Friday, October 18, 2019 - 16:00

The Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED) African Garden, which won gold at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in May, now has a spectacular new home at the Eden Project in Cornwall. 

The red earth garden, laden with edible crops and rich aromas and backed by a white-walled classroom, was declared open today (Friday October 18) in the warm temperate air of the Mediterranean Biome, where it will be enjoyed by around one million visitors a year.  

The garden tells the compelling story of how the Campaign for Female Education supports the most excluded girls and young women in rural sub-Saharan Africa to go to school, succeed, and become leaders and change-makers in their communities, including in climate-smart agriculture.

CAMFED’s alumnae, one of whom inspired the garden, are committed to supporting more girls to go to school. They grow food to nourish school communities, create local employment, and help build resilience to climate change. 

The garden was created by leading London-based designer Jilayne Rickards, who was inspired by visiting CAMFED in Zimbabwe. Its lush planting reflects a huge array of crops typical to rural Zimbabwe, including papaya and banana.

A raised bed showcases water-efficient growing technology coupled with crop rotation, which maximises yield from a small area. 

At the opening, Eden’s Chief Executive Gordon Seabright welcomed designer Jilayne, Portia Kuffuor, Enterprise Development Officer at CAMFED, who works with CAMFED alumnae entrepreneurs, Olivia Maehler Reeves, CAMFED Senior Development Associate, and Professor Charlotte Watts, Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Department for International Development, who was part of the design team.

Gordon said: “This inspirational garden has been a great partnership between our fellow charity CAMFED, Jilayne and our own team of dedicated horticulturists.   We’re thrilled that after its huge success at Chelsea the garden now has pride of place at Eden, where all of our visitors can enjoy the captivating story of CAMFED’s work with women in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Portia Kuffuor said: “I spend my days talking to the amazing women within CAMA, the CAMFED alumnae network.  I’m totally blown away by this garden and the power of the story it tells – of the transformative power of education and young women’s leadership on issues endemic to their local communities. 

“I hope everyone enjoys this pocket of rural Zimbabwe and supports the next generation of 1,000 climate-smart agriculture businesses through the CAMFED #seegrowth campaign.”

Olivia Maehler Reeves said: “We’re delighted that the CAMFED Garden lives on at the Eden Project, and are so grateful for the support from the team at Eden, Jilayne Rickards and others in creating such a stunning and inspirational garden. Through this garden our message will have lasting impact, continuing to raise awareness of the importance of supporting girls to go to school and succeed, and women to establish sustainable businesses across sub-Saharan Africa.”

Jilayne Rickards, who grew up in Cornwall and was a first-time exhibitor at Chelsea, has worked closely with Eden Head of Horticulture Paul Stone and Catherine Cutler, who leads the Mediterranean Biome horticultural team, on the installation of the garden.

Jilayne said: "The CAMFED Chelsea garden was created to highlight the fabulous work CAMFED do in tackling poverty and gender inequality via education in Africa. From the outset, legacy of this project was uppermost in my mind and there is no better place for the garden than here at the Eden Project, who lovingly grew our wonderful and unusual plants for Chelsea.

“I am so happy that Eden agreed for me to redesign the garden so that the public can now walk through and experience a little bit of Zimbabwe in Cornwall, and that this story of female empowerment can continue to be told."

The garden attracted a great deal of attention at Chelsea, not only winning a gold medal but also the coveted BBC/RHS People’s Choice Award in the ‘Space to Grow’ category. It helped launch the international non-profit’s #SeeGrowth campaign, through which CAMFED aims to support thousands more young women to establish climate-smart agricultural businesses.

Charlotte Watts said: “I’m really excited to see the CAMFED garden opening at Eden. I’ve been involved all the way through this adventure. It illustrates how beautifully transformative education can be.  It’s great that several vitamin-enriched plants are included, showing the modern face of development where science is helping tackle the hidden issue of vitamin deficiency in Africa.”

The garden includes biofortified food crops developed and delivered by an international science collaboration, HarvestPlus, which receives funding from the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID).

Enriched with vitamins, these crops support good nutrition in Africa, especially in mothers and babies. DFID, through UK Aid, is a long-standing investor in CAMFED’s programmes to educate girls and support young women in sub-Saharan Africa into independent livelihoods and leadership positions, including in climate-smart agriculture.