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SEED OF HOPE: Inspiring TAFE NSW project helping food security for Border's Congolese community

TAFE NSW National Environment Centre

SEED OF HOPE: Inspiring TAFE NSW project helping food security for Border's Congolese community

SECURE FUTURE: Constructing a wicking bed are TAFE NSW National Environment Centre students Ryan Scott-Young and Zheng Su, while member of the local Congolese community Faida Zena looks on.

29 November 2021

An inspiring project aimed at improving food security for the Border’s emerging Congolese community is taking shape at TAFE NSW National Environment Centre (NEC).

TAFE NSW NEC Certificate IV in Permaculture students have designed a series of self-watering garden beds, known as wicking beds, to be installed in the backyards of local Congolese-Australians to help grow food more efficiently.

So far, five wicking beds have been installed and planted in local backyards, with the final two taking place today in Wodonga.

Meanwhile, Table Top farmer Frank Calabria has donated a 15 hectare plot of land for use by the community to grow food, designed by TAFE NSW students to incorporate the principles of permaculture.

Permaculture is the study of designing sustainable environments in a way that works with nature’s processes and ecology. TAFE NSW NEC head teacher Rob Fenton is an internationally renowned figure in the permaculture field.

The project is being supported by the Red Cross and Mr Fenton said the benefits of it were multifaceted.

“Many of our Australian-Congolese community are on low incomes so this will enable them to better provide food for themselves and to provide another income stream where they can sell excess food at the markets,” Mr Fenton said.

“It will also allow them to better grow culturally appropriate food.

“And it’s a great hands-on project for the TAFE NSW permaculture students and is a tangible example to them of how permaculture can help people.”

TAFE NSW NEC is Australia’s leading permaculture training facility and attracts students from around the globe.

Students have also held a series of workshops with the local Australian-Congolese community to guide them on how to build and install the wicking beds, with all material donated by the Red Cross.

TAFE NSW NEC student Su Zheng said the project had been a valuable real life example of the benefits of permaculture.

“A very important principle of permaculture is how to adapt to the bio-regional conditions,” she said. “Albury is quite dry and securing the water to grow vegetables is a concern.

“The wicking beds in each Congolese backyard in Albury will allow them to grow more veges with less.

“All this has really helped me understand permaculture better.”

To enrol or enquire about a TAFE NSW course, call 131 601 or visit

Media contact: Daniel Johns, TAFE NSW Communications Specialist, (02) 6938 1441, mobile 0477 722 428