Many of the participants are still relatively new to biodynamics; a few are organics farmers who are completely new to biodynamics. Despite not having a large trainers pool to gather, it felt imperative that we host this first Trainers Conference, because it is essential that we expand our capacity for developing knowledge and skill of biodynamics in Africa, and for this we need more people practicing and teaching others.
The venue, Kufunda is an eco and learning village that has been running for 20 years working with community development. Since 2013 Kufunda has expanded to include a Waldorf inspired school and in the last 3 years also biodynamic farming, including teaching neighbouring farmers; making preparations for itself and its neighbours, and initiating a veg box scheme with local farmers to sell biodynamic vegetables in Harare, the Capital.
Kufunda was a great venue for this inaugural conference. A young biodynamic initiative; a farm; a living community, where the participants could dive into their learning and exploration. Kufunda being young in biodynamics, but still well on its way, was a good example of what is possible when we step forward with the clarity to learn, practice and share biodynamic farming in a new country.
This being the first training of its kind, our programme was very hands on.
The first day was to meet and connect - but also to prepare for day two, which was a big open house.
For the second day we had invited local farmers to join us, and spend a day of learning about Soil Fertility. It was a great day: Our numbers doubled, and we were about 60 people. The day had been carefully designed for more experienced trainers to offer different segments of the programme and some to be led by apprentice trainers. The structure and design of the day was very successful - from the Goethean Observation, to collectively observing the mineral (rocks and stones) of the land and then the decomposing matter, to understand more about soil formation. Out of the observation we continued with seeing the impact of biodynamic farming on soil through Chromatography examples from Israel, and then meeting the preparations with an introduction from the Kufunda prep team. A FULL but very inspiring morning with a very diverse group of people. The afternoon was spent with hands-on soil fertility work. The participants split into three groups and learnt and worked together - either making compost, turning a compost, or making CPP. We ended with a song and a check out, where people had a chance to share what they had learnt and were taking with them. There was a real sense of excitement and enthusiasm and a wish for more learning together.
The following day we spent the full morning reflecting on what we did the day before, what we learnt and what it means for our further practice. There was so much richness in these reflections - a lot of them around the power of practical work together for nuanced learning. Even those with decades of experience, reflected that they learnt a lot from witnessing other trainers even in something as basic as compost making or turning!
The fourth day we spent with the Farm Individuality. We took a silent 90-minute walk through the farm soon after dawn, opening to know this place. After breakfast we did a pastel drawing of the farm gesture. We connected this with our agricultural lecture study of the day and ended up working together on farm planning via the gesture. The afternoon was back to practical - this time working with the preparations. It was a magnificent day of deep learning together, using the base of the place we were at. With so many new trainers, the simplicity and yet the depth of what we accomplished allowed for meta learning about how to teach and bring these concepts to life with future students.
The last day was all about the Road Ahead. There was real clarity that we want to continue together. We had people who before meeting at Kufunda did not know of each other’s initiative in their home country; we had people who had learnt biodynamics years ago but found it hard to bring to their country and so pursued an organic training path - coming together with colleagues created a new impetus to make it happen.
Each day we worked with chapter one from the agricultural course. In small groups we would spend 30 minutes reading and digesting together. Then returning to the whole, sharing insights and questions. Each day a different Facilitator would bring his or her final additions and perspectives to the text. Again, it showed us the importance of high levels of participations and involvement. A lecture would not have sufficed in our context.
The Trainer’s Conference only happens every three years, but among our 30 we were clear that we wish to meet every year for the next three years to really establish this seed of African regional trainers. We wish to gather in different farms, to strengthen the network and to deepen the learning of teaching embedded in the practice of Biodynamics in different African countries. Already we have volunteers from both Uganda and Mozambique offering to host the next gathering.
Thank you to the Section of Agriculture and BFDI for the support in making this possible.
The event was hosted at Kufunda and facilitated by a core group made up of Helen Van Zyl from South Africa, Angela Hofman from Sekem in Egypt, Liron Israely from the Adama Chaya Center in Israel, Maaianne Knuth from Zimbabwe. They were supported by Feya Marince from South Africa and Tichaenzana Koke from Zimbabwe.