"Apology: To some of my friends who read this and are farmers. I imply no criticisms of or judgements on their farming methods and beg their forgiveness if anything I say is taken amiss. They are operating in this sad real world and have to comply with the New Economic (dis)Order and, with things as they are, they can do little else if they are to survive."


I am Vernon Gibberd, born 1939 so now a pensioner, still with a life-long interest in what is now called sustainable agriculture.

My Quaker school (Leighton Park) pointed me in the right direction with a £50 travel scholarship when I left in 1958. This took me to Africa for a year as one of the very first "backpackers". Getting out of the hold of a French cargo/passenger ship as a fourth class passenger in Mombasa that year and travelling by bus over roads yet to see tarmac started my career in Africa from the bottom up - and that was how it still was when 4 years later I came back with my wife, Tineke, (and a Cambridge Natural Sciences degree), by plane and bus and arriving with fourth class train tickets in the Bechuanaland Protectorate, now Botswana.

There, on a simple rural development project in what the maps called "Khama's Country", a mud-and-grass rondavel waited for us as our first and happy home. Project funds came equally through personal contact with a Trust in London and the (rather erratic) profits from the project's general dealer shop and ranch, thus minimising the impact of any "donor agenda".
VG . 'So do it yourself!.'

Water came from a well 5km away in 200-litre rusty oil drums on an ox wagon, toilet was a simple privy undermined dangerously by termites, personal transport was our two bicycles, and the scenery was that of classic drought featuring emaciated cattle dragging their famished bodies in search of the last bits of vegetation not yet devoured by the ubiquitous goats. A 200-litre drum lasted us 5 days so we did not need U.N. statistics to tell us that 20 litres of water was the minimum needed daily for decent survival. Fresh fruit or veg came from South Africa by the daily goods train - so it was hardly fresh and not so affordable on my initial salary of £50 a month.
Having the first two of our four children, helping get the first commercial fenced grazing project on Tribal Land started, developing a piped water supply, introducing cotton and groundnuts as drought-resistant crops (not such a good idea in retrospect), and even meeting Afrikaner salesmen of ladies' underwear from the Transvaal in the Project's shop are just a few of a rich store of memories. But most of all, it was seeing water conservation through the eyes of our neighbour, Shadrack Motswabangwe, an old Mofhurutse refugee whose wife had led the ANC campaign in the western Transvaal against the imposition of passes for women. He had dug his own hafir and traded buckets of its water for brandy-bottles of milk with his cattle-owning neighbours as well as growing his own tobacco and green vegetables.
All this set me up for my 50 or so years of work in sub-Saharan Africa - Botswana, Sudan, Kenya, Zimbabwe and now S Africa - and the microfarm, near Queenstown in the Border country between the old Ciskei and Transkei.

With a group of visitors from Lesotho discussing the vegetable and fodder plots

So this website is the end-product of fifty years of work - and sweat - in semi-arid Africa.
This microfarm was (is) situated on the farm of Alan and Bev Marsh, Hopefield North, about 11 km north of Queenstown. I am deeply grateful to them both for making the land and facilities available for this work to be done. Their farm remains, but my small efforts will slowly fade away as the main farm goes on.
And thanks, too, to Cape Eastern Regional Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) who gave me some funding towards irrigation equipment and wire to keep out the baboons!


Vernon Gibberd
UK tel: 01453-824863
S Africa tel: 045-839 6696 or 083-260 3260