Savings group members and SaveAct staff recently received training in plant nursery development. The 24 members and five staff were trained by WAYSE partner, Siyazisiza Trust (ST, ) at their farm in Mtunzini, Kwa-Zulu Natal.
The training covered topics ranging from how to cultivate successful crops to effective water system usage. SaveAct field officer Nontuthuko Xaba was upbeat about the training. “We learned a lot that week, so that we could pass that information to our members, and also be able to help them with anything on the business side,” she said.
The nurseries were built for and will be run by community members in several SaveAct region, and will remain there in perpetuity. Each community chose a SG member to be the point-person for their nursery who will deal with the day-to-day admin of running it. This will include record keeping and determining how crops will best be sold.
Six SaveAct regions were chosen to receive a nursery and equipment to run it. They were built in communal spaces and stocked with a few crops to start with. Each nursery is based on a 12×8 model, and soil/sand was used to make the structure steadfast, over rocks. The area was then fenced off in tandem with the build going up. Each nursery is equipped with a water tank, water pipes, solar panels and a net, which are set up. Trainees were also taught how to sew the net that goes on top of the structure. In addition, each nursery came with a start-up kit that included plant trays, soil, compost, pot mix, insecticide sprayers, fertiliser cannisters, and the like.
The most important part of a nursery is tray management – how to best place them in rows for growth relative to the sun and each other; pollination; hybrid plants; GMO products and plastic trays vs cardboard trays. The attendees learned about propagation, as well as how to cultivate seedlings, and said the nurseries would make a difference in their regions.
“Sometimes local nurseries close and we can’t get seedlings, (so) we miss harvest times and opportunities,” said Themi Mzindle, a savings member. “If we have our own, we won’t need to rely on nurseries or someone else selling seedlings.”
Siyazisiza Trust facilitators trained attendees in water management, which entailed looking at different types of piping and how to use it, the importance of specific water pressure, how to best use grey water and the benefits of rain water versus municipal water. In addition to that, they were given information about plant management, i.e. the best types of plants to grow in a nursery; compost types; fertilisers types and what chemicals can be used that are also good for human consumption. They were also taught about land management. Each community chose the land that their nursery was built on, and it was important that it was in a good place, in terms of being able to withstand weather conditions, it was not polluted and was on even ground.
Whilst the nursery structures were being installed, the savings group members chosen to run them and SaveAct staff from those regions were taught how to use the solar panels, which are important in a time of constant load shedding and climate change. “I learnt a lot,” said staff member Julia Mkhize about training. “I wish we as people would learn how to grow our own food, and not have to depend on shops. The problem with buying is also not knowing where thing come from, or how organic it is, whereas if it’s your own – you know how it was grown,” she said. “You also know exactly how much each crop yields, so when you’re selling, your pricing can be better budgeted.”
The point people will be in charge of record keeping, planting and buying and selling of trays and plants. They will be mentored in record-keeping for the first few weeks, by a SaveAct staff member in their region. The nursery produce will be sold within the community, and trays will be replenished using funds from the sales.
The staff member will also teach the chosen member/s how to run the nursery as a business, what that entails and how they can maximise their particular region’s target market. This knowledge stems from other training received by SaveAct staff members at ST, in a training-of-trainers session—an experience that was new for ST.
“This was our first year doing training-of-trainers’ sessions, and I think it went well. I really do,” said Siyazisiza co-CEO Justin Bend.
We would have to agree.