Learning How to Be Self-Sufficient in Africa

JP van der Walt teaches how to be self-sufficient at a skills center in South Africa.

| April/May 2014

  • Volunteer abroad to share skills and see the world.
    Photo by JP van der Walt

I work as a volunteer for a nonprofit organization in South Africa. Eighty percent of my food is from a no-dig permaculture garden that was built by five trainees in our community. I shower with a little more than a gallon of water heated by a self-designed rocket-stove shower that runs on 3 1/2 ounces of biodiesel.

We are building a skills center for which more than 80 percent of the construction resources will come from our immediate surroundings. We’re building with cob and also making the doors and windows on-site. We’re making durable cob cupboard doors from sticks and plaited grass rope, as well as chairs, tables and beds. I go to town once a month by public transportation — 118 miles round-trip.

The best part of this way of life is that I can teach others the ways I have learned to be self-sufficient. It’s an ongoing process that’s exceptionally rewarding.

JP van der Walt
Eastern Cape, South Africa

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