2014 has gotten off to a busy start for the Community Partnership Programme (CPP) with much more in store for the year ahead. We finalised our engagement with the Amandus Hill community in KwaZulu-Natal after completing our photo-voltaic maintenance training with community members. The community was asked to choose four representatives who would like to learn how to maintain the solar power lighting systems and it fell to Gary from Grey Green Sustainability Engineering to conduct the training. We also made sure to conduct a review of the systems in the village to check that all is in order, which was a particularly rewarding experience as the change in the standard of living is quite clear.
Nowadays nobody drinks water from the river, as each house has its own rainwater catchment tank. Many households have so much surplus water now that they have started household gardens, which is fantastic news for us as well as for our perma-culture champion, Louis Fourie.
While the community still has a pressing need for improved sanitation, the engagement process with local government was highly successful and community members were happy to learn that the Integrated Development Plan for the village has been completed, with rollout scheduled for the end of 2014.
Our first 2014 visit to Msobomvu was a bitter-sweet affair as it was Project 90 Founding Director, Brenda Martin’s final visit to our largest community project (to date) where so much time and energy has been expended. Walking around the village with her and seeing the change after all of the work from our side, as well as from the community, was a powerful experience. It was also fantastic to learn that our final photo-voltaic training with the Lightbox repair team (where we taught them how to design systems to suit specific needs) was a success and that the three repair crew who were trained are now building custom solar power systems on their own. The highlight of the trip was seeing the 2 hectares of maize that one co-op group has succeeded in planting. Five people planting 20 000m2 with no mechanised tools whatsoever really shows just how committed they are to their vision of the future. Now the final phase of our work in the community begins with our targeted input into the agricultural development of the community, continued government engagement and supporting the development of other community led initiatives that fit into their long term vision for the community.
We are also looking for new communities to partner with for our next round of projects. If there are any readers who know of self-organised communities of between 250 to 400 households that do not have access to piped water or electricity, please get in touch. The CPP team will only be heading out to visit short-listed communities at the end of April, but we need to start mapping the communities we want to visit as soon as possible.
In other news, the CPP team has been invited to send a guest speaker to the International Sustainable Development Research Summit in Norway in June to speak on the development of our Participatory Community Engagement (PCE) methodology which we are most excited about.
Gray Maguire – Community Engagement Facilitiator