Rucore’s primary strategy for realising its mission at Tlholego was permaculture, defined as an approach to designing human settlements and agricultural systems that are modeled on the relationships found in nature.
Between 1994 and 2000, Tlholego residents, in partnership with global permaculture educators including John Wilson (Zimbabwe), Sue Buchannan (USA), Max Lindegger (Australia), Robina McCurdy (New Zealand), Joanne Tippet (UK) and USA architect Brian (Buddy) Williams, applied the ethical and design principles of permaculture at Tlholego. During that time, Tlholego developed into one of the leading permaculture Centres in South Africa, with more than 800 people certified in permaculture design, natural building technology and Eco-village development.
Permaculture principles are applied to:
• Water: Being located in a very dry region of South Africa, harvesting and conserving water at Tlholego is critical. Permaculture strategies like rooftop catchment and grey water usage have resulted in significant improvements to vegetation cover and tree growth. Ongoing water management is further enhanced by capital investment into rainwater harvesting earthworks and storage tanks.
• Sanitation: Waterless composting toilets have been introduced as an alternative to the former pit or flush toilets, as they are more ecologically sound, affordable, hygienic and easily manufactured from locally available materials.
• Food security: Growing of food and medicinal plants at Tlholego is supported on at least two levels: firstly to encourage wellness and household food security amongst community members and secondly for commercial production. Years of research have been invested in determining which systems of plant diversity are most resilient and best adapted to the cultural and local climate patterns of the area.
• Energy: Initially energy was sourced from local fuel-wood, paraffin and candles and electricity from the national grid. Over the past years, high efficiency wood burning stoves have been introduced as well as solar technology for heating water and “hot boxes” for aiding in cooking. The next phase of development will see further advances in energy efficiency at Tlholego.