A Generation Looking Forward

Over the last 30 years in the southern province of Matabeleland, Zimbabwe, political instability and a massacre of  20,000 Ndebele people in the early 1980s has led to this once very prosperous region to become infertile and inhospitable. With farmers gone, the areas agriculture industry could not be sustained and collapsed, leaving the inhabitants incredibly poor and unable to develop the area.

The Sihlengeni School is attempting to educate the next generation in permaculture practices to sustainably work with the arid land that they live on to give this area a new purpose and positive future.

Photographs and Text by Guy Peterson

This school provides an education to over 700 children in this vastly underdeveloped area. The project focuses on a permaculture program which highlights the importance of human integration to the natural landscape to create a sustainable way of working with land and animals for maximum yield but with a low impact on the environment. 


      An annual of $32 per year perched pays for the education but also all extracurricular activities at the school and one large meal a day served at lunchtime. The programmes run by the school try to subsidies the student school fees by selling produce harvested from the school. This allows students from family’s with no income to send their child to the school which would not be possible otherwise.

      This form of education for sustainable development is targeting not only the students who attend but also but also the local community, and the families of the students. One day a week locals are invited to come to the school to attend various classes. Most of the parents in the area are subsistence farmers and having access to this education has had a huge effect on the local community. 

Lindiwe Mpofu (above) stands in front of a year’s worth of dried Maize held in a bucket made of gum trees and chicken wire. This corn was grown and harvested by herself using permaculture techniques she was taught by the community outreach programme set up by the Sihlengeni School. Her daughter has been part of the school for a number of years and Lindiwe has become one of the leading members of the community in the project.

     Lindiwe has also begun her own business helped by her knowledge of permaculture. She grows sunflowers in between the rows of maize during the summer and Peas in the winter. She harvests the seeds and packages them to sell as chicken feed to other locals who have begun to rear chickens. 

Each class gets to raise a pig in the piggery on the school site. Once ready it is butchered onsite and then sold to the local community. The money made from the pig subsidies the students school fees of that class 

In this case, each pig has the potential to sell for $300, with 36 pigs currently at the school this project could subsidies school fees for 330 children.