Permaculture Designers Profile
Jeannine Viljoen Davidoff
Happy Toes Permaculture Project
1990 – 1999
In association with Ewald (Petrus Groenewald) Viljoen we began to research alternatives to farming commercially.Ewald studied commercial Agriculture at Cedara Agricultural College, KZN and I spent the last six months of his course residing at Cedara in 1989.
In 1990, we located to Deodar Farm, Ingogo, KZN, which is situated at the foot of the Majuba Mountain on the border of KZN, Mpumalanga and Free State.
Initially we visited a variety of NGO’s, Organic and Biodynamic Farms in the then Transvaal (Gauteng) and Natal (KZN) areas to get information about viable alternatives to commercial agriculture. This is when we discovered information about permaculture.
In 1997, FTFA approached us to run One day Introduction to Permaculture workshops in 5 provinces around the country for schoolteachers. The workshops were a springboard to inspire teachers to involve children and communities in food growing and environmental activities using permaculture as the tool. For more information about FTFA, please follow http://www.trees.co.za/about-ftfa/categories/about-ftfa.html
We started to develop a manual for the Intro workshop in 1997. In 2000, we developed the Permaculture Toolbox, a One Day Introduction to Permaculture. Hundreds of teachers attended these workshops nationwide and many successful school-based projects developed over the years because of these workshops. My association FTFA ended in 2002 due to other commitments. These annual workshops and the Eduplant Competition inspired many schools around the country to become involved in permaculture thinking, environmental awareness and activities.
1999 - 2005
I moved to Ikhwezi Lokuza (IL), Mount Ruth, Eastern Cape in 2000. A functional 25ha natural farm in a subtropical environment, established in 1974. It had approximately 120 mature mixed fruit trees – avocado, macadamia nut, pecan nut, varieties of citrus and much more. I managed IL for a year but found it difficult to farm and raise children on my own, so eventually moved into a suburban setting close the school for the children in 2001.
I helped to found a Montessori Primary School as an offshoot of the preschool and taught gardening and art to preschoolers and primary school children. I helped teach art and gardening to the children. I attended all the Montessori Teachers Courses hosted by the principal, Sharon Caldwell.
In 2002, I started writing a weekly column for the local newspaper, IndabaZethu (Your news) about organic gardening and this extended to the farming column in the Daily Dispatch. I wrote the South African Planting and Companion Planting Guide (SAPCPG) in 2002. EP started self-publishing SAPCPG with over 1000 copies sold to date.
From 2002 to 2003, I worked with a handmade paper-recycling project called Rising Sun Papers (RSP). The project used invasive wattle tree bark for fiber in the paper. I managed, facilitated and marketed the group in the East London area. I taught handmade papermaking intermittently between 1990 and 2003.
I developed a set of greeting cards while at RSP. The designs were bases on a Xhosa traditional pattern theme, with indigenous flowers, insects and portraits of the group members in traditional Xhosa dress as subjects. We submitted three of the twelve designs to the Spier Wines/Craft Council of South Africa (CCSA) awards. The CCSA commended our designs.
From 2003 until 2006, I worked with Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) as administrator and co-facilitator on the Eco-Schools Project in the Eastern Cape Region with projects in Mdantsane and Port St Johns. I wrote a weekly column on environmental issues for the GO magazine on WESSA’s behalf.
In collaboration with Philip Wilkinson of WESSA, we compiled the Guide to East Coast Dune Vegetation. The Adpot-A-Beach Programme used the booklet to help participants to identify dune plants as part of the Blue Flag Beaches that aim to help keep beaches clean and preserve naturally occurring species.
2006 – 2012
In association with GardenAfrica.org.uk (GA) I consulted for Vusumnotfo Training Centre, Hohoho, Swaziland from 2009 – 2012. Vusumntfo hosted permaculture courses that extended over the span of one year. There were three intakes on the project. I helped edit and develop their permaculture manual during the consultation.
At community meetings, the community members received the challenge to building an upcycled fence, using found materials. The community members with the best fences participated in the yearlong training, developing their homesteads in the process.
We collaborated on developing educational materials and in 2012; we created a pilot video for the Living Classroom series, Black Gold: The Secrets of Compost Making.
In 2006 the South African Planting and Companion Planting Guide was Shortlisted for the Sunday Tribune Reach Publishers Competition.
In 2006 I started a blog called www.companionplanting.blogspot.com and set up www.earthwormproductions.yolasite.com website. I opened an internet-based art shop called www.etsy/eleventimes.com selling mainly collages that I made from recycled magazines and paint colour sample strips. Other ventures in the art world include a photographic series on www.fineartamerica.com and a graphic design series on www.redbubble.eleventimes.com
In 2007, I became a certified Beginners Hatha Yoga Teacher with my teacher Cheryl Duncan through Yoga Vid Ya Dam. The certification was through India, though the course was conducted in Bryanston, Johannesburg.
2012 – 2016
In this time, I relocated from East London, EC to Cape Town, Western Cape (WC). I met up with Karen Parkin, who we met in 1997 at Kommetjie Environmental Action Group (KEAG), WC. Karen and I teamed up in 2013/14 to hold weekend introduction to Permaculture workshops. We approached Oranjejzicht City Farm (OCF), WC. We sold copies of SAPCPG at the OCF market and surveyed the interest in Weekend Permaculture Workshops from the public. We collected email addresses and started running workshops at OCF and Constantia Vet. We had a good response and held several workshops.
Another part time project found me marketing and administrating the Ceramics Association of South Africa (CASA), WC for Dr Ralph Johnson. My role as administrator found me contacting members to update memberships and to organize the biennial Potter Market in Rondebosch, WC. I helped develop the marketing for the CASA on Facebook and in the media.
I took lessons in ceramics with potter, John Bauer and lessons in life drawing with Stuart Coutts, at the Animation School, WC. I held a regular yoga class at the Novalis Institute, WC during this time and participated on the talent exchange, offering yoga lessons for 50% talents. www.ces.org.za
2016 to current
I became the manager at Happy Toes Permaculture Project (HT), Groot Marico, North West Province in April 2016 and have slowly been evolving the design over the last three years. I have facilitated seven PDC courses for small groups (1-4 people) during this period as well as two weekend workshops.
I have focused on the production systems at Happy Toes and for the first time since the inception of HT in 2010, there is regular sale of produce from the nursery and the gardens to the local market. Approximately 50% of food consumed on Happy Toes is produced onsite. During the PDC in April/May 2018, we harvested over 20 different crops during the harvesting and processing day of the course. I offered a spot to Abraham, our amazing staff member, on the course in December 2018 and he learned new skills. Our other staff member, Aubrey attended the PDC in September 2018.
HT hosts international volunteers, who lend a hand with current projects. The volunteers come from everywhere and so far, in the three years, we have hosted over 20 countries. The volunteers’ average stay is two to four weeks.
HT entered a new phase of ownership in October 2018 and the focus is on education, research and production as well as hosting regular yoga retreats. We are still in planning phase. The new owners visited HT in August 2018 to plan the future direction of the 2.5ha farm, which has an innumerable species diversity. In 2018, a horrible drought gripped the area, with summer rainfall at a minimum until April 2019.
HT has an establishing food forest with approximately 500 trees, extensive homestead and market gardens as well as a developing chicken tractor system and a small aquaculture system. We constantly plant more trees in the food forest, growing the diversity.
Porcupines are currently presenting a problem. We have constructed a perimeter fence.
Dams and canal systems are in place to irrigate the whole of HT. The water in the system comes from 5km away, from the Groot Marico River. In the early 1900’s, the canals were established. We have had no water in this system since September 2018 and are now reliant on our borehole.
The environment is temperate to arid with temperatures over forty degrees C in summer and as low as minus five in the winter. The clay soil is a huge challenge. Extensive compost making happens on a weekly basis. We are maintaining and upgrading structures and infrastructure.
Plans are afoot to extend the seedling/sapling nursery, build a large solar dryer, install more accommodation and ablutions, underground root cellar, distillery and processing centre.
Natural building and recycling are part of the HT program.
For a glimpse of life on HT follow these links:
Future plans at HT
Education is the pivot of HT. We plan to focus on PDC courses both onsite and online.
In the future, we plan to intensify production and do extensive marketing in order to get excess produce to the market. Ongoing research into organic market needs.
We aim to develop the skills of our staff and increase the number of employees on the project as the yields of our labour increases.
Improve accommodations and increase volunteer programme as well as offer backpacker accommodation.
Develop the kitchens to be able to cater and process all garden produce.
Have daily yoga/art/music classes and weekend yoga/permaculture retreats.