Saturday, December 21, 2013

Ten Days Celebrating the Life of Nelson Mandela

It has indeed been a most memorable and moving ten days here in South Africa.

Memorial service in Soweto

To arrive here the day before Nelson Mandela’s death; to be here during the time of his memorial service at the FNB Stadium in Soweto (near Johannesburg) and his funeral service in Qunu, Eastern Cape Province (not far from the farmers in Cala who featured in my Growers’ Guide to Natural Farming), has been to share with South Africans of all colours and political stripes a time of mourning, but also of celebration of the life of one of the Great Ones of the past century.

Qunu, Eastern Cape

As you can imagine there has been 24/7 coverage on SABC TV (South African Broadcasting Corp), with every possible person – from fellow prisoners on Robben Island (Mac Maharaj, Ahmed Kathrada), to dignitaries from other African countries (Kenneth Kaunda, former president of Zambia; Joyce Banda, President of Malawi), to his longtime personal assistant, Zelda La Grange, to little children – all interviewed for their stories or their remembrances of Madiba. Also there have been excerpts from bio documentaries and from programs on the history of "the Struggle" against apartheid, and its larger significance in the world.

Yes, I have been watching a lot of TV!

But I’ve had some memorable “in person” moments too...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Tererai Trent: A Crusader for Education

Tererai Trent  is a humanitarian, scholar and motivational speaker, who became famous in 2011 after being chosen as Oprah Winfrey's favorite guest out of the 35,000 she'd had on her show over the years. She grew up in rural Zimbabwe, and her story was told on the Oprah show.   

Tererai is also my dear friend.  In 1994 I lived for ten months with Tererai and her children (then she had three) near Mutoko Centre in northeast Zimbabwe, while I conducted the field research for my  doctoral study on Agroforestry and Sustainable Development.  That year Tererai was working for the  Belgian non-governmental organization, COOPIBO, as the resident director of their Agricultural Development Project. We shared and discussed insights on our respective work with farmer groups.  When I returned to Zimbabwe in 1999, PhD completed, Tererai had just left to embark on her own university education in the United States. We did not see each other again for many years, but corresponded regularly by email.

Tererai Trent wrote a Special to CNN article this summer, 2013:  Child bride turned scholar: Education is the road out of poverty...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Zimbabwe: Lessons from Land Reform

From Al Jazeera's new global talk show South2North, "hosted from South Africa's Johannesburg as presenter Redi Tlhabi talks frankly to inspiring and intriguing personalities from across the world." Here Redi speaks to Sam Moyo, professor and executive director of the African Institute for Agrarian Studies, as well as to Teresa Smart, author of Zimbabwe Takes Back Its Land, and to farmer Charlene Mathais.

Zimbabwe: Lessons from land reform (June 22, 2013)

"In the 1980s Zimbabwe became the poster-child for African independence. Twenty years later, violent land grabs pushed white farmers off their land, and the economic turmoil caused unprecedented hyperinflation, resulting in the ultimate crash of the Zimbabwean currency. Food production collapsed and one of the continent's strongest economies reduced to half its previous size. While the West was quick to dismiss Zimbabwe as another failed African state, new research shows that Zimbabwe is actually recovering, and that land reform is working. After years of economic collapse caused by violent land grabs, Zimbabwe is recovering, but who is reaping the benefits?"

For more on this story:

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Growers' Guide to Natural Farming

In February 2013, I travelled to Cala District, Eastern Cape, South Africa, in order to deliver the booklet A Growers' Guide to Natural Farming: Ten Steps to Success and Farmers who Lead the Way, to those very farmers.

Nomvuso Nopote and family 

The view from the Tyandelas' front door

Click on the link below to download a PDF of the booklet. (The file size is 5Mb, and you will need the free Adobe Reader or other PDF-viewing software to open it.):

A Grower's Guide to Natural Farming.pdf

You can also read or download several different file sizes (highest resolution to low resolution) of the PDF here:

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Reflections on a Return Visit to South Africa

Left to right: Nopindile Tyandela, Judith Stamp, Vuwane Tyandela

In the May 2013 issue of Place of Meeting, I shared some thoughts from my February 2013 visit to Cala District in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, to deliver the booklet A Growers' Guide to Natural Farming: Ten Steps to Success and Farmers who Lead the Way.

You can download a PDF of the article here:

Reflections on a Return Visit to South Africa

(Or read the whole May 2013 issue of Place of Meeting online:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Agroforestry and Sustainable Development (PhD Thesis)

1994 research team members: Munei Chiganangana and Danai Nyakanyanga

In the 1990s I conducted field research for my PhD in Zimbabwe.

My first trip for the project was six weeks of research reconnaissance in 1993. The following year I spent ten months in Mutoko District, northeast Zimbabwe. There, together with a team of researchers, we collected data for my doctoral study on agroforestry - the way trees are used in the farming system.

In 1998 I completed the PhD and graduated from the Department of Geography, University of Toronto. The thesis title:  Agroforestry and Sustainable Development in Mutoko Communal District,  Zimbabwe

In 1999, I returned to Zimbabwe to thank research team members and agroforester friends, and to share the results...