The University of Newcastle, Australia
A University of Newcastle sociologist is behind a film documenting a permaculture project in Zimbabwe that has changed lives and boosted food security.

Dr Terry Leahy, and his documentary-making sister, Associate Professor Gillian Leahy of the University of Technology Sydney, travelled to Zimbabwe in 2010 and saw how the use of permaculture changed the degraded landscape into a lush paradise that produces food.

"Where once the 7,000 people of the Chikukwa villages suffered hunger, malnutrition and high rates of disease, this community has turned its fortunes around using permaculture farming techniques," Dr Leahy said.

The Chikukwa Project was started over 20 years ago and through the use of permaculture practices has consistently produced food during that time.

"Now they have a surplus of food and the people in these villages are healthy and proud of their achievements."

"Complementing these strategies for food security, they have built their community strength through locally controlled and initiated programs for permaculture training, conflict resolution, women's empowerment, primary education and HIV management," Dr Leahy said.

Funding for the film was provided by the University of Newcastle, the University of Technology Sydney and the Pozible crowd funding website.

View the 20-minute trailer for the "The Chikukwa Project".

Dr Leahy has undertaken research and consultancy work on environmental attitudes, landcare and sustainability in the Hunter Valley, Australia, as well as in Indonesia and Southern Africa. He says his present research covers three broad topics.

"The first is food security in the context of rural development. The second is the global environmental crisis and the response of the public to environmental politics. The third is social theory, the philosophy of the social sciences and the place of a humanist realist perspective in sociological analysis," Dr Leahy said.

Out of his research in South Africa came a monograph "Permaculture Strategy for the South African Villages" which was published in 2009.

"The book explains a set of tactical approaches to environmental sustainability in regard to land care, local agriculture and food security in the South African villages. People and their meaningful interaction with land is the starting point for strategies and planning principles that address sustainable food and fuel production in villages, to enhance the quality of life for the rural poor," Dr Leahy said.

Dr Leahy will continue his research into food security when he travels to Zambia, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe in 2014. He will visit villages where successful project designs for food security are operating.

"A lot of money has been spent on projects in Africa which have had no lasting impact and the intention of my research is to find out what actually does work and to promote it. The film on the Chikukwa project is a key part of that work as that project has been remarkably successful over a 20 year period," Dr Leahy said.