Permaculture design of Umoja Orphanage in Kenya

Umoja Orphanage Kenya is a non-profit organisation raising funds to build a self-sustainable children’s village in Ukunda, Kenya.

Their mission is to provide an alternative to child abandonment and give orphaned and vulnerable children a second chance at life. Through training and employment opportunities we will empower disadvantaged locals and help communities break the cycle of poverty.

umoja-orphanage

Project description

To reduce Umoja’s dependency on donations and build the foundations for longevity, it is important to introduce self-sustainable practices in Kenya. We sought funding to hire two consultants from the Permaculture Research Institute of Kenya to provide training to volunteers and Kenyan locals. PRI Kenya’s initial report of our land suggested that we begin the following agricultural projects:

  • construct a cow shed
  • build a composting shower/toilet
  • plant a live fence and edible fruit forest
  • prepare organic compost
  • redirect water by digging swales and installing water pipes

These projects will maximise food production, build soil fertility, preserve and recycle water, and provide training and employment to the local community.

Cow shed

Project progress

19 Australians travelled to Kenya in April as part of Umoja’s Volunteer Program to work on various self-sustainability projects. A trainer and assistant from PRI Kenya worked with us for 6 days and taught us how to adopt Permaculture practices to achieve self-sustainability. Each day, approximately 25 locals were employed to assist with the building and planting project. We achieved the following results:

  • Planted 539 bottle brush trees around the 15 acre perimeter
  • Planted 164 seedlings in the fruit forest, including citrus, pawpaws, guava and coconut
  • Planted a banana/pawpaw circle to use runoff from water tank
  • Made four compost heaps using a layered mulching process
  • Dug two 100m swales to redirect water through the land
  • Built a cow shed for up to 6 cows (foundation, walls and rendering)
  • Laid a suspended slap for the composting toilet/shower
  • Connected a water pipe from the water tank to cowshed and the toilet/shower block
  • Provided training and employment to locals in planting, mulching, composting, recycling and pumping water, cement mixing, laying bricks and rendering, cutting wood, using hand tools and a generator

After the volunteer team returned to Australia, the locals continued the building projects and maintained the plants. They then used the skills they had learnt during the training days to help build an internal brick fence and grow crops in a greenhouse. Our dairy cow was moved into her new home in the completed cow shed where she recently gave birth to a male calf.

A farming manager has been hired to maintain the gardens and crops and water the perimeter plants. It is wonderful to see him and other locals taking ownership of our orphanage project, as they were sceptical about the project in the beginning. Growth of our children’s village and the opportunity for ongoing employment is building hope in the surrounding community and letting the locals know that is a long-term project that is beneficial to everyone involved.

Project outcomes

The self-sustainability project set out to achieve the following outcomes:

  • improved food security and nutrition for orphaned children
  • improved farming skills and education in the surrounding villages
  • hope and optimism for vulnerable people in the community
  • increased employment opportunities for Kenyan locals
  • a permanent source of income for the orphanage project

The food that will be produced in the Umoja food forest will help meet the nutritional needs of the future staff and children. The goal of this edible garden is community sharing and we hope to be able to sell and share surplus produce to with the local community, which will bring money back into the project. The locals have learnt valuable skills in farming by assisting with the food forest and live fence projects. The numbers of locals waiting for work each day grew throughout the 6 days working on the land, and months later the locals continue to show enthusiasm to work on ongoing tasks.

The local men and women’s thirst for knowledge and initiative shows the power of education for people who have been denied the opportunity to learn due to poverty. Education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty and we are very happy that Permafund is contributing to this change.

Conclusion

The Permafund grant will have a lasting effect on the local community and has helped Umoja Children’s Village to establish long-term self-sustainability. We continue to work towards self-sustainability and we look forward to taking more volunteers to Kenya to work on the project. We also hope to invite Joseph and Priscilla from the Permaculture Research Institute of Kenya back to Umoja Children’s Village to continue our goals. Any additional funding from Permafund to help us continue our work would be greatly appreciated. Please e-mail cathy@umojahome.com if you would be able to assist us again in the future. Together we achieve the extraordinary.

 

Words & photos by Umoja Orphanage Kenya

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Published in 2014: Permafund grant stories

Comments

  1. Karambu Ringera

    This is a wonderful model for sustainability!!
    The future of food sovereingty in Kenya and Africa depends on going back to practices that embrace permacultural principles. Our traditional way of growing food was based on these principles. Food forests were the order of the day when my grandmother was a girl. We need to revive these practices in order to preserve our environment and keep our food clean and clear of GMOs. This project points to that revolution!!! Please ensure you teach the kids at your orphanage and in the community the value of permaculture so that when they grow up, they will continue the legacy. Keep up the great work!!

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