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Tuesday, May 14, 2019 - 17:30

The Eden Project is helping to grow plants and sustain their fellow charity’s unique garden, shining a spotlight on climate-smart, sustainable agriculture led by female farmers in Africa

In an enduring partnership, the Eden Project has been involved in the Campaign for Female Education’s (CAMFED) garden at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show from the very beginning, growing many of its tropical plants.

Now the team is helping in the final days of planting, and already looking forward to sustaining the garden and its important message in a dedicated section of The Eden Project in Cornwall.

The garden’s innovative, climate-conscious design was created by garden designer Jilayne Rickards to ensure its unique legacy remains in the public eye at the home of the world-famous Biomes after the show.

There it will continue to highlight CAMFED’s See Growth campaign to launch thousands of women-led, climate-smart agricultural businesses in rural sub-Saharan Africa.

CAMFED and Eden share a commitment to sustainable agriculture and education.  The process of growing the garden began in November 2018 when Paul Stone, Eden’s head of horticulture, met Jilayne to discuss initial plans.

Paul said:  “We knew that we had the expertise necessary to grow the plants needed for this inspirational CAMFED garden and do it justice.

“The plants have been carefully cultivated to ensure that we have the most perfect crop in the most perfect condition needed to help demonstrate CAMFED’s involvement in supporting young women in cultivating climate-smart crops in sub-Saharan Africa.”

CAMFED supports the most excluded girls and young women in sub-Saharan Africa to go to school, succeed, and then become leaders in their communities. Support for girls does not end at the school gates. Through its powerful alumnae network, CAMA graduates gain peer support and the skills they need to help their families and communities to flourish.

Garden designer Jilayne’s inspiration for the garden came from her visit to Zimbabwe last year when she met CAMFED alumna Beauty Gombana, who now runs her own agricultural business.

“Women produce much of Africa’s food, but struggle to access land, finance or training. Yet investing in female entrepreneurs improves productivity, reduces hunger, creates jobs and prosperity. This is part of the story we are highlighting with our garden here at Chelsea,” Jilayne explained.

“We’re absolutely delighted that we have had the Eden Project’s support in growing and delivering the many different and unusual plants on time, many of which will not have been seen at Chelsea before – it’s no mean task and their advice, expertise and skill has been phenomenal. And to know that our garden will live on following the Flower Show and continue to raise awareness about CAMFED’s See Growth campaign is particularly inspiring.”

Many of the plants exhibited in the CAMFED garden have been grown far earlier than they would naturally grow either in the UK or their native climate.  As a result, extra measures were taken to ensure the plants are in peak condition. The team at the Eden Project brought their deep expertise to this critical growing period.

Now after months of careful tending, nearly 1,000 plants have been transported from Eden’s nursery to London for next week’s show. The growing was led by Eden horticulturist Sarah Northcott, who is helping the plants bed in at Chelsea.  Some were grown at the nursery by People and Gardens, which works with people with physical and emotional impairments.

Paul Stone said: “Some plants, for example okra, are not native to the UK and so have been grown in tropical conditions with induced humidity. It’s relatively easy to find someone who can grow you a great tomato in England, but to be able to grow a non-native plant, and ensure it’s also at its best on ‘the day’ is a much more difficult task! It’s been a bit like expecting all the runners in the Grand National to peak at the same time.

“When you look the combined skill set here at the Eden Project, it certainly makes you reflect all the more on how important it is to help CAMFED support these young women in growing their own nutrient rich crops in Africa.”

The CAMFED alumni grow these same crops on their own farms - through CAMFED, they are trained to gain expertise in growing nutrient-rich crops; they learn to deploy climate smart technologies and horticultural techniques to grow a sustainable farming business that can support their local communities.

The reconstructed garden will live on in the Mediterranean Biome at the Eden Project - the public will be able to visit the garden here and learn more about CAMFED and the inspiring stories of these climate-conscious, forward-thinking women.