Frequently Asked Questions
How much of my donation will go directly to communities in Africa?
More than 90% of your donation is guaranteed to go directly to our community projects. And if you gift aid your donation we will be able to claim 25% of it back - enabling us to do even more.
Can I volunteer for GardenAfrica?
GardenAfrica usually identifies local trainers who in turn train first language speakers so that they can go on to train other in their community with an understanding of the cultural nuances. This is the most cost effective and sustainable way to ensure that each resource becomes a forum at the centre of the community. For other ways in which you can help, please visit Fundraise for Us While we do not run volunteering schemes, if you think that you have skills that may benefit our work, either in the field or in the UK, then we would welcome hearing from you. Please contact us.
How can horticulture address poverty and health in Africa?
GardenAfrica has developed partnerships with the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, and local experts, whose extensive knowledge of medicinal plants is being rediscovered for the treatment of HIV related infections. Some species are now in the latter stages of clinical testing for use in pessaries to reduce transmission of HIV infection - with extremely positive results. Other plants, such as species of plectranthus are known to have anti-malarial properties, and are also being tested for anti-TB activity.
It is important to note that there are no reports of resistance to the active compounds found in rosemary and thyme which have anti-bacterial properties, making these extremely useful for creating more sanitary conditions in the home. By training home-based carers, and health workers in the use of herbal treatments and their preparations, we can improve sanitation and enable people living with HIV/AIDS to once again become active members of their family and community. These are under-utilised strategies in the battle to improve community health.
Why do Africans need support developing gardens?
Africa has a rich farming heritage which, in past times has been rooted in natural Africa farming techniques. But with the coming of the Green Revolution in the 1960s, and on the promise of vastly increased yields, farmers increasingly shifted to what we now call 'conventional' systems and synthetic inputs. When these yields failed to materialise over a sustained period, many found themselves dependent upon those inputs, and needed to increase their useage in an attempt to stem ever diminishing returns.
Many of the techniques employed in horticulture speak particularly of the interrelationship between plants, as well as the soil and other resources. Many subsistence farmers, both men and women, work smaller plots of land, to which these techniques are ideally suited. Mono cropping has had a drastic impact upon the diversity of species available in the wild, and also affects pest management. Thirsty cash crops such as maize and sugar cane are often planted in the driest areas, diverting valuable water resources, when dryland crops such as cassava and sweet potato could be considered. But most importantly is that interrelationship between people and plants. Planting one crop can be disastrous for a family who depend on that commodity price to remain high, before they can turn a profit in order to buy food and clothes, or pay school fees.
Promoting diversification not only promotes a more robust environment, it also ensures diversity of diet, improving access to nutritious food, and building immunity against preventable diseases and infections.
Why do Africans need to be taught about gardening
In rural areas, with a strong natural African farming heritage more akin to horticulture, there is an incredible knowledge about natural systems which can be traced over generations. However, this knowledge is being eroded by the importing of intensive farming practices. In such cases, the women are the only people to retain that most precious information. Yet many of them are once again under severe pressure from HIV/AIDS and other preventable diseases, resulting in the loss of much of a generation, through which these oral traditions would once have passed. GardenAfrica and its partners are working to ensure that this knowledge continues to be passed from generation to generation - with the garden becoming the centre of renewed community exchange.
African voices are beginning to be heard, calling for a re-examination of conventional farming practices, as well as the terms of trade that drive the present system. There is a renewed sense of optimism, which demands that we explore new models which suit both land and society. By working with African partners, GardenAfrica provides a catalyst for trialling and supporting the development of emerging networks. It is from these that appropriate techniques are developed and transferred, allowing communities to feed themselves, and manage their own resources more sustainably.
Is there a link between poverty and HIV/AIDS?
More than 25 million people are living with HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa today - a staggering 70% of the global total. That HIV/AIDS travels along the fault lines of poverty and discrimination is now well understood. Poverty makes people more vulnerable to HIV infection, and HIV/AIDS makes poor people poorer. In working with the most vulnerable, HIV/AIDS becomes a central issue which cuts across all of our projects - indigent communities who are HIV + are more vulnerable, but their susceptibility to the virus is, in itself, increased by poverty.
How is a garden useful in the context of such poverty?
The creation of a garden may seem a small gesture in the face of such overwhelming need, but if lasting change is to be achieved, it must be firmly rooted in the community. GardenAfrica views the garden as a focal point for community knowledge exchange. Projects offer tangible and sustainable benefits which act as a catalyst for future change and growth where it is most urgently needed. Each garden can provide medicine, food to boost natural immunity, as well as building and crafting materials for a secure income - all of which can boost localised economic development.
Can improving nutrition really have such a positive effect?
The life expectancy of a person infected with HIV in Europe is 15 years; in Africa it is less than five. This deficit is largely the result of poor nutrition. With nutritional status dictating the speed of viral decline from HIV to AIDS, addressing the nutritional shortfalls of the most vulnerable communities is vital in enabling those affected to continue their everyday tasks of supporting the family - improving the quality of life of those living with, and around the virus - whilst reducing the likelihood of leaving young children to fend for themselves.
Can someone who is HIV+ overcome the virus by improving their nutrition?
Whilst there is no cure for HIV, nutrition is a very basic way for an infected person to learn to live with the virus. Those who are fortunate to have access to anti -retrovirals (ARVs) need to have access to a balanced diet in order to be able to absorb the treatment. ARVs taken on an empty stomach can induce vomiting, rendering the treatment ineffective. Poor adherence to treatment increases the likelihood of drug resistance and certain death.
Are there any herbal remedies which can cure HIV/AIDS?
Not that we are aware of - but rigorous clinical testing continues to explore the possibilities. Many plants, which have already undergone, or are undergoing testing have been found to be extremely effective at mitigating many of the secondary infections which speed up the decline of HIV to AIDS. These are therefore cautiously promoted by GardenAfrica as a complement to formal treatment.
Are medicinal plants dangerous when taken with anti-retrovirals?
Some species, such as leonotis leonurus, hypoxis and sutherlandia frutescens, contain high levels of toxicity have indeed been found to have an adverse affect when taken with anti-retrovirals. However, we are ever mindful of these negative interactions. By working with specialists at Kew's Biological Interactions Unit, we are able to provide the latest scientific information to advise local trainers and traditional healers on how to safely combine preparations in the face of the growing body of research.
How will a changing climate impact on your work?
Increasingly erratic weather patterns have an unpredictable effect on those with whom we work. Long periods of drought, when followed by heavy rains wash valuable top soil into the water courses, increasing erosion and the likelihood of flooding. GardenAfrica's training methods assist communities to understand some of local contributing factors, such as high input driven farming methods, and enables site specific problems solving to overcome depleted soils and other resources. Such techniques include putting in place water harvesting infrastructure, simple soil building techniques to enhance moisture retention and microbial activity, as well as swaling and terracing to mitigate impact, and replenish underground aquifers, upon which communities with bore holes depend for potable water. We can also lend our voice, and those of our beneficiaries, to advocacy campaigns at local, national and international levels to support policies aimed at promoting food sovereignty, combating climate injustice, increasing access to and control over resources and technology; and reducing pressure on global commons in the face of privatisation of communal lands.
How does GardenAfrica’s work affect orphans?
There are now thought to be more than 10 million orphans in sub-Saharan Africa alone. The effects of being orphaned early may be manifest in feelings of rejection, self-blame, fear, depression, an inability to develop relationships, anti-social behaviour, violence and promiscuity. The reality of HIV/AIDS is not only devastating to the family and community, it is disastrous for the entire continent - with skills now being lost on a massive scale. GardenAfrica's unique training gardens facilitate learning in sustainable resource management and food production. Our work encourages and supports the sharing of vital information between generations - especially important for those children now heading households. This approach not only ensures the continuation of botanical and agricultural knowledge through to the next generation, it also provides practical support for the most vulnerable members of the community. As part of GardenAfrica's initiatives child-headed households are now supported by the groups we have trained - who teach them to care for, and support, their young families. The food they receive in return for helping in the garden gives them the opportunity to continue their education - dramatically decreasing the likelihood that they will contract HIV in later life.