Zaid writes: Speaking of Africa, just outside of Harare, Zimbabwe, Kufunda - an amazing experiment in learning and self-reliance - is unfolding.
Because Kufunda is home-grown and not donor-dependent, it works differently than most development projects. Every couple months, local organisers (mostly women) from communities across Zimbabwe come to learn together and renew their inspiration. The skills that Kufundees learn are quite diverse, but hugely practical, ranging from art and yoga all the way through to soap making and permaculture - skills which Kufundees then take back home with them.
Marianne Knuth (a good friend) launched Kufunda two years ago on her family farm in a very tough local context, that of Zimbabwe under Mugabe. When I visited in August they were about to finish building work on a whole set of houses and dorms which would enable them to run larger residential projects. Alongside the physical building work the resident Kufundees were working hard on their permaculture plots, growing all sort of vegatables and in the process sorting out some complex irrigation issues. Over the next year or so Kufunda is planning to install solar pumps which will enable them to irrigate larger areas and send crops to market.
Kufunda demonstrates, in a deceptively simple way, how to do the work of building strong, self-reliant and self-governing local communities. It shows us how people respond to adversity when given the space (and confronted with the challenge) to create.
Marianne also talks about how Zimbabwe's cut off from the rest of the world has been a blessing in disguise. The illusion that Zimbabwe should and could become like post industrialized society has been stripped away. People are looking at who they are, what they have, and how they want to live.
Kufunda is an experiment in growing community from the local soil.
And I'm a good friend of both Marianne and Zaid.