The project was initiated in response to a growing demand from teachers for environmental education, following its introduction into the national curriculum. Feedback from schools indicated that there was more interest in producing food than in planting trees. Accordingly, the current EduPlant programme was developed, where schools are assisted in establishing food gardens using permaculture methods of cultivation.
Each year, three workshops are held in each province, which are attended by educators who are interested in joining the programme and establishing gardens at their schools. After the workshop schools apply to join the programme, and EduPlant begins a one-year cycle of training, during which it supplies the necessary seeds and tools. It also provides on-site advice through a field officer, who visits regularly, monitors progress, evaluates the project, runs workshops for learners, and stays in constant contact with the educator.
At the end of the year participating schools can apply for further funding. Successful proposals are matched with private sector sponsorship averaging an amount of R35,000. This provides for further facilitators, and infrastructure costs, such as boreholes, fencing and seeds. A further two years of funding can be arranged, after which the projects are expected to become self-sufficient.
An annual competition invites entries, which are assessed on the extent to which the project has extended beyond the school into the community. The competition takes the form of a four-day national workshop, including an intensive programme of permaculture and environmental workshops and demonstrations, presentations from each school, and performing arts and musical activities.
The project encourages environmental education and awareness, and focuses on the sustainable use of natural resources, while developing skills and building capacity. In addition, many of the projects result in improved nutrition and health, and allow some schools to generate income.
"Permaculture presents common sense ideas for permanent agriculture and culture through the application of real life skills; it is the conscious design of our environment to sustainably support our basic needs" Jeunesse Park, Executive Director, Food and Trees for Africa