This year, the annual Woolworths Trust EduPlant competition, held in Walkerville, Gauteng, showcased food gardening schools who are taking this long-standing programme to higher levels. As food prices soar around the world, Woolworths Trust EduPlant is intensifying its promotion and support of sustainable, community-driven food growing initiatives at South African schools. The highlight of the three-day 2008 finalist event was the implementation of the new Mentoring Category. The Woolworths Trust initiated and supported this innovative competition group for advanced EduPlant schools in order to direct specific resources at schools with proven capacity to involve their wider communities in sustainable food production. The long-term goal of the Mentoring Category is to build partnerships with schools and to empower a network of centres of excellence in permaculture food gardening in under-resourced communities across the country. Co-ordinated by Food and Trees For Africa (FTFA), Woolworths Trust EduPlant in association with DWAF, Landcare South Africa and SABC Education, is a national permaculture food gardening and greening programme inspiring and supporting schools and their communities to address poverty alleviation, greening, food safety and security, capacity building and skills development. The year-long programme includes free permaculture workshops for motivated educators, educational resources and school visits. Learners and educators gain knowledge and skills that enable them to grow their own good food. In 2008, a record number of schools entered the annual competition and this week, seventy finalist schools presented their exciting permaculture projects to a panel of experts. At the prize-giving held last night, Minister of Education Naledi Pandor, commented: “I’m also encouraged to note that this competition has evolved beyond a school gardens competition to become an innovative developmental programme that contributes to skill development, community empowerment and conversation of natural resources. Despite our national food security and relative wealth, the experience of some South African households, especially in rural areas, is that of continued poverty which is manifested in food security, ill-health and arduous work for low returns. I’m really pleased that school yards are being used to address these challenges as it is evident at this occasion.” Zinzisa Mgolodela, Woolworths Trust Trustee, who handed over the prize in the new Mentoring Category said: “The highlight of this EduPlant year has been the implementation of the new Mentoring Category. Every year, significant resources are invested in bringing the Woolworths Trust EduPlant programme to schools across the country, transferring valuable knowledge and skills to educators and learners. Woolworths believes that true empowerment comes when those educators and learners are then able to reach out into their own communities and support food gardening projects at other local schools and groups. When that happens, the benefits of Woolworths Trust EduPlant can multiply without further outside interventions and communities have full ownership of their own sustainable development.” The 2008 Woolworths Trust EduPlant finals recognised and rewarded schools for best practices across five award categories – the Emerging Category (for schools with new permaculture projects that entered the programme for the first time); the Intermediate Category (for schools that have been finalists before, but have not yet won in a Category); the Advanced Category (for schools that have maintained a permaculture project for more than a year and that have been previous winners at EduPlant); the Mentoring Category (for Advanced schools with significant community outreach projects); and nine schools were also chosen as winners in their respective provinces. This year, thanks to Woolworths’ substantial investment into the mentoring category just under R500 000’s worth of resources were distributed to all the finalist schools, these included the trip to the event, cash prizes, as well as numerous educational resources, seeds, gardening tools and skills development. The benefits of participating in the annual Woolworths Trust EduPlant programme are widespread and ongoing. Schools become hubs of environmental awareness, sustainable living and nutritional knowledge, as well as resources of good food. They gain income from the production of fruit and vegetables and involve unemployed parents and neighbours in the food gardening effort. EduPlant schools play an important role in promoting self-reliance and inspiring others to practise true sustainable development. THE WINNERS OF 2008 WOOLWORTHS TRUST EDUPLANT Emerging Category 1st Londhindha Primary School-Mpumalanga 2nd Muzuvukile Junior Primary School–KwaZulu Natal 3rd Magoda Primary School–Limpopo Intermediate Category 1st Qoyintaba Primary School–KwaZulu Natal 2nd Inkaba Primary School-Mpumalanga 3rd Maguqu Primary School–KwaZulu Natal Advanced Category 1st Barkley West Primary School–Northern Cape 2nd Sivananda Primary School–KwaZulu Natal 3rd Mailakgang Primary School–North West Mentoring Category 1st Toronto Primary School-Limpopo 2nd Magudu Primary School-Mpumalanga 3rd Xihlovo Primary School-Limpopo Provincial Winners Gauteng -Tshegofatsong Special School North West-Mococe High School Limpopo-Vongani Primary School Mpumalanga-Mahlekisana Primary School Northern Cape-Uitsig Primary School Eastern Cape-Ulana Secondary School Western Cape-Observatory Junior School Free State-Boitsebelo Technical School KwaZulu-Natal-Isqophamithi Primary School Ends