The LAND project

A ram, a garden, and a survey: Cal Poly students in Eastern Cape

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.

Upcoming trip: “The Agroecology of Health: Water, Food, and Well Being, South Africa”

This winter, students from UW-Madison’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will be traveling to Johannesburg, Elliot, and Kumanzimdaka with Michael Bell and Valerie Stull of the LAND Project.  Between late December early January, 2017, students will learn first-hand about the history and society of South Africa, the basics of agroecology and environmental health, and the multifactorial determinants of health for urban and rural populations in the South Africa & Lesotho.  Students will learn about urban agriculture initiatives in Johannesburg, and lead an agricultural education camp for children near Elliot in the rural Eastern Cape.  Throughout the trip, students will be encouraged to observe urban and rural farming and healthcare.

 Students from a prior UW student-learning course pose with their fellow workers in the school garden


Students from a prior UW student-learning course pose with their fellow workers in the school garden

Students will also participate in several service learning activities: possibly the construction of rainwater harvesting systems systems and the design and set-up of a composting system for a food garden at the Manzimdanka Primary School.  In Johanesburg, students will work at the Ratang Bana urban garden Service learning work will be completed in partnership with the LAND Project’s collaborator, the non-profit organization Kidlinks World Inc.  These two service-learning projects have been selected through a longstanding relationship between Kidlinks and the local community. Service learning provides an opportunity for students in this course to work with community members, local students, and leaders to plan and implement two health related initiatives. It will also provide an opportunity for learning exchange and growth between students and community members.

Students are selected for this trip from a pool of applicants and prepare throughout the fall semester through readings and discussions.  Click here to find more information about our student collaborative trips.

Upcoming Landscape Architecture student trip

Students in a landscape architecture course at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, CA first traveled to South Africa in 2008 to build a memorial garden at Ikageng Itireleng AIDS Ministry, led LAND Project co-director Liza Lightfoot and LAND Project collaborator Professor Dave Watts.  In 2009 and 2012, new groups of Cal Poly students traveled again to the Eastern Cape to restore and build more gardens with and for children in the region.  In September 2014, Liza and Dave will take a new class of Cal Poly students to the Eastern Cape and work with The LAND Project’s key collaborator, the Ncedisizewe Co-op, to run participatory community development meetings, improve the school garden, and conduct a community needs assessment survey.  More to come!

The LAND Project featured in University of Wisconsin’s “Grow” magazine

Wisconsin’s life sciences’ periodical, “Grow,” recently featured The Land Project’s efforts in the Eastern Cape.  In  “Field Notes: South Africa,” Aisha Liebenow chats with recent LAND volunteers and visiting faculty and summarizes the current activities of the Project.

The article touches on the efforts of the LAND Project at mitigating commons erosion through rotational grazing.  This form of grasslands management, which actually originated in Africa, ‘will potentially double the level of animal production while also building soil quality, reducing erosion and promoting wildlife habitat. LAND has conducted workshops with farmers on rotational grazing and helped develop a supply chain connecting local grass-based meat to national and international markets.”

Leibenow also highlights students who recently visited the Eastern Cape with the LAND project through a new global health certificate field course, “The Agroecology of Health,” via the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  “Bell and doctoral student Valerie Stull brought 10 undergraduate and two graduate students to the Eastern Cape for a 15-day visit that encompassed learning about agroecology and hydrology systems and working with community members to establish a one-acre vegetable garden at a school in the village of Kumanzimdaka”

Read the full article on Grow’s e-magazine site.