In September 2014, students in Professor Dave Watts‘ landscape architecture course at California Polytechnic State University traveled to the Eastern Cape to run a participatory community mapping project, improve Manzimdaka school garden, and conduct a community needs assessment survey. For the participatory photo mapping project, local village members guided students through their favorite places and their least favorite places in their home villages. Along with the LAND Project’s Liza Lightfoot and Mpumelelo Ncwadi, Cal Poly divided into divided two teams – one group conducted the needs assessment survey with Mpumi, while the other group worked with local villagers and school children in the garden.
Liza, who coordinated the garden team, describes, how, “at the end of winter, the weather was really changeable. There’d been a bad fire the day before that’d come up to the edge of the school. But still, people from community came to work with the garden to turn the soil.” Working in tandem, students visitors and villagers trekked back and forth across the street to gather up manure from a neighbor’s cattle kraal to work into the soil. The LAND Project provided seed packets and volunteers made a potting mix out of finely blended kraal manure and soil. The students planted a lot of seedlings and put them in an area protected from the wind, while the locals planted seeds directly into the garden soil
Such productive, side-by-side work with both students and villagers is at the heart of what the LAND Project is about: blending an agroecological approach while building bridges between local people and students.