Our Story

Future Seed is in partnership with Ukuvuna, a world renowned and United Nations recognized NPO that has successfully trained disadvantaged groups across Africa in permaculture systems and the establishment of sustainable organic farms and food gardens. John Nzira, director of Ukuvuna, is the co-founder of Future Seed and renders design, implementation, training and facilitation services to Future Seed. John Nzira, utilizing his twenty years of experience, will design and manage Future Seed’s permaculture training programs and certificates. Please scroll to the bottom of the page to see just a few of successful projects that John Nzira has implemented in South Africa. Please also visit ukuvuna.org


To be the leading inspiration in transforming communities through sustainable programs and economic empowerment.


To lead by example by building a self-sustaining permaculture working farm that will transfer permaculture (and other business knowledge and skills) to previously disadvantage groups to create entrepreneurship and to uplift local communities in a way that:

  • Addresses environmental and climate challenges
  • Manages biodiversity
  • Revives local culture and knowledge
  • Encourages community participation in local activities
  • Adheres to global best practices.


Future Seed’s primary objectives are to:

  • Train and educate learners on how to establish sustainable permaculture gardens (climate-smart agriculture) and businesses within their communities
  • Train and educate leaners to become teachers within their own communities
  • Become economic partners with learners to help them organize co-ops
  • Build multiple permaculture demonstration farms across South Africa
  • Create awareness about the benefits and principles of sustainable living and permaculture

Future Seed Logo

Non-Profit Business Model

After startup costs and an initial real estate investment, the Future Seed will be self-sustaining. Students will not only learn on the farm, they will play an important role in planting, composting, and harvesting through hands on training. In turn, the food grown on the demonstration farm will be used to feed the learners. For many learners this may be the only substantial meal that they will have during the day, as most of the learners will be accessed from surrounding communities where unemployment figures are extremely high

A farm within the Overberg Municipality has been identified. Future Seed is currently seeking funding to purchase the farm. Future Seed will expand this success through business-to-business wholesaling to local restaurants and Bed and Breakfasts (B&Bs) and grocery stores. All profits will be reinvested in the non-profit to sustain the farm.

  • Training will be held on a demonstration farm where individuals will receive theoretical and practical training and education in permaculture and business
  • Students will be assessed during training on the farm as well as in their community once they have developed their food garden
  • Students who demonstrate success will be provided additional, more advanced training, and will be supported in their business development efforts


  • Ukuvuna – Tshidzivhe Project

    In 2008 Ukuvuna, in partnership with a Foundation, trained 50 household members in the Tshidzivhe village, near Thohoyando, Vembe district, Limpopo province. Training covered identification of indigenous trees, identification of mature seeds, methods of propagating indigenous trees, transplanting of seedlings into pockets. After training the household members, they went home and applied the skills we shared with them. After one year we followed up the progress of the assignments we gave them. We found 8 people have already established small nurseries at their households. We then assisted them to protect plants from external forces (wind, sun) as well as transplanting. The group are very committed and have up to now produced thousands of trees at household level. They have also created a collective (cooperative) and are now selling the trees to municipalities and the like. Since 2011 they have distributed back into the environment over 25000 trees.

    The core group has now grown to 16 households who are involved in the plant production business unit. They are selling to Government, NPC’s (NGO’s) and individuals, and with extra trees they are reclaiming eroded areas and planting around homesteads as windbreaks. They produced over 40000 trees in the nursery and distributed over 25000 to local municipalities and into their own village to reclaim denuded and overgrazed land.
    We taught the community about leadership and they formed their own committee which included a constitution and they selected their own leaders (chairperson treasury, etc.)

    The most challenging aspect during development was watering and marketing of the plants. Most members that are involved are women. Youth are not participating yet.

    For the future, we aim to upskill some of the learners so that they can share their knowledge with other villages. They plan to register a co-operative.

    Indigenous Tree Nursury

    Indigenous Tree Nursury

    Indigenous Tree Nursury

    Indigenous Tree Nursury

    Indigenous Tree Nursury

    Indigenous Tree Nursury

  • Ukuvuna Training Centre

    The training centre is a revolving unit for good practice in sustainable systems. The design layout demonstrates the successful integration of various permaculture components such as water management (rain water harvesting, grey and black water treatment, buffer zones), soil management (erosion control, composting, mulching, earthworm farming, agro-forestry), agronomy (fruit & veg), plant propagation (plant nursery, seed saving), herbs and medicinal plants, renewable energy, waste management, crafts, horticulture, apiculture, aquaculture, small livestock (sheep, goats, poultry), food processing.

    To complement the units at the Centre, John Nzira provides Education and Training for communities, Schools and individuals in the following areas: Basic primary health care (nutrition, HIV/AIDS, herbs & medicinal), Biodiversity conservation, Climate change adaptation & mitigation, Appropriate natural energy, Waste management and recycling, Entrepreneurship.

    About Mr John Nzira

    John Nzira is a specialist in Permaculture and urban farming. He has two decades of experience working for government and NGOs in community development teaching and practicing Permaculture.

    He received his Permaculture training in Zimbabwe at Fambidzanai Permaculture Institute and further training with Bill Mollison the founder of Permaculture in the late 1980s. John was instrumental in bringing Permaculture to Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland Mozambique and South Africa. In South Africa he introduced Permaculture to the Mpumalanga Province through his work with the Mpumalanga Parks Board. The Mpumalanga Department of Environmental Affairs adapted Permaculture for Environmental Education Centres and introduced it to surrounding communities within the province.

    John has authored and co-authored a number of books and has received international sponsorship for training in Environmental Education and Ecological Agriculture in Canada, USA and Israel and has won the following awards;

    • MTK Award GDARD First prize, Ambassador for Community Projects 2011
    • MTK Award GDARD First prize, Water and Environmental Management 2011
    • Post Bank Community Sector: Climate Change Leadership Award First prize 2010
    • MTK Award Department of Agriculture Gauteng First prize 2009
    • Landcare Nation Champion category first prize 2009
    • MTK Award Department of Agriculture Gauteng first prize 2006
    • Silver Gilt medal  Chelsea Flower Show – UK Royal Horticultural Society 2006
    • DEAT Conserva individual award 1996

    Before and after images of Ukuvuna Training Center

    Ukavuna Training Center 1.3

    John Nzira’s urban farming centre, before and after. From 2006 to 2011.

    Ukavuna Training Center 1.2
    Ukavuna Training Center 1.3
    Ukuvuna Training Center 2.1

    Grey water system at Ukuvuna before and after, 2006 to 2011

    Ukuvuna Training Center 2.2
    Ukuvuna Training Center 2.3

    Water conservation

    Rainwater harvesting and storage at Ukuvuna centre

    Natural method of grey water treatment towards creating a wetland.

    Natural method of grey water treatment towards creating a wetland.

    Ukavuna training center 4.1Rain tanks collect the run-off water from the roof of the buildings. The tanks feed each other with the run-off water. Use the tanks to store water and keep fish in water. The fish fertilize the water which we use to irrigate our crops. The fish is also source of protein for the family. The fish are fed by the vegetables from the garden.

    Greywater from the house is carefully channelled into the water plants / reed bed. It is filtered and cleaned then its used to water fruit trees and indigenous tree gardens. Water plants include Cyperus, Papryrus, Iris, Pseudacorus, Artemisia Afra, Willow, Koko Tree, Pelargonium sidiodes, Rue, Herb of grace. These multi-purpose plants are good for providing materials for making baskets, hats, mats, roof ceiling etc. They are non-invasive indigenous plants and they attract wild life.


    Greater Kyalami Conservancy – GARDENERS TRAINING by JOHN NZIRA

    In October 2011 John Nzira started a gardener’s projects in the Kyalami area of Midrand in conjunction with the Conservancy to up-skill local gardeners.

    The project consisted of 8 units, 1 day a month for 8 months.  23 learners attended the training. Below is the success of one of the learners – Maxwell Khumalo

    Maxwell had done a little training with Ukuvuna previously and attended the GEKCO gardener’s project.  He implemented the Permaculture design showing good water saving, mulching and composting.  He did very good companion planting and as a result he had a very healthy and successful crop of wonderful nutritious organic food.   He started picking veggies from his garden on the 1st December. Below are examples of Maxwell’s intensive mulching and water saving which helps to create an abundant harvesting.   Maxwell continues to use his knowledge, training others in Permaculture design.  He is the assistant trainer for Future Seed.

    Below are examples of intensive mulching and water saving, hence the abundant harvesting.

    Ukuvuna Training Center 5.1
    Ukuvuna Training Center 5.2
    Ukuvuna Training Center 5.3
  • Ukuvuna – Kamphahlele Project

    Project in Kamphahlele

    Limpopo Province near Polokwane

    Out of the 16 people who were initially trained 10 graduated. All 10 have used their knowledge to grow their own food. Furthermore, these 10 have trained other individuals and the Permaculture skills knowledge base has grown to include 26 people in this area. The soils in the initial garden were poor however due to good soil management practices implemented by the project members, soil fertility increased and the size andplanting seedlings 22007 quality of the crops produced have greatly improved as a result.
    From this project, we highlight Jackson Kadiaka, age 33 who was trained as a bookkeeper but was unemployed. Jackson attended this Permaculture training in Kamphaahlele in 2007. Self-motivated, he put much effort into implementing the knowledge that he had gained on the training. Currently, he farms herbs, crops, fruit trees, poultry, goats, and sheep. Most of his income is derived from his Permaculture garden as he sells the excess crops to the local villagers after feeding his family. After the training, he became interested in linking various organizations and set up a networking system in partnership with Unisa, SAB and the Department of Agriculture. He also built a Pedi cultural village. He currently earns a small income from the sales of his crops and feeds his family entirely from his small scale farm.

    Before planting the soil was very poor.                      Jackson in the first season.                          Jacksons food garden after 1 year

    soil before planting first planting 2007 1 year after planting food garden

  • Ukuvuna – Mupo Project


    abn mupo 1.1

    Polluted water of Nzhelele River

    Stones germinating along Nzhelele River

    Stones germinating along Nzhelele River

    Permaculture is the ideal method to build communities. It is an agro-ecological process and it is much more than other systems of land use management. It is a response to the environmental crisis we face on our planet. The polluted water of Nzhelele river (pictures below) is a sign of soil erosion from cultivated fields or cultivation on the banks of the rivers. It is a sign that there is little knowledge on conservation farming in the area.

    The way we live and work now is eating into the natural capital of the planet and more and more people are becoming aware of the impact of our practices; global warming being but one of these. Permaculture or agroecology and sustainable living are synonymous. Permaculture is about designing a system to provide that which we need by integrating it into the local ecology. Thus we become “part of” rather than “separate from” nature, natural systems and cycles.

    The cutting down of trees indiscriminately along Nzhelele river had left the ecological structures bare, with the river silted and all deep pools had disappeared.

    To achieve our vision, on 16 -20 December 2011 we conducted training for rehabilitating the Nzhelele River at Mphaila Village and greening of Patrick Ramaano School. At least 614 indigenous tree seedlings were planted and over 30 village members participated. The program was directed by Vhakadzi Mphatheleni, facilitated by me with the assistants of Mr Maxwell Khumalo. Ukuvuna-Urban farming has worked with Mupo in Vhembe District, Makhado and Thulamela local municipality to reclaim and rehabilitate the eroded and silted Nzhelele River. Our focus was to encourage participants to grow a wide variety of indigenous trees for protecting sacred sites, rehabilitate eroded rivers and greening up the communities in the district. In the communities, we targeted the tribal authority offices and the schools. The entry point was to capacity build local people, especially women, to propagate a wide variety of indigenous trees in their own community.

    Some of the tree seedlings from Netshidzivhe

    Some of the tree seedlings from Netshidzivhe

    The nursery training was facilitated in 2009 and members of three communities produced thousands of indigenous trees in their own nurseries. One of the three communities was a shining star; they produced far ahead of others, producing over 90% of the total trees seedlings produced in all three villages. Their seedlings are very healthy and are of good quality and the trees that  have been used to rehabilitate the river came from their home based nurseries.


    The following objectives were set for this training program:

    • Pre-plan program activities with Vhakadzi Mphatheleni at place
    • Conduct meetings with Chief of Netshidzivhe and Mphaila respectively
    • Collect trees at Nesthidzivhe nurseries and deliver them at Mphaila Village
    • Facilitate the process of designing the garden at Heritage Center at Patrick Ramaano School
    • Facilitate plant different indigenous trees at the Heritage centre
    • Design the process of planting trees along Nzhelele river
    • Facilitate plant different indigenous trees along Nzhelele river
    • Design a water-saving system at Heritage centre.
    • Spread the empowerment of individuals and communities with the knowledge and skills to take care of forest
    • Educate and motivate the on-going tree planting and maintenance at household and community level.
    • Broaden the base for conservation farming and food security within the households.
    • Strive to promote, teach, uplift and educate all issues relating to environment, climate change, soil erosion, community participation, sustainable livelihoods, biodiversity, water and waste management to steer us into a new and sustainable path towards a better future
    • Provide proactive social-ecology awareness programs in conservation and food security programs, starting at household level as a framework for sustainable development
    • Actively support the Millennium Development Goals using a holistic approach and Permaculture strategies


    The program was a participatory process as the adults have experiences that are important in the decision making process and development of community projects. Therefore, the mutual agreement on what was expected during the training was developed. We all also looked into long-term goals based on the LANDSCAPE and QUALITY OF LIFE of the local community.  For QUALITY OF LIFE, we consider the cultural events like the Tshikona as part of the ecological component. Below we captured the Tshikona dance at the Chief Netshidzivhe. This was a year end ritual to honour to the GODs for all their support and protection in 2011. For our tree planting event, it was good to attend Tshikona as a way of respecting and seeking blessings to the Gods of the area.

    ABN Mupo Project 2.1
    ABN Mupo Project 2.2
    ABN Mupo Project 2.3
    Meeting at Chief Mphaila place with Dzumo LaMupo member

    Meeting at Chief Mphaila place with Dzumo LaMupo member

    Practicals were carried out during the development of the garden. These were used to redesign the garden to improve productivity and troubleshoot challenges within the garden project. The training consisted of 20% discussion and 80% practical. The discussion was covered to address the philosophy of biodiversity and conservation, and how it links with approaches to food production and poverty alleviation. Discussion involved the chiefs, as well as the participating members.



    The project was successful because of participation from all levels of the community. The stakeholders included the Tribal Authorities, the Schools, Government- department of education and department of Agriculture. Beneficiaries included the youth, pensioners, unemployed men, and women. Members took ownership of the project. During the implementation, they were able to decide on what was best for the project. The photos below indicated the involvement of adults, youth, and pensioners.

    Information sharing

    ABN Mupo 3.1
    ABN Mupo 3.2
    ABN Mupo 3.3
    Abn Mupo 4.1

    Learning how to identify plants 


    We had the opportunity to discuss the names of the trees in local, botanical and English names. I showed a few members how to identify trees in the botany books i.e ‘Field Guide to Trees of Southern Africa’ B. Van Wyk & P. Van Wyk, 1997. The book recommends users to identify trees by observing the tree structure, most specifically the leaves. The Van Wyks grouped trees by its leaf patterns and it was easier for some of the members to identify local indigenous plants.  Therefore, it was recommended that Mupo office should have reference indigenous tree books for its members.

    In our programmes, we strive to have gender balance. In this programme, men and women participated equally. Although we had more women than men, there were no specific jobs either for female or male. Digging, planting, watering or loading trees in the truck was done by both sexes, but women were the driving force.  There were 20 women and 7 men that were trained in the project.



    1. I envisage on-going maintenance of tree planted at the centre
    2. Envisage on-going monitoring tree seedlings planted along Nzhelele river
    3. Further expand the planting program for trees planted along Nzhelele river
    4. Further training on permaculture at the centre is a pre-requisite
    5. Seed saving monitoring and identifying a self- motivated project officer to replace Tshilidzi is required.
    6. We recommend further workshops in schools for indigenous plant gardens and permaculture
    7. Continue planting trees in heritage centres and in tribal authority centres
    8. Further training local people on the difference between indigenous and exotic plants

    6. CLOSURE

    Ukuvuna-Urbanfarming takes pride in their achievements of creating sustainable projects that improve the lives of communities and minimizes the effects of climate change.

    “Will the ecosystems of the future, which are being shaped today, continue to function in such a way that the quality of human life we have come to know and expect continue?”

  • Tfutfuka Mswati Project

    The Tfutfuka Mswati Permaculture Project in Luphisa near Nelspruit was started in 1992 and 24 trainees were initially trained.  They were successfully trained in the principles of Permaculture and acquired the practical skills they needed to develop sustainable Permaculture gardens.  15 trainees used this knowledge and worked together to control erosion, build dams, and water wells. In 1993 they started growing crops. The project members gained the necessary business skills required to earn an income from the project. The members were encouraged to accurately record the garden produce harvested and make a note of the quantities produced and the number of beneficiaries.   Over the years and with Johns continued support, encouragement and training they now make shoes, candles and baked goods.  John secured a donation of 5 sewing machines from the Department of Social Development and they use the sewing machines to produce school uniforms for the local schools.  All these skills were taught to the community by John Nzira.   They still grow fruit and vegetables and harvest fish.  During the training in 1992 they elected a leader who is still the leader of the group today.

  • Changing Lives

    An inspiring story of how permaculture changes lives

    Denzel Rasimphi lived in the Vhembe district, Makhado Limpopo. At age 15 he was orphaned along with his 5 sisters.  Denzel and his sisters were living in a shack made from wooden poles and plastic when Ukuvuna was sponsored to do a Permaculture training in the area in 2006.

    John Nzira took Denzel under his wing, trained him in Permaculture methods, and provided a further weeklong training for Denzel in Johannesburg.  Within a year of the training, Denzel was feeding his little family and had saved enough money through the sales of excess food to build a two-roomed brick house with a corrugated iron roof.  He continues to work part-time in his garden and part-time at a car wash.

    We are happy to report that Denzel is happy and flourishing and is now a strapping young man. In September 2012, Denzel continued his training with John in Johannesburg.  Denzel’s goal is to become a fully qualified trainer in the Makhado district of Limpopo.  We will help him to source funding from NGO’s once qualified.

    Changing Lives 1.1

    Denzel outside his shack ready to plant.

    Changing Lives 1.2

    Denzel’s syblings with their first crop.

    Changing Lives 1.3

    Denzel, 2 oct 2012.

    It has long been a dream of mine to sell my property in Midrand and to buy a farm in the Western Cape. I feel that I would like to help those less fortunate to earn a living using their own skills.  I have been planning this for years and have a NPO, The Future Seed, that will be properly launched once we start farming.

    Maxwell Khumalo, currently an uber driver, and Simba Mubaiwa.who is unemployed, share the dream.  They will move with us with their families to the Western Cape. We have been planning together what we will grow on our farm and how we will include training for local communities not only in permaculture principles but how to become entrepreneurs themselves to sell to the local B & B’s and restaurant markets.  We have also been discussing how we will get funding for the training of the communities along with John Nzira from Ukuvuna Urban farming who is an established trainer for many years and has been an amazing mentor and role model to all of us.

    It seems that Maxwell and Simba got tired of waiting for my property to sell!  They decided that the time to grow is now, no matter where we are.  So they have taken the initiative and wherever there is spare ground on my one hectare property that is not used by my 2 horses they have started growing food for the local market.  In every little corner we have a new garden springing up with what ever is in season now.  We have always had a small garden for home use and this is the first time that we have expanded the growing area for resale.

    My biggest surprise has been the quality of the food.  The lettuces, broccoli, spinach, cabbage and mustard leaves have been absolutely spotless and huge, without using any organic sprays whats so ever.  The guys have made compost using my horse manure, we have our own worm farm and regularly use the worm tea and compost to feed the plants and companion planting has also helped.  It also seems that the love and care that the guys have invested have paid off along with their green fingers.

    We will continue to work as a team until such time as we can live our larger dream in the western cape.

    Changing Lives 2.2

    Getting the soil right is a priority

    Changing Lives 2.3

    Mulching and intercropping is a must

    Changing Lives 2.1

    Simba (foreground) and Maxwell (background)proudly working in their garden