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The Valley of Grace

A Living Laboratory & Learning Hub for Rural Transformation in Western Cape, South Africa
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We dream of a valley “in which none will be held in slavery or servitude, and in which poverty, want and insecurity shall be no more.” - Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (Long Walk to Freedom.)

Mission

The Valley of Grace will be the world's first fully-functioning, economically and ecologically resilient, denizen-led, mutual coordination of bioregional production, distribution, and waste management, fully informed by indigenous principles and practices, and where all denizens commit to Deep Forgiveness.

Introduction

The Valley of Grace (English for Genadendal, circa 25k residents in 6 settlements) is located on the traditional, contemporary territories of various Khoe and San tribes, bound together by common KhoiSan heritage, in The Riviersonderend Mountain Catchment Area, 90mins from Cape Town, South Africa. The valley covers an area of roughly 80 km2.
As a process, —centred in the Valley of Grace—represents a multi-generational approach to transforming the entire Riviersonderend Mountain Catchment Area into a thriving and sustainable haven for both nature and the entire catchment area’s denizens. Our regeneration process is an all-inclusive initiative that brings together people from all walks of life, regardless of socioeconomic background, to participate in the restoration and revival of biodiversity to levels that the Khoe and San tribes were accustomed to prior to 1737. Through our collaborative efforts, we are cultivating a brighter future for generations to come.
In time, we will merge with the Breede River Catchment area, so that our impact extends from the source of the Breede near Ceres to the confluence of both the Riviersonderend and Breede Rivers to the mouth at Witsand, a total distance of 337 km.
This is an inspiring journey as we harness the power of unity, innovation, collaboration, and compassion to revive our valley's natural beauty and create a harmonious coexistence between humans and the ecosystem.
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A core part of our journey is the transcendence of historical land claim contentions and the reparation of harm caused through colonial and neoliberal practices.

Historical Significance

The history of Genadendal (the Valley of Grace) begins not in the present town as we know it today. Instead we can trace its beginnings to a Khoe kraal close to a Dutch East India Company cattle post called Soetmelksvlei. The area is roughly midway between present-day Genadendal and Riviersonderend. It was here in 1737 that Georg Schmidt, a German Moravian evangelist pitched his tent.
Within two years Schmidt and the small Khoe community had developed a little hamlet in present-day Genadendal. Their functioning settlement had clay huts, kraals that kept sheep, barns, and matjieshuise (houses made from woven grasses). They had vegetable gardens and crops which they could thresh on a threshing floor.
By 1797 the thriving Moravian community had built a chapel, a forge, and a wheat mill, all on their own. The mill was crucial, because it meant that the community was now fully self-sufficient. They no longer had to go to surrounding farms to mill their wheat. The number of residents increased to such an extent that at one stage Genadendal was the largest settlement in the Cape Colony after Cape Town.
South Africa’s first Teacher Training College was established in Genadendal in 1838. Graduates received training on and were able to teach Dutch, German, music, woodwork, printing, church history and bible studies. By this time, Genadendal had established itself as a thriving, bustling village, with one of the largest and best public libraries in the Cape.

The Place

The Riviersonderend Mountain Catchment Area stretches from Riviersonderend in the East to Villiersdorp in the West, a distance of 60 kms – as the crow flies – or 90 kms by road. Riviersonderend is 160 kms East of Cape Town along the N2 and Villiersdorp is 100 kms East of Cape Town along the R321 and R45.
The area covers 69 000 hectares of a combination of state land and private residential and agricultural property that together has been declared a mountain catchment area. It is the third largest conservation area within the Overberg District Municipality.
The area is part of the wider Breede River, with a total length of 337 km from Ceres in the northwest to Witsand in the southeast. The Breede River Basin covers a total of 12,384 km2.
For a map of the Valley of Grace, see or this (after clicking on the link, click on the blue ‘Slideshow’ button in the top right hand corner).
The Valley of Grace lies in the middle of the Breede River Catchment Area (see Greyton marked on the map below).
Map-of-the-Breede-River-Catchment.png
See this of the Breede River Basin (after clicking on the link, click on the blue ‘Slideshow’ button in the top right hand corner).

The People

The Valley of Grace includes 6 towns and settlements: Bereaville, Voorstekraal, Genadendal, Boesmanskloof, Heuwelkroon and Greyton. Genadendal is the largest town and has a rich cultural history, being the site of the first mission station and teachers training college in South Africa. The total number of people currently living in the valley is approximately 20 000, spanning the full spectrum of socioeconomic statuses.
Unemployment in the valley is high and there are significant issues of drug and alcohol abuse and teenage pregnancies because the communities have lost hope.

The Abundance Project Process

The Abundance Project is a multi-generational, interdisciplinary, large-scale transformation process, based on what has been documented in the . It aims to reverse the damage done to ecosystems and social systems caused by human activities, climate change, and an economic system which does not adequately address the needs of rural communities.
The process includes cross-disciplinary approaches, informed and guided by the denizens themselves. Phase 1 will focus on the Valley of Grace specifically, centred around Genadendal and the 20 000 denizens of the valley. Future phases will include Riviersonderend, McGregor and Villiersdorp, as well as all the commercial farms in the agricultural fields adjacent to the towns and settlements.
The key aspect of our regenerative process is that it promotes the renewal of natural and social systems in a way that enhances their capacity to regenerate and thrive in the long term. Individual projects focus on outcomes that include:
Reforestation and natural resource regeneration efforts,
Community-led food production and distribution practices,
Restoration of degraded wetlands and river systems,
Community-building initiatives that foster social cohesion and resilience,
Housing alternatives built using local resources and skills,
Healthy bodies and minds based on medicinal plants and indigenous wisdom,
Education alternatives that focus on resilience and regeneration,
Land placed into Land Trusts and tokenized with a Stewardship token,
A circular economy based on a community-issued currency outside of a debt-based monetary system,
And many, many more.

Deep Forgiveness

Deep Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which descendants of the Western Way acknowledge and humbly forgive the collective trauma caused by colonialism and Neoliberalism, with no expectation or judgement as to whether forgiveness is granted or not. This forgiveness is not about forgetting or condoning the past, but rather about releasing the power that the offense has over us. Once released, we have the power and freedom to engage in acts of practical love. These actions reverse the harm done to the humans, the non-human world and the planet by focussing our energies on reconciliation, restoration, and regeneration.
For a deep dive, see .

Methodology

(the how)

Progress

This wiki has been created for anyone who is interested in following the work underway in The Valley of Grace (Genadendal), South Africa. Updates will be coming soon.
Minutes of recent meetings can be found at .

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External Links

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