Rising up out of Zimbabwe’s red dusty earth, rows upon rows of lush, green crops jostle for position. Beans – fortified with zinc and iron – defy the heat of the African sun to grow skyward, providing a much-needed food source for the local community.
Nearby, a young woman named Beauty oversees the spectacle, watering crops that are succumbing to the heat and pinching off those that can’t be saved. Her crops – the result of years of training – help her to keep food on the table and provide both nourishment and employment opportunities for the local community.
Thousands of miles away in an office in North London, Beauty’s story is being celebrated by garden designer, Jilayne Rickards.
Jilayne will bring the colours and vibrancy of Zimbabwe to the world’s most famous flower show in her Chelsea garden, The CAMFED Garden: Giving Girls in Africa a Space to Grow, telling the story of Beauty and the women like her making waves in their local community, alongside CAMFED’s powerful message of gender equality and breaking the poverty cycle.
The story behind the garden
“Beauty (pictured above) is the most incredible person,” said Jilayne. “I met her on a trip to Zimbabwe with CAMFED in 2018. She’s a very modest, humble person but she’s had a huge ripple effect on her entire community.”
An orphan by the age of 15, Beauty’s future was uncertain. She was forced to drop out of school with no guardians to provide for her seven brothers and sisters. That was until CAMFED came along.
The charity, coupled with Beauty’s passion for farming and her desire to provide for her family, helped the young woman finish her education and provided the support she needed to get through agricultural college.
CAMFED (which stands for The Campaign for Female Education) is a non-profit organisation that tackles poverty and inequality by helping girls go to school and succeed, empowering them to become important members of the community, and step up as leaders of change.
With the support of CAMFED, Beauty now runs her own farm, growing a range of crops and employing people from the local community.
“Beauty is the inspiration behind the garden and her story shows how important education is,” said Jilayne. “I wanted to reflect this in the garden by including a traditional classroom, which also makes reference to CAMFED’s commitment to education.”
“It’s made from basic materials using exactly the same techniques they use in Zimbabwe. It’s not chic, but it’s very honest and truthful. There’s even going to be a mural hanging on the wall made by children in Zimbabwe – they’re painting it as we speak!”
Surrounding the classroom of the CAMFED garden will be lush planting, reflecting the huge array of crops that Zimbabwe produces – a vital source of the country’s food and income.
“The majority of the plants will be edible,” explained Jilayne. “I'm hoping to have an orange tree, a banana tree, as well as okra, peanuts, sweet potato, maize, sugar cane, false banana, taro, turmeric, sorghum and aubergine. We’re also looking to include the bio-fortified beans that Beauty grows on her farm. These beans have additional zinc and iron, which has been hugely beneficial for pregnant women in the local community.”
Methods for growing
Keen to be as authentic as possible, Jilayne’s garden will showcase the growing techniques often used by farmers in Zimbabwe.
“People see extremes of climate in Zimbabwe,” explained Jilayne. “They have to be careful with their resources. We’ll see this in some of the techniques in the garden – the raised beds showcase a water-efficient growing technique coupled with crop rotation that maximises yield from a small area.
A water butt standing beneath the classroom’s roof (which links into a solar-powered irrigation system) demonstrates how water run off can be used to keep crops thriving in Africa too.
“I think the growing techniques we’ve used are what visitors to Chelsea will able to take away and implement in their own gardens,” said Jilayne. “We’re using recycled materials wherever possible and has a very positive message of sustainability and legacy.
“Solar power is being used a lot across Africa now – such as to power irrigation systems. The solar panel, pump, irrigation, lighting and study lamps, along with the growing beds show the progressive side of Africa in the garden.
“I was introduced to CAMFED by my school friend Charlotte Watts who is the Chief Scientific Adviser at Department for International Development. She helped me source the biofortified seeds and solar technologies for the garden - both of which have been produced through UKAID’s investment in low-cost technologies that deliver development benefits.”
Bringing the project home
Bringing a flavour of Zimbabwe to the heart of west London is no mean feat, especially in light of the restrictions surrounding the importation of plants, so Jilayne is calling on support a little closer to home.
“We’re working with the Eden Project at the moment to grow our edible crops,” said Jilayne. “They have such a wealth of plant knowledge and have the systems to be able to grow our plants that otherwise wouldn’t be able to grow in this country.
“As part of this partnership, People and Gardens is working at the Eden Project to help grow our plants. People and Gardens is a charity that supports people with learning difficulties and helps them learn social and work skills to live more independently.
“The garden has brought so many people, partnerships and messages together. I couldn’t be more thrilled. The icing on the cake being the garden living on at the Eden Project after the show, which encapsulates CAMFED’s commitment to sustainability.
“The CAMFED garden is bringing together all the fabulous components into the garden for one week and delivering CAMFED’s strong and positive message of keeping girls in education to tackle inequality and poverty all in one go. Can I do it justice? We shall see!”
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