Pioneer Foods Group launches Limani project for schools

The Pioneer Foods Group has reconfirmed its commitment to “feeding the nation” through the launch of Limani, a project that will donate permaculture food garden kits to various schools. The project is being launched at the Shikati School in Limpopo on the 16th of June 2012.


Limani is executed in partnership with Food & Trees for Africa (FTFA), the first and only South African social enterprise addressing sustainable development through climate change action, food security and greening, with a strong focus on environmental and global warming education and awareness. “The Limani project is important to the Pioneer Food Group, as it addresses sustainability and food insecurity challenges. Availability of and access to food, as well as the effect of prices on certain sectors of the South African community are huge problem areas. The Limani project provides the opportunity to create food gardens and will at least ensure that the children in the participating schools are food secure,” says Lulu Khumalo, executive of corporate affairs and sustainability at Pioneer Foods (Pty) Ltd.


“According to the FAO’s State of Food Insecurity in the World 2011 report, high food prices are likely to continue and volatility may increase in coming years, making farmers, consumers and countries more vulnerable to poverty and food insecurity. It is therefore clear that programmes such as Limani are of utmost importance to South African communities,” adds Khumalo.


Khumalo confirms that the Limani project will support the development of natural food gardens for specially selected schools. This will not only introduce a form of practical food gardening education for scholars, but will provide food for schools and surrounding communities, as well as create entrepreneurial opportunities for parents at the schools, as extra vegetables not needed or used by the school can be sold. The Limani project is modelled on other successful FTFA initiatives where schools are clustered so that their communities, including many unemployed parents, work together while sharing knowledge and resources in an effort to improve lives and livelihoods; another of Pioneer Foods’ passions.


In addition, Khumalo believes that this project will assist in improving the results of the learners at the schools; “Schools in underprivileged areas tend to experience a drop in concentration in students, as many of them have very little to eat on a daily basis. These vegetable gardens will be an important source of basic foods for those enrolled in and living near the school.”


FTFA has been chosen as partner in this strategic project due to their long standing experience in the permaculture food gardening field. The name permaculture is derived from permanent agriculture and is described by Simon Henderson as “the use of ecology as the basis for designing integrated systems of food production, housing appropriate technology and community development. It offers a practical, creative approach to the problems of diminishing resources and threatened life support systems now facing the world”.


“We are excited to work with Pioneer Foods on this project which will benefit so many and hopefully be a precursor for more of the same,” says Verena Wagner, FTFA programme manager. “The Limpopo conditions for growing food are good and the Nutrition Directorate of the Department of Education in Limpopo is very active, making it much easier to execute the programme. Each school will receive plant materials, gardening tools, educational resources and practical permaculture workshops to help them to develop their food gardens. The primary aim is food security and improved nutrition for the children. Any excess food can be used to create entrepreneurial opportunities for community members. The garden will also serve as a living laboratory for the schools themselves, where children can experience their connection to the earth and food, gaining an understanding that lettuce doesn’t come from a supermarket.” 


Adding excitement to the Limani launch will be Dreamfields, an organisation working towards soccer development for children under the age of 12 and ‘spreading the joy of playing soccer’. A round robin soccer tournament will be held at the launch, in which 15 of the schools taking part in the Limani project will play. These all boy teams will each play two matches of 20 minutes a side on a half field.  Twelve of these 15 schools taking part in the tournament will receive kits including boots, socks, shin guards and soccer kits for all 15 players. The team coaches will receive a t-shirt, a whistle and three soccer balls with a pump.


The tournament will end with a prize-giving ceremony where all schools will receive participating medals, while the winners and runners-up will receive trophies. “Our ultimate vision is to develop a soccer league in the Limpopo area,” says Linda Khuzwayo from the Dreamfields project. “At the launch of Limani, however, we just want the children to have fun and play soccer. We are in full support of the Limani project; to develop good athletes, the correct nutrition has to be available. It is opportune that the Limani pilot project is also aimed at primary schools”.


One of the 16 schools in this pilot project will be developed into a resource centre where others can access learning and materials and receive support. Eventually the seven best schools will become resource centres. The immediate vision for the project is to expand to 75 schools, but it is hoped that eventually all schools in South Africa will have permaculture food gardens.


The long-term vision for the Limani project is to develop a model that can be replicated to address food security needs of schools nationally. As climate change takes effect and price increases are diminishing the quality of life of all communities, there is a need for home grown food and Pioneer Foods, in partnership with FTFA, is committed to doing its part in solving the problem for the communities of South Africa.


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