Kufunda village is located at Knuth Farm in Seke rural district. On 4 December 2013 we (Charity, Alfred and I) had an opportunity to take a tour of the village to have a look at what they do and what they stand for. As we drove into the village a warm green atmosphere welcomed us. Trees, living quarters, classrooms, eating rooms, small gardens, cheerful but busy people and traditional sitting spaces are what make up the heart of the village. Tendai, Munashe and Try again were our hosts for the day. ‘’We try and make sure everything we do is ecofriendly” is a statement they kept saying over and over again. Sustainable farming is also one of their mandates. To start with; they practice permaculture, most of the herbs and vegetables are planted without much soil, they use mostly grass and compost manure, a method they said preserves and reclaims overused soil, prevents weed growth and retains soil moisture. This is the story of Kufunda as seen through these three Youth Leaders.
“Pesticides are a thing of the past; we do not use chemicals at all, we came up with a natural way of dealing with pests, we gather stones at one end near the plant beds, this attracts lizards that then feed on all the pests you can think of. Our garden beds are made in a funny way as you can see they are not straight but curved this prevents water from running off. We put dried grass on the foot paths and around every building to avoid soil degradation from continuous walking. We plant lots of herbs like Parsley, Rosemary, Mint, Lemon grass, Aloe vera, Calendula and Moringa among others. Every cottage has a herbal garden outside. We have a herbal laboratory where we dry and process the herbs into various medicines as well as cooking spices. Besides that we produce mushrooms and we run mushroom production training. As we speak, there is a group of orphans drawn from all over Zimbabwe who came to get trained on mushroom production. Mushroom is easy to produce because you can be creative enough to use the resources at your disposal. For example we use dry maize stalks, plastics (you can use any plastic even those used for bread, instead of throwing them away you can use them) and the house can be made from mud. We usually produce mushroom for subsistence but if we have excess we supply Spar Hatfield. We also have a animal husbandry section and we rear pigs, cattle and rabbits”
Recently we discovered an innovative way to reclaim our land and improve our soil fertility and make it ready to use again. It is not something demanding but something that anyone with cattle can do and here we call it the ‘’cattle tractor”. What happens is that in the evening our cattle are confined to a small pen with grass mulch which is moved after a week to another spot until the whole field is finished. The cow dung, the mulch and continuous movement makes the spot ready for production. What we will only do after this is dig holes and plant our seed. It is a recent innovation so this year we will plant a small portion of the field and see if the cattle tractor works. Another way we are using is by planting nitrogen fixing plants in our fields for some time and leaving the field idle for 5-15 years, by then it will be good to use again.
We have interesting toilets here; we use “Abaloo toilets”. The word Abaloo is borrowed from Latin and it means ‘make a tree out of a toilet”. The housing and the slab in movable only the pit is permanent and when it gets full we move the housing and slab to another site. The full pit is then covered for two years to decompose then after that we plant a tree on it. The decomposition is aided by dry leaves and wood ash that we put every time we finish using the toilet; the trees grow healthy and tall. As a way to preserve our trees here we made some heat storing stoves that do not use normal firewood but twigs only. It is called ‘’jengeta huni” and it is made from clay soil from anthills. We also make sure that our used (grey) water gets to water something, so we have these bamboo drainages that we make and channel water to the banana and mulberry trees among others. Used water from bath rooms and the kitchen does not go to waste but gets to serve a purpose. In addition to this we have a drainage system from one of the buildings that channels water to a well, so during the rainy season we harvest water into the well and we use that for watering when the rains are gone.
Over and above all the things we mentioned Kufunda is a place of learning and community living. We have a pre-school which caters for the community children, there are youth programmes like sustainable leadership, workshops and trainings for women and youths on herb and mushroom production and processing, apiculture, animal husbandry, bead making and mathematics among others. The three of us came for a three month leadership course and within that short space of time we have learnt how to do everything that is done here at Kufunda, we are taught to do things on our own and together as one. We don’t only use class rooms for learning; at times we go and sit “padare” which is on some big rocks and be it there or in classrooms we sit in a circle and put a decoration in the centre which represents the traditional ‘’padare” fire. We see each other as equal as such no one talks when it’s not their turn, you only speak when it is your turn and when you have been given a talking piece. We do community work every Wednesday, on this day we all work on one task together, we do morning dances and exercises together and we live as one family.