Strengthening the Web of Relationships for Peace
It was appropriate that the Learning Journey culminated in a discovery of the Learning Village, eponymously called “Kufunda Village”. “Kufunda” means “we learn together“. It was at Kufunda that participants on this Journey were introduced to the Art of Hosting and Harvesting Conversations that Matter.
Come on a walk through the Village:
Nestled in a riverine forest some 25 kilometres from Harare is the Kufunda Learning Village. It began as a dream just over ten years ago. The founder, Maianne Knuth, returned from Denmark to Zimbabwe drawn by her experience of her Zimbabwean home as being rich and alive, and yet also seeing that many people there saw first and foremost that which they did not have. Her own experience of the wisdom and beauty of the Zimbabwean people, and especially those from rural places, led her to create Kufunda as a place of learning, where people could recover their sense of pride, wisdom, and capacity in working with their own knowledge and deepening their resourcefulness.
Over the years, Kufunda has sought to integrate the best from many places, far and near, local and abroad.
As a learning village Kufunda currently seeks to live, practice and learn in two primary areas:
1) The practical, physical domain of sustainable healthy community; and
2) The less tangible, but equally important, domain of culture, learning and collective leadership, which enables a community to thrive.
The community of Kufunda consist of around 27 people who live and work at Kufunda with their families. Some of them work with permaculture and organic farming, others with health and nutrition and making good herbal remedies out of locally grown plants; some are into eco-building; others into renewable energy, and so on.
Kufunda seeks to share their lessons, insights and questions through their programmes that reach out particularly to rural Zimbabweans with a focus on Children, Youth and Community Leaders. These programmes have seen senior members of rural communities (gogos) becoming the custodians of solar power in their communities, youth who have dropped out of school get a second chance to further their education and others learning how to recycle human waste in communities and help reforestation through arbour/compost toilets.
Although its impact has largely been on rural communities in Zimbabwe, what Kufunda is learning has relevance far beyond Zimbabwe. The lessons of Kufunda have been learned by and from village residents, volunteers, community members, programme participants, friends and visitors using the principles: “Ask for what you need; Offer what you can”. It is on this basis too that the lessons of Kufunda are waiting to be shared with the rest of the world.
Kufundees (those at Kufunda) describe what animates them in the following words:
We believe that people and communities already have the solutions and resources they need to be able to live a life of self- nourishment
We believe that everyone has something of value to share. We have learnt that we need each other to recognise and bring our gifts. No label is big enough to cover what each one of us holds inside, and so people have arrived as carpenters, drivers, or security guards, and have opened up into being Kufundees – learners and contributors – often in surprising and wonderful ways. We therefore seek to support each other in being and becoming.
It is our experience that great energy is released when we begin to pay attention to what we know and have, and build on this in innovative and creative ways.
We value a questioning mind, initiative and willingness to stretch to a larger vision of what is possible.
We aspire to showcase and demonstrate practical solutions.
We believe that work should be fun. Our plans at Kufunda often follow the inspiration of our hearts. We have learnt that we can do more when we work from a place of following our joy and passion. \
We believe in – and have learnt – the power of Starting Now, with what we have. In the words of a friend of ours, we make the path by walking it
In essence, we believe that we need each other. One of our most challenging, but probably important lessons is how to walk together. In the Shona colloquial Mushandira Pamwe, uniting to work together, is critical to the health of any community. Learning new, and remembering old, ways of being in a generative community is critical to the life of Kufunda. The Art of Hosting is critical here, and the circle is the ground of our Kufunda community. In the circle, we ask for what we need, and offer what we can; we listen with curiosity; and silence is also a part of the conversation.
“At Kufunda we are experimenting with creating healthy vibrant communities, seeking to learn as much as possible about what it takes to create sustainable community. If you visit our centre you will quickly see the obvious manifestations: the permaculture gardens, the herb lab, the compost toilets, the eco buildings, the solar experiments, and more.
A large part of our work is the work of learning more about sustainability in all its aspects – and sharing that with others, through programmes, visits, and shared learning. Please contact Ticha (email@example.com) if you would like to set up a visit to Kufunda.
Our current work is focused on sustainable farming and land use, renewable energy and healthy living.
We are currently working with local and international permaculture educators, and are planning a permaculture design course to be held at Kufunda later this year. Contact Admire (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information on how to join us in this work.
Our Healthy Living team is working in the area of using herbs and food as a way of staying healthy and disease free. The team is particularly interested in the challenges of people living with HIV/AIDS. They produce herbal remedies using organic locally grown herbs. Contact Patricia email@example.com
In Eco-building Kufunda has over the years learnt how to build rammed earth buildings, Cobb houses, compost toilets, and wood-saving stoves. We continue to be in learning and to share what we know with our community friends. Contact Stephen firstname.lastname@example.org for more on our eco-building experiments.
Our Cleaner Earth enthusiasts are working on renewable energy. At this time it is primarily through a solarisation project that we fondly think of as our Solar Grandmother project. The goal of the project is to improve the livelihoods of rural communities, reduce environmental destruction and deforestation through the use of solar energy. We seek to achieve this by having the communities themselves become fully involved in the process of fabricating and installing solar lighting units for about 200 households in 10 rural communities. Our solar ‘engineers’ are three Zimbabwean grandmothers – Gogos – from the Kufunda communities, who were funded to train in India. They returned to Zimbabwe in September 2011 after six months of learning. They returned with new knowledge, and the energy to utilise it. They are able to construct solar inverters (that invert solar energy to electricity), set up solar modules, and connect a full system to create power. We are currently waiting for solar materials to arrive by freight from India, after which the Gogos will be reaching out to ten rural communities (their own included) to teach and implement basis electrification systems. Email Allan email@example.com for more on our cleaner earth and Solar Grandmother’s project.”
Through its Pre-school Programme, Kufunda has been working with children almost since the beginning of Kufunda itself, both supporting this work in our partner communities, and also hosting a small kindergarten at Kufunda itself.
The Kufunda kindergarten originated in 2003 in Iddlesleigh, a settlement on a farm near the Kufunda Village. Patricia Mutsvandiyani, who worked as a security guard on that farm, found that many of the children who came to her to play were abused at home – either through sexual violence or as child labourers. Most of the children were orphans who were malnourished and not well looked after at home. More and more children joined Patricia every day, eventually becoming a group of up to 40.
At the same time, through our work with communities, we were discovering a great concern and desire among the women in particular to work with the orphaned youngest children of their communities, and thus our work with supporting women in caring for women began. Initially it was primarily financial support to provide one good meal a day to the children in their daily care, as well as a small stipend for them. Since the global financial crisis the money has become scarce, but the love and the work continues, and we have realized how much further learning around early childhood care is making a difference.
We currently work with women running 13 kindergartens in 7 communities.
At this point our work is therefore focused on education of the caregivers. We facilitate workshops with community teachers on childhood development, educational play and practical toy making, and we do follow up visits in those kindergartens afterwards. In engaging with the children we put emphasis on play with self-made toys and storytelling, and less on academic teaching, as the work of children is play and exploration!
The team also has regular trainings in the kindergarten in First Aid, health questions, and educational issues/syllabus, and we continue our toy making activities. We reach out to parents and community members by inviting them for monthly meetings, as well as giving presentations after each workshop where we explain our concept of education and show what we do with the children.
As part of our larger community, we join hands with others to build playgrounds in the communities (using the Oasis game).
Youth and Learning
The Kufunda Youth and Learning Programme supports disadvantaged youth from eleven rural communities that Kufunda Village is working with. Several of them are orphans or have struggled in the traditional education system. The programme focuses on youth who, despite these challenges, are seen by their communities as holding potential for the future.
The programme’s purpose is to create a space for youth who are willing to bring changes to their lives and their communities, a space where they can identify their dreams and explore their passion, and be well equipped to move towards these.
More specifically the programme aims:
In the first quarter of 2013, Kufunda ran one three month programme and planned to launch a second, four month one. It is our hope to run two 4 month programmes per year. The programmes are based on the four pillars of Kufunda:
Participants learn through a mix of apprenticing to the Kufunda teams, formal sessions and lessons, including visiting faculty, and projects that they have to lead and run themselves
For more on Kufunda, or to see how you can get involved click here.