Kufunda Village sits on a rocky plot of family farmland just outside Harare, Zimbabwe’s bustling capital city. It could easily be mistaken for a collection of African mud huts, but look a little closer and you’ll see something out of the ordinary… a community of Zimbabweans brewing up herbal tinctures, growing organic veggies off arid land and planting trees in compost toilets. The brainchild of Marianne Knuth, Kufunda Village is a living demonstration of self-reliance. Together the community is learning how, instead of relying on others, they can rely on themselves.
The project was born when Marianne Knuth travelled around Zimbabwe’s villages and, using her empathetic charm, she facilitated gatherings of young people and community leaders to reflect on their own life stories. Using examples from around the world, she motivated them to think about the resources they could use to overcome their own challenges:
Instead of teaching people these new techniques via conventional ‘chalk and talk’, Marianne realised that she needed a space where people could put their thoughts into action. Kufunda, which is the Zimbabwean word for ‘learning’, was built on a plot of land on her family farm to do just that. A living demonstration of the art of what’s possible, every component of the Kufunda Village has evolved out of people’s ideas for a new way of life. Not really knowing what to expect from Kufunda, we were amazed at just how inspirational we found it. In each hand-crafted eco hut, we found another surprise. A health clinic, an internet room, an herbal remedy lab, a mushroom greenhouse and then a pre-school.
Kufunda Village could be judged as a social experiment in someone’s backyard – yet it’s so much more than that. It’s a totally new challenge to sceptics who think that environmentalism is little more than a hobby for the extreme lefties of the northern hemisphere.