An Update from Kufunda

Trip Start Jan 10, 2006
Trip End Jun 02, 2006

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Flag of Zimbabwe  ,
Thursday, February 16, 2006

My time in Zimbabwe is flying by. I think today I'm going to get my visa extended and cut a little time out of Malawi. I have yet to visit Great Zimbabwe at Masvingo, the eastern highlands, and some of the other communities that Kufunda works with.

Kufunda ( is amazing. This week we hosted community organizers from various rural communities that Kufunda is helping. My permaculture facilitation was put to the test, and I passed. I've been teaching key points daily (principles, design, water, trees, soil, animals so far) and we're now ready to go at it on the ground with some heavy mulching and water works. The seeds I brought have germinated. Next we'll get into the realm of organizing inter-human relationships (meetings, direct action, etc.).

Marianne Knuth started Kufunda on her family farm about 30 minutes drive from Harare. She is half Zimbabwean and half Dutch, and has been raising funds for the various projects that Kufunda had undertaken. And they are many.

Kufunda, the village, is made of about 20 core individuals and couples plus children, and about 20 or so hand-made earth brick buildings, some of which are homes, dorms, common spaces, an office and a classroom. One building has been designated as an herbal laboratory for processing the 30 or so medicinal herbs they grow here. In a month or so they will begin a year-long clinical trial of a few selected species on local HIV/AIDS patients.

Kufunda is surrounded by corn fields. The ones that they control are organic and intercropped with beans and squash, just like the native Americans. They also have a few banana cirles and a nutrition garden, and they've planted over hundred each of moringa and jatropha trees. I'm encouraging them to plant more food trees, having told them that deep mulch should get them through the first few dry seasons. One of the Kufundees is growing oyster mushrooms, and we are planning an exchange of mushroom growing techniques next week. I'm blessed to be here during mushroom season; the chantrelles are popping and delicious.

I'm eating very well. All the mamas are eager to feed me. The food is cooked on hand-made wood-conserving stoves made of termite mound soil. Every lunch and dinner is a huge glob of sadza (maize meal), stewed veggies, and maybe mushrooms or whatever else is around. I tried roasted giant grasshoppers for the first time, and they were quite lovely. I try to supplement each meal with some raw mustard greens or blackjack.

As I mentioned, Kufunda is sharing its wealth and knowledge with various other communities around Zimbabwe. They're all dealing with the same issues - AIDS, orphans and school fees, transition to permaculture, and devaluation of the dollar. Five years ago 1 USD was worth 50 Zim dollars; now it will buy 150,000 Zim dollars, and commodities are way too expensive for most people. Plus, it makes no sense to save any money if it continues to lose its value. The causes of this are quite complex, but I've learned that the white farmers who were kicked off their land were not so innocent after all. All their profits were being exported to European banks. And the opinion that the black hands who were granted this reclaimed land don't know how to farm it is a bunch of crap. I don't know any black Afrikans that don't know how to plant a seed. Even today, any Zimbabwean can apply for and be granted a piece of land. Some of my Kufundee friends are the beneficiaries of this system. I'm not standing up for Mugabe, though he was once a brilliant leader. He has lost the righteous spirit that once possessed him.

Kufunda hosts what they call "Learning Journeys" once or twice a year. These are great opportunities for foreigners to come to Kufunda and obtain a huge wealth of knowledge, visit incredible Zimbabwean sites, and help good-intentioned people making a real and lasting difference. I will be here when the next one starts and will be able to give some permaculture facilitation to the participants.
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