New knowledge and ability through tummies and trash
The concept of community participation is one that enjoys much support in theory and far less in reality. Apart from awe at power and celebrity, online petitions and taxes, I mean. At some point, one realises that society, an apartheid legacy and the economy are just not going to cut it if you’re investigating or investing in living consciously. Going greener isn’t simple. Investing in equality isn’t easy. And yet, some people do both anyway, and in one part of the Western Cape they have a name for this.
Welcome to Greyton Transition Town, an ideology in action that belies the faded tourist billboard that welcomes you to leafy rural suburbia, its many gift shops and art galleries and its many more economically challenged citizens, mostly only seen milling about near the local shops. As a person of relative privilege in or visiting South Africa, how do you address the apathy and disempowerment that a legacy of colonialism, apartheid and economic disadvantage incurs, though? Marshall starts with the stomach, and makes his way to the trash can.
He and Transition Town partner, Nicola, are actively addressing the realities that surround them. Nicola is an animal sanctuary owner, fundraiser, events coordinator and go-to person for the movement which takes its inspiration from a similar project in Totnes, United Kingdom. Together, they run garden and feeding schemes at local schools, teaching children and teens self-sufficiency and healthy eating habits through a process called permaculture. Permaculture is an organic gardening practise that uses various natural laws to extract abundance from the earth without compromising its ability to feed future generations. The focus on permaculture encouraged them to approach local farmers, who now use no chemicals on parts of their fields, and sell directly to residents at a local market, increasing their profit margins and reducing the amount of packaging and the impact of the cold chain in the process. The new knowledge these youngsters develop also gives them new work and career opportunities, as Marshall is often contacted by bodies seeking exactly their expertise.
Recognising that there was also an opportunity in and need for recycling they organised an independent recycler to collect trash regularly, and started a swap shop to encourage locals to bring in recyclable goods. The citizen recyclers are paid in clothes, food, shoes and other necessities given by larger chains and supportive charities, empowering those with less cash and changing the way locals view trash. Speaking of which, The Transition Town movement also birthed the Trash to Treasure Festival, which rehabilitated an old dumpsite with a clean-up and a new orchard and threw a big party to bring attention to the potential in our waste and the waste of our potential. It’s clear to see that these collective efforts are not a waste of time.
Their headquarters, The Eco Lodge, is a repurposed municipal building that now hosts and accommodates community gatherings for people at every level of the LSM ladder, from school tours to mini-conferences, and if you’re lucky, you may get a vegan meal from Ruwayda, Marshall’s loving wife. If you’re not, you could visit Pure Café, a plant-based eatery that specialises in the most mouth-watering desserts that are completely animal-free (vegan).
Whether you remember it as a transition town or simply those guys giving kids in Genadendal a chance, this is a great example of the power of intention, action and its knock-on effect in building a more inclusive and empowered community.
TIP : to get the full experience, get your hands dirty and add your story to the bigger picture.
(Read more about Greyton Transition Town and get all their contact details on their Eco Atlas page.)