivalent value for the minimal amounts of material support they need to run their lives effectively is very helpful or realistic in a lot of cases. it is a shame in a way that this need is falling on the 5% of the rich countries who have a clear picture of things but that is life at the present time.

    Terry

    Reply
  9. Juliana Birnbaum Fox

    Monika, we would love to publish a profile/photos of this project in our book-in-progress on regenerative design around the world. Could you contact me at julianapeartree@gmail.com to discuss?

    Reply
  10. Teramai Piti

    Its amazing how Chikukwa my homeland has been transformed by the permaculture. Many thanks to the founders

    Reply
  11. Eric Toensmeier

    There is a brand new permaculture fundraising website called WeThe Trees.com, similar to the Kickstarter website for arts projects. You might consider using WeTheTrees to as a fundraising option.

    Reply
  12. Leonora Esser

    I think I lost what I just typed in??? I was saying how impressed my English students were with your inspiring work in the Chikukwa community and the amazing story of Permaculture success there. It was such a great narrative and a wonderful springboard for my teaching. I teach at QUT International College where the unit of work was Cause and Effect and sub unit: Agriculture. Your article impressed me so much that I told your story in a lecture recently. I got my students to read for themselves what is on your website. Then I asked them to do some research and develop a Powerpoint for an oral presentation. As a model, I wanted to use some of your beautiful photographs and I wanted to ask for your permission to use them. Could you possibly get back to me please? I am happy to send you the PPT I was hoping to use, if you wanted to see…
    Cheers and Congratulations to you and the villagers and the founders…
    Leonora Esser

    Reply
  13. Terry Leahy

    Hi Leonora, Yes it is fine to use these photos. Please send me an email with your postal address and I will send you a copy of the 20 minute dvd which you may also find useful in your teaching,

    Cheers,

    Terry

    Reply
  14. Dr Teramai Piti

    Many thanks to my brother Julious who started the permaculture idea well back in 1994 in his little house. The idea was then grasped by the local people now its all overe chikukwa ,whole of Chimanimani District and beyond.

    Reply
  15. Dr Teramai Piti

    its all good how people are running with the Permaculture vision,its all about good leadership and founders who worked tirelessly first time.Many thanks Julious

    Reply
  16. Gillian Leahy

    Yes Teramai,
    And people who have seen him in earlier versions of our film think he is a very good ambassador for permaculture and very charismatic!
    Gillian Leahy.

    Reply
  17. lisa

    really it is amazing,educating and interesting on how the community has developed towards sustainable agriculture..this is a job well done.

    Reply
  18. Sarah

    Hi Monika and Terry,

    I’m a 3rd year university student in the midst of planning my thesis. I hope to write my dissertation on permaculture, more specifically permaculture in Chikukwa. I would like to conduct fieldwork at CELUCT but am unsure of the best way to get in contact with CELUCT. Do you have an email address I could use? Any guidance would be helpful. Thanks!

    Reply
  19. Terry Leahy

    Hi Sarah, The best person to contact in terms of someone who will most likely reply to an email is

    Ulli Westermann

    ulliwe@iwayafrica.co.zw

    Good luck with this. A good way to approach this might be to join in on the training sessions they are organizing for African trainees in permaculture and see what comes out of that.

    In terms of writing on this, I have now written a longish paper on this project which is at my website (see web address).

    Cheers,

    Terry

    Reply

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