Gan Eiden – Hebrew for ‘Garden of Eden’ – began with a vision to empower a group of special needs’ individuals by creating an Permaculture food garden where they could connect with nature, cultivate their own produce and hence, feel as though they’re productive, valued and contributing citizens.

These special residents live on a plot of land in Olifantsfontein, Midrand called ‘Kibbutz Lubner’. Part of the Selywn Segal – which falls under the greater auspices of the Chevrah Kadisha – Kibbutz Lubner provides accommodation and facilities for 22 intellectually disabled adults who produce products such as marmalades, jams, veggie chips and other delicacies at a factory at the Kibbutz, which are sold in supermarkets throughout South Africa.

Modeled on an Israeli-style kibbutz, the residents take pride in doing their share of work, taking care of themselves and living off what they produce. It’s pretty much a self-sufficient existence and it’s clear to see the equality and respect that exists amongst the residents.

In May 2011, Siyakhana came on board and thanks to a generous sponsor, was able to implement its vision of establishing Gan Eiden – a Permaculture food garden that would maximize the sustainability of the kibbutz’s production, lower the Chev’s annual fruit and veg spend, and give the residents a chance to learn about a Permaculture system.

Detailed designs were drawn up, a workforce was assembled and supplies were procured. And slowly, what was an unutilized piece of land began to flourish into a Permaculture paradise.

The land was divided up into several sections and a variety of vegetables, herbs and flowers were first propagated in the on-site nursery and thereafter, the seedlings were planted on a rotational basis. With the factory producing veggie chips all year round, an abundance of sweet potatoes, butternuts and beetroots have been planted.

And after a patient wait from all of our stakeholders, we’re beginning to see the fruits of our labour: healthy, nutritious and pest-free vegetables are being harvested in a Permaculture way and both the factory and the Chev are being supplied with tasty and organic produce. And in just a few months’ time when the produce really starts to flourish, the Chev will be able to see a significant drop in their monthly fruit and veg spend.

The most exciting aspect of this project is how every stakeholder is so personally invested in its success. “Kibbutz Lubner’s operational process extends far beyond producing agricultural and food products,” observed Kibbutz Lubner’s housemother and residence manager. “Just as cultivating a seed requires special care, patience and love, so too does nurturing a soul. And this is what we aim to achieve; it’s a place where self-esteem flourishes.”

Laying drip irrigation
Farm produce
Garden blooming

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