In the 2018-19 grant round, Permafund supported the Women’s Organisation for Rural Development (WORD) in India with a micro-grant for their project to help marginal farmers cultivate grains and indigenous millets and create a seed bank for future crops.
Based in the Indian Namakkal District of Tamil Nadu, the project reached 225 farmers in targeted villages where rain-fed agriculture is predominant. In the growing season 150 farmers were provided with sorghum and millet to cultivate on their land and 75 farmers sowed maize. All of the harvests improved food security for the villages.
Harvested seeds saved for the next crop
The farmers’ harvest returned double the quantity of grains and millet seeds to WORD’s seed bank ready for the July 2020 to February 2021 growing season.
WORD officially formed in 1991 based on an 80’s movement of young women inspired by the spirit of the Gandhian Boodan Movement of the 60’s. That movement had attempted to persuade wealthy landowners to voluntarily give a percentage of their land to landless people.
Among the motivations for WORD has been the appalling plight of the Dalits, who are among the most marginalised and deprived populations. Another challenge is the rising degradation and depletion of the natural resources which marginal villages rely on for their livelihoods.
In the 2018-19 Permafund micro-grant round an application by Faulu Productions to establish a permaculture food production system in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya was supported with AU$2,000 to help combat malnutrition in the camp.
Faulu Productions is an organisation that consists of refugees, volunteers and supporters from all around the world. Their mission is to promote agriculture and education, to help create a safe, sustainable living for refugees and to empower them to improve their lifestyles.
The project has established a multi-site permaculture system with 200 participants establishing 5 by 10 metre garden plots in their own compounds and contributing to the maintenance of the larger Kakuma community garden and central Turkana permaculture community gardens.
Preparing garden beds for seeds
The gardens are modeled on natural ecosystems combining ecological, engineering and environmental principles. The designs have used integrated natural water resource management systems and sustainable architecture, so the project is self-maintaining, regenerative and an ongoing source of fresh produce and biomass.
Newly planted beds and maturing crops
The objective has been to help the refugees to become self-sufficient. The key component of the plan was water conservation with an investment in water storage (40 water tanks to harvest 2,000 litres). Digging tools and bulk seeds were purchased and watering cans to help prevent splash erosion and the destruction of young seedlings.
Preparing the harvest for sharing
The participating workers have been resourceful collecting mulch materials and manures and contributing earth building skills.
Making mud bricks for house construction
Trees were planted in the gardens for shade, erosion protection and to provide chop and drop material to assist with mulching & soil creation.
With no “qualified” experts inside the camp the participants are using YouTube to learn the practical skills of permaculture, including watching videos by Australian experts including Geoff Lawton and Morag Gamble.
This project is viewed on the ground as 100% sustainable because it has created job opportunities among refugees, improved the quality of the camp’s environment and helped improve community health and well being. More permaculture inspired enterprises and initiatives are being undertaken following this ground-breaking project.
The community appreciates all donations.
The Kakuma Refugee Camp suffers from regular, severe flooding, the most recent being in early February 2020. Houses have been destroyed and belongings and food washed away.
Permaculture Australia’s Permafund is very grateful for your thoughtful, kind and generous donations over the past days, weeks, months and years.
We are pleased to announce that the focus of Permafund’s 2020 grant round will be on the recovery from extreme weather events, including bushfires, plus designing for disaster in preparedness for the future. The recent crises here in Australia and internationally demand a response and a donation to Permafund is a meaningful way to contribute.
Permafund Chair, John Champagne of Bega Valley explains, “Permafund has been active over the past eight years assisting small NGO’s around the world with their permaculture initiatives. It’s important now to focus on the crisis we’ve experienced from extreme weather events and assist local permaculture groups effectively assist their communities in this time of need.”
Echidna hunting for water during the bushfires
The total of the donations made to Permafund at present is just short of the amount that triggers a micro grant round.
The Permafund team is calling for donations to help boost this total as high as possible before the 2020 grant round is opened for applications.
In February 2019 Permafund team member, Jed Walker, travelled to South East Bangladesh, to join Rowe Morrow and Ruth Harvey for their second PDC (the first was for local residents). Quaker Service Australia, working with the Bangladesh Association for Sustainable Development (BASD), financially supported the courses. Jed joined the course at Camp 19 in Cox’s Bazaar refugee camp, hastily built in the jungle where elephants recently roamed.
BASD, longtime advocates of permaculture in Bangladesh, provided generous and comprehensive hospitality, logistics, camp liaison and translation services for the Australian visitors.
Driven from Myanmar and fleeing for their lives into Bangladesh about 1 million Muslim Rohingya have found themselves living in limbo in Cox’s Bazaar, now one of the largest refugee camps in the world.
Signs of resilience are evident everywhere
Before fleeing Myanmar, the Rohingya were farming, living in villages or ethnic ghettos (internment camps) in the towns. The Bangladeshi government have welcomed the refugees, but the arrangement is temporary. There are still reports of violence occurring for those who try to return to Myanmar.
The bamboo and tarp classroom was located on the edge of the camp, overlooking rice paddies and brick works belching smoke. Among the 21 PDC trainees about half were young men plus some young women, older women and male farmers.
During the course Ruth, Jed & Rowe were also mentoring BASD staff to teach the course themselves and thence train the Rohingya students to teach other camp residents. The plan is for 15 of the class graduates to educate a further 100 families in permaculture.
“The class went well as the Bangladesh dialect in the nearby Chittagong region is similar to the Rohingya language. This helped a lot with translation. All students were remarkably positive considering their recent past.” said Jed.
At one stage the oldest man sang a lament about the loss of his land and people. Jed felt the older people had a sadness over them while the younger ones were as bright and cheery as elsewhere, maybe more so.
The teaching team heavily contextualised the course toward local conditions and knowledge. Working among very experienced farmers and forest dwellers the teachers stopped counting when their list of uses of various trees exceeded 50 (most groups run out at around 20).
Some students did a design for the teaching site which already included gardens and a food forest but also bare ground with no topsoil and little water management. Other students did a plan for about a hectare of the camp itself. There is really no room for on the ground gardening around the average camp hut so the strategies for growing food included making gardens in whatever was at hand – sacks, pots, boxes, water bottles or whatever plus hanging gardens were made from coconuts, gourds and plastic bottles filled with plants to hang from eaves.
Gardening in containers and bottle hangers
Jed had brought a bag of mung beans and introduced the idea of eating fresh bean sprouts. The adults were sceptical at first but followed the lead of their adventurous children.
Pumpkin vines were grown on roofs to also give shade. Average maximum temperatures there are within 3 degrees of 30 Celsius all year, with very high humidity in summer.
Coconut hanging garden
The housing was Incredibly dense as it’s for a million people in few square kilometres. More than 120,000 babies had been added to the camp’s population in the past year, Jed was told.
Huts made with plastic & bamboo lattices
“Despite the challenging conditions in the camps with overcrowding and scarce resources, residents in the camps maintain their houses and shops with pride and signs of resilience are evident everywhere” said Jed.
Most huts are plastic with a lattice of bamboo, vulnerable in monsoon rains and cyclone conditions. There are no gutters, so catching rainwater is not practical. The groundwater, delivered by hand pumps, contains iron at toxic levels.
Hand pumps for water
The course included disaster management with cyclones being the main concern reported by the group. They were reluctant to even speak of the circumstances surrounding their flight from Myanmar. “The students enjoyed having something else to think about and asked the old man to stop singing his sad songs” said Jed.
Despite the bleak conditions in the camp the PDC class itself lifted the spirits, with students soaking up the knowledge and making plans for every nook and cranny of the camp. Camp 19 has 50,000 people and there are plans being hatched to exponentially peer-educate every one of them.
For more information please contact the Permafund team firstname.lastname@example.org Tax deductible donations to Permafund support this and other worthy projects in Australia and around the world.
The Permafund team has received a positive mid-term progress report from the Kiini Sustainable Initiative based in Nyeri, Kenya. Following their receipt of an AU$2,000 micro grant in 2018, they’ve reported that the overall project is progressing well in terms of accomplishing their objectives and adhering to their February to November 2019 timeline.
In a community where farmland and the environment have been degraded and natural resources like rainwater are being under-utilised, the project has aimed to encourage the wise use of resources to improve community food security and overall productivity.
Students from the Nyeri Farm View Academy learning about compost making
Deforestation, over-cultivation of farmland, loss of topsoil through water and wind erosion, indiscriminate use of insecticides and inorganic fertilisers, loss of biodiversity and pollinators have inspired the Kiini Sustainable Initiative to introduce permaculture education and activities as tools for change.
Through education about permaculture principles the Initiative’s goal is to inspire attitude change and transformative thinking in the community to better use their natural and human resources to: –
harvest water and improve water quality
improve land management practices
increasing biodiversity and
restore the environment
On site permaculture solutions have included the installation of water tanks on homes to harvest roof run-off for domestic use and irrigation of food crops, construction of a simple water recycling system including grey water collection and terracing to slow erosion allow improvement of the soil.
A simple grey water recycling system
At the Nyeri Farm View Academy children are learning about permaculture through the creation of a kitchen garden assisted by teachers, parents and the community. Other schools in the area are interested in the project which could expand if more funding support becomes available.
Junior students visiting new gardens
The Kiini Sustainable Initiative is optimistic the project will achieve its objectives despite the challenges of drought conditions, the proliferation of pests due to the high temperatures and the slow adoption of permaculture principles among some community members.