Griffin & Holdstock Concert for School Orchards Africa

Linda George

School Orchards Africa

Tuesday, April 10 2018

For the past five years Gabriolans have gathered at musical events to raise funds for School Orchards Africa. We have had some great evenings with amazing musicians (...remember last year with Heather and Adena Macleod?)

Well, this year, musicians and vocalists Kathy Griffin and Roger Holdstock are traveling from Vancouver to apply their vocal harmonies to songs ranging from Canadian folk to a Salvadorean peace song. Their progressive repertoire can inspire us to keep on working toward a better world.

And there is nothing like a vigorous walk through a forest to dream of how one can address global issues. A hike on the Yogi Trail seeded the idea to establish orchards in faraway Tanzanian schools. School Orchards Africa Society was created in 2009 with strong ties from communities on Thetis Island and Gabriola.

Our vision is to empower the impoverished children of the Southern Highlands to remain on the land, improve their education and to become proudly self sufficient.

Based solely on volunteers, SOAS relies on Canadians doing the fundraising and a Tanzanian NGO coordinating the school work. To this date eleven large orchards have been planted, the latest being a 2.5 acre permaculture orchard and vegetable garden project in a secondary school. In addition, a 300 chicken poultry farm and 25 beehives were started on the 100 acre school ground. The gardens are tended by the students, and it is already providing nutrient rich food for the 800 student hot lunches. A much needed water-well was also installed. To make this extraordinary project possible, School Orchards Africa branched out and partnered with TanCan,

Seven Ravens Permaculture Academy, and the Kahane Foundation.

It is true, when you want a job done well, ask a busy, thoughtful person! Lucky for School Orchards, they could not have found a finer man than Alban Lutambi to coordinate the school projects in Tanzania. Recently, with a vision of building program capacity, he toured permaculture farms and horticultural sites throughout BC … and asked many questions.

On tranquil Cowichan Lake, sipping wine late into the night, with all parties on the dock, part two of the dream was seeded: that is, the possibility of horticultural training for keen graduating students.

Most rural Tanzanian students leave school at a grade seven level, or earlier.

Unemployment is rampant among these adolescents. Surrounded by subsistence farms, they are incredibly hard workers...and not afraid of a pick. Therefore, given that permaculture lessons and assessment are experience/project based, we pondered whether it would be possible for them to gain valuable qualifications through attending a permaculture training centre. At the centre they could learn permaculture strategies to help with the productivity on their family farms. The qualifications would make them more employable. The curriculum would cover topics such as functioning ecosystems; orchard and nursery management; rainwater harvesting; pond systems; fruit and nut growing; perennial and annual gardens; bee keeping, poultry raising, farm business management; entrepreneurial skills; consultation skills; etc.

Fast forward to 2017. In another stroke of luck, enter Michael Nickels of Seven Ravens Permaculture Academy and Eco-Forest, on Salt Spring Island. Michael has been teaching permaculture for decades and taking his students to East Africa to work on projects with local communities. He recently met with Alban and together they have enthusiastically begun working on next steps. To find out the exciting outcome of School Orchard’s collaboration with Seven Ravens, attend their fundraising event on April 21. Michael will be presenting during the intermission. Griffin & Holdstock are performing at The Roxy @ Twin Beaches on Sat April 21 at 7PM for School Orchards Africa. Kathy Griffin and Roger Holdstock have a wealth of musical background: Kathy’s includes being the first woman in The Thunderbirds Barbershop Chorus; Roger’s includes 35 years with the folk band Fraser Union. As a duo they blend their voices exquisitely. Concert tickets $15 at North Road Sports, or $20 at door.