Permafund grant for Urban Farming in Kenya

Permafund grant for Urban Farming in Kenya

The Rafiki Community-Based Organisation in Nairobi Kenya successfully applied for a $2,000 Permafund grant in early 2023 to support their Rafiki Urban Farming program.


Their community initiative is being implemented in Viwandani informal settlements in the city to promote sustainable and resilient food production systems by applying permaculture ethics and principles.

The program was initiated to address food insecurity, improve nutrition, poverty and environmental degradation in the community. By implementing permaculture practices, the program seeks to empower the local community to grow their food, reduce their dependence on external food sources and improve their overall well-being. 

Since its inception, the Rafiki Urban Farming program has made significant progress in various aspects. Firstly, the program has successfully mobilised and engaged the community in the establishment and maintenance of urban farms. Through awareness campaigns and capacity-building workshops, community members have been trained on permaculture and organic farming techniques and sustainable resource management.

As a result of these efforts, a considerable number of urban farms have been established across Viwandani informal settlements. These farms have not only provided a source of nutritious food but have also served as spaces for community cohesion and skill-sharing.

Vertical gardening using recycled containers
Vertical gardening with recycled contaners

The program has facilitated the formation of farmers’ groups where members collaborate, exchange knowledge, and support each other in implementing permaculture practices. Moreover, the program has successfully reached its initial target of establishing 50 individual and communal permaculture gardens within the community. These gardens are owned by residents to ensure widespread access to fresh produce. As a result, more than 50 individuals now have direct access to nutritious food from their gardens, reducing their reliance on expensive market purchases. 

The current status of the Rafiki Urban Farming program is highly encouraging, achieving several notable accomplishments. Firstly, the program has significantly increased access to fresh and nutritious produce for the community members, with a diverse range of crops and herbs being cultivated. This has positively impacted food security and improved the overall health and well-being of the residents, particularly vulnerable groups such as children and the elderly.

Permaculture training leading to food production solutions

Plus the program has empowered community members by providing valuable knowledge and skills in permaculture and sustainable farming practices. This has led to increased self-reliance, as farmers can now grow their food, make their compost and reduce reliance on external sources. Additionally, the program has created income-generating opportunities through surplus produce sales, contributing to poverty alleviation and economic empowerment within the community. 

Furthermore, the program has raised awareness about the importance of sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation. Through community events, workshops, and educational materials, the program has disseminated information on permaculture ethics and principles, leading to a broader understanding and appreciation for sustainable practices. The program has also forged partnerships with local schools, enabling the integration of permaculture into the curriculum and fostering a culture of sustainability among the younger generation. 

Challenges encountered 

● Lack of access to quality organic inputs, such as compost and organic fertilisers. Participants are encouraged to compost their organic waste and share it with others, creating a decentralized composting network.

Utilising available resources with practical results

● Limited space so innovative solutions adopted such as vertical gardening, rooftop farming and re-purposing small, unused spaces.

Saving space recycled containers & hanging gardens

● The knowledge and skills gap has been addressed by conducting regular training sessions covering permaculture principles, organic farming techniques, soil management, pest control, and crop rotation

● Climate change and water scarcity: Limited amount of water available for irrigation.  Viwandani, like many other urban areas, is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including erratic rainfall patterns and water scarcity. These climatic conditions pose challenges for urban farming, particularly in maintaining adequate water supply for irrigation. To address this, the program focused on water conservation and management strategies such as rainwater harvesting and water recycling (kitchen water and bathing water). By implementing these measures, the program has reduced water wastage and ensured efficient water use in urban farms.

● Community Engagement and Ownership: Initially, there was resistance and scepticism among some community members regarding the effectiveness and long-term sustainability of the program. To overcome this challenge, the program emphasised community engagement and participation. Regular community meetings, dialogue sessions, and participatory decision-making processes were conducted to involve the community in program planning and implementation. By fostering a sense of ownership and active participation, the program gained community support and commitment, leading to the success and sustainability of the urban farms. 

Report recommendations 

Scaling Up and Replication: Given the success and impact of the program in Viwandani, it is recommended to consider scaling up the initiative to other sub-villages of Viwandani informal settlements within the region. This could be achieved through collaboration and continuity of partnership and supporting other local organisations with similar objectives and goals to replicate the program’s model and share best practices. By expanding the program’s reach, more communities can benefit from permaculture education and information, sustainable urban farming practices, improving food security and promoting resilience. 

Using all available space to produce a harvest

Strengthening Partnerships: Continual collaboration with local organisations, government agencies and donors is essential to ensure the availability of necessary resources and support. Strengthening existing partnerships and establishing new ones will enhance the program’s capacity to overcome challenges related to resource constraints, access to inputs, and funding. This could be achieved through regular coordination meetings, joint fundraising efforts and knowledge-sharing platforms. 

Training and Capacity Building: Continuous training and capacity-building programs for farmers and community members should be prioritised. These programs should focus on advanced permaculture techniques, composting, organic pest management, and soil conservation. Providing access to training resources, workshops, and mentoring will ensure that farmers have the necessary skills and knowledge to maintain productive and sustainable urban farms. 

Restoring fertility in under utilised spaces

Education and Awareness: Continued efforts to raise awareness about the importance of sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation should be carried out. This could involve conducting educational campaigns in schools, organizing community events, and disseminating information through various media channels. By educating the broader community about the benefits and practices of permaculture, the program can encourage more individuals to adopt sustainable farming methods and contribute to a healthier and greener environment. 

Monitoring and Evaluation: Implementing a robust monitoring and evaluation system is crucial for tracking the program’s progress, identifying areas for improvement, and measuring its impact. Regular assessments of the urban farms’ productivity, environmental sustainability, and community well-being will provide valuable feedback to inform program adjustments and ensure its long-term success.

The way forward 

The way forward for the Rafiki Urban Farming program in Viwandani Informal Settlement involves a strategic approach to sustain and expand the program’s impact.

Consolidate and Strengthen Existing Farms: It is crucial to ensure the continued success and productivity of established urban farms. This involves providing ongoing support to farmers, including access to resources, technical guidance and mentorship. Regular monitoring and evaluation should be conducted to identify areas for improvement and provide targeted assistance where needed. By consolidating the existing farms, the program can maintain its sustainability and maximise its impact. 

Expand the Program’s Reach: Building on the success achieved in Viwandani, the program should aim to expand its reach to other informal settlements within the region. This can be done by conducting community needs assessments and identifying potential partner organizations or community leaders who can champion the program in new locations. Engaging with local stakeholders and tailoring the program to meet the specific needs and challenges of each community will be crucial for successful replication and expansion. 

Foster Knowledge Exchange and Networking: Creating platforms for knowledge exchange and networking among farmers, experts, and stakeholders is essential for continuous learning and innovation. This can be achieved through regular community meetings, workshops, and farmer-to-farmer exchanges. Encouraging the formation of networks or associations among urban farmers will facilitate the sharing of best practices, challenges, and solutions, fostering a supportive and collaborative environment. 

Urban farming between buildings and on rooftops

Enhance Value Addition and Market Access: Exploring opportunities for value addition and market access can contribute to the economic sustainability of the program and the farmers involved. This can involve training farmers in post-harvest handling techniques, food processing, and marketing strategies. Collaborating with local markets, restaurants, or food cooperatives to establish direct links between farmers and consumers will ensure fair and sustainable trade relationships. 

Secure Long-term Funding: Securing adequate and sustainable funding is crucial to sustain the program’s activities and ensure its long-term impact. The program should explore diverse funding sources, including government grants, corporate social responsibility initiatives, philanthropic organisations, and crowdfunding platforms. Developing a comprehensive fundraising strategy and cultivating partnerships with donors and investors who share the program’s vision will provide the financial stability needed to continue and expand the program

Many thanks to the Rafiki Community-Based Organisation for this report. . 

All contributions to the Permafund are warmly welcomed to support permaculture environmental and education projects in Australia and around the world. Gifts, regular tithes and donations to the Permafund over $2.00 are tax deductible in Australia and can be made here. Many thanks.

For more information please contact

Who Gives a Crap? Permafund does …

Who Gives a Crap? Permafund does …

Doing our daily business, we might not think about it much using our so-called sophisticated water closets which cost thousands of dollars to maintain and waste millions of litres of fresh water daily.

People in a refugee camp aren’t that lucky. Doing their business can often be very dangerous, especially for women. The pollution created is also a big problem and so are unsanitary toilet compounds that can’t deal with the volume. There are no pipes or costly sewer systems.

Jay Abraham from Biologic Design in the UK has coined the phrase ‘tree bog’ for the toilet system that simply uses an old essential habit that people in his native England used daily. As he describes ‘People used to do their business in a bucket in a closet and they would have a separate bucket of soil and sprinkle it over each time a deposit was made. It kept the smell away.”

Tree bog infographic by Andrew Jeeves (Regrarians)

The way the tree bog works is quite similar. Its floor is built up high, at least 1.5 metres above ground level.  The space under the floor is enclosed by 2 layers of wire mesh filled with carbon material (hay, straw, dry grasses) to allow air flow, absorb excess nitrogen and provide a visual barrier. The human waste is covered with sawdust, ash or soil and breaks down, feeding the surrounding area that’s planted out with trees, grasses and ground covers.  In less than a year there are fast growing trees & fruits such as papaya to pick plus shade and biomass to refill the wire mesh carbon wall.

Dense planting surrounds the base

For 30 years Jay has been using his tree bog invention on his own property, fine tuning it to be shared with the world. He’s supported many projects that are building the toilets in refugee camps.

Permafund has recently funded a tree bog in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. Established in 1990, the camp has some 60 000 inhabitants with many living there in limbo for years and years.  

Since then, Marcelin Munga from Food & Health Education (FHE) in Kakuma has attracted more funding to build another tree bog. Members of the Permafund team were invited to tune into a live Zoom workshop with Jay Abraham beamed in from the UK.  Marcelin hosted some 20 people from the compound including 3 cooks and 2 educators and a number of mothers with their babies, eager to start building their own tree bog. The workshop members used tools previously purchased with the Permafund grant.

There were some technical difficulties with the Zoom, but we got see the site and meet the group. Jay gave a report from another camp where one of the tree bog toilets had caught the attention of UNHCR. They inspected it with a negative attitude and the intention to knock it down but instead left impressed and gave the tree bog their tick of approval.

Donations made to Permaculture Australia’s Permafund that are over $2,00 are tax deductible in Australia and are supporting the grant program that assists organisations like Farm and Health Education to make a significant, practical difference in their community through the application of permaculture design principles and ethics.

‘’There is no such thing as waste’’

Charlie McGee of Formidable Vegetable

Article by Felix Leibelt of the Permafund team

For more information please contact

Permafund Long Table Lunch

Permafund Long Table Lunch

El Nina has well and truly settled in, the plains of Canberra a vividly green, dams are full and rivers a rushing downstream to reach the coast. Keyline properties will be fully recharged and swale designs are being tested. We are seeing extreme weather events not only here in Australia, but all around the world.

But, with 10 years of Permafund Australia activity, there’s lots to celebrate. Why don’t you join us, the Permafund Team, and host a long table lunch under the lush foliage of your garden? 

Now more than ever, let’s come together and feast on the abundance your work has provided. Let us think about our growing global community of people, the less fortunate and cook or prepare something from a culture other than your own. Use and value diversity.

Put on a feast, whether it’s a Kenyan or Indonesian, Nepalese or Indian inspired night, that is up to you, share the love through food. Ask people for a donation, whatever they can afford, and let us continue the great work of Permaculture direct action globally.

Register your event with for more information and recipe ideas. 

Donations to Permafund are shared with grateful recipients who put their grants to work in a wide variety of creative environmental and community building projects around the world . All donations are warmly welcomed. Donate here.

Permafund team

Permafund aids Community Regeneration

Permafund aids Community Regeneration

Permaculture for Sustainable Communities in Kenya has provided this report after receiving a Permafund grant of $2,000 to promote local food that is more climate-friendly and less energy-consuming to improve food security and support a vibrant, resilient community.

The project was implemented in the Matungu District in Western Kenya for period of a year. It was to help the marginalised communities to grow their own healthy food during the COVID-19 crisis as a powerful way to reclaim communities and change the dynamics so that people would have wealth and power to combat hunger and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The community was able to invest in new tools for the project

As background,  Permaculture for Sustainable Communities reports that it’s estimated that 42% of Kenya’s GDP is derived from natural resource related sectors such as agriculture and forestry. These sectors are highly sensitive to climate change, a fact that makes rural based economies highly vulnerable. In the agriculture sector for example, smallholder farmers are the backbone of the economy, generating about 70% of their agricultural production while also being the custodians of precious agro-ecosystems.   Conversely, land, water resource base and populations whose livelihoods and food security are dependent on such resources have been subjected to the vagaries of land degradation, deforestation and the declining productivity of croplands. This has undermined the sustainability of food systems and productivity of natural landscapes.

To address these challenges, the Permaculture for Sustainable Communities project focuses on the development of regenerative farming to rebuild healthy community gardens as a nature-based solution for addressing ecosystem degradation and build climate change resilience.

Training including women and girls

It is therefore a practical intervention that serves as an entry point adaptation strategy to improve the productivity, efficiency, profitability and fairness of production from the landscape while also establishing an approach that builds rural land restoration. In essence, the ecosystem-based adaptation approach will ultimately reduce environmental impact of production while addressing food insecurity. To ensure that the natural environment is conserved, enhanced and managed for the benefit of present and future generations, the project focuses on building healthy soils.

All ages are involved in demonstrations

The long-term goal of developing sustainable food systems is considered a high priority for Permaculture for Sustainable Communities.

Activities carried out included the training of farmers in permaculture practices and skills, the distribution of farm seeds and tools plus monitoring the project and evaluation of the outcomes.

Working with the landscape to capture water in the soil

Project achievements: Through the intensive training of 50 farmers in organic farming, synthetic fertilisers are now not used in their farms. Building and maintaining a rich, living soil through the addition of organic matter is a priority for the farmers as the solution for sustainable healthy soil for healthy food production. 

Hand watering new planting

The community’s farmers have knowledge in planting and then tilling in cover crops, which help protect the soil from erosion off-season and provides additional organic matter. They have learned about non- tilling and digging in of nitrogen-fixing cover crops, such as mucana or thithony whihc also adds nitrogen to the soil. Cover crops are commonly planted before or after the cash crop season or in conjunction with crop rotation and can also be planted between the rows of some crops, such as tree fruits.

Maize established in prepared field

The farmers have been in trained in pest control. They can make organic pesticides that are derived from naturally occurring sources. These include living organisms such as the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis, which is used to control caterpillar pests, or plant derivatives such as neem, alvora and peepe leaves. 

Organic pest control integrates biological, cultural, and genetic controls to minimise pest damage. Biological control utilises the natural enemies of pests, such as predatory insects (e.g., ladybugs) or parasitoids (e.g. certain wasps) to attack insect pests. Pest cycles can be disrupted with cultural controls with crop rotation the most widely used. 

When local varieties of crops disappear, this can compromise food sovereignty and the ability of a community to access culturally appropriate food at a fair price. The region’s farmers are turning to traditional planting of numerous crop varieties that are resistant to specific pests and are diseases to restore food sovereignty in the community.

Abundant harvest ahead

Finally, because of a permaculture practices and knowledge the farmers have harvested plentiful green vegetables for home consumption. Two farmers have established herb gardens. Beans, maize, soya beans and potatoes have been harvested, making the region a food security hub.

Home gardens for vegetables and herbs

The project has benefited 50 farmers directly and benefit 350 directly.

From the project outcomes lessons have been learned.

There are multiple benefits from teaching farmers about building healthy soil by making organic fertiliser, including green manures, designing and adding swales into gardens to increase soil water content, growing native seeds, improving soil pH to benefit plant growth, increasing the availability of P and K and increasing microbial activity.

Gathering up the harvest
Preparing for harvest collection

Learning together with community members has led to improved problem solving and more effective work strategies.

Collecting the harvested maize

Through the supply of seeds and farm tools farmers worked harder to rebuild acidic gardens into organic food producing farm systems that have produced food security for many beneficiaries.

Working in groups helped many farmers learn how to establish herb gardens both for human medicine and for insect repellent.

The community working together helped permaculture knowledge reach more people in regions where many need this education.

The harvest ready for distribution


Long droughts are making certain crops to fail.

More encouragement needed for local climate- resistant crops to be grown.

Support needed for the community to adapt to setting up small home gardens irrigated by water harvesting. A shortage of tanks to capture water from rooftops is an issue.

The shortage of farm seeds and tools to equip more farmers is a problem. For example in one village you may find that only one home has a wheelbarrow.

A wheelbarrows is a valued asset

There is a high demand among farmers for training in permaculture practices and the establishment of working farm models. Financial support is needed to replicate the project in order to reach more people.

Donations to Permafund are supporting community organisations like Permaculture for Sustainable Communities around the world.  Contributions of $2.00 of more are tax deductible in Australia and can be made here.

Seed saving for future harvests
Permafund welcomes micro grant applicants

Permafund welcomes micro grant applicants

Do you represent a community organisation in a region recovering from the past year’s many natural disasters and catastrophic events? If so,  now’s the time to consider applying for a Permafund micro grant.

Focusing on the theme of resilient communities, Permaculture Australia’s Permafund is welcoming applications for grants to support permaculture- oriented projects that are preparing your community to withstand disasters such as bushfires, food shortages, cyclones, drought, floods or disease or helping your community recover from any of these challenges.

Demonstrating how to make liquid fertilser

Soil improvement & seed distribution workshop

For example, the micro grants are available to support community projects working to install and restore food production, water harvesting and renewable energy systems, to protect and re-vegetate habitats and build community resilience.

To apply, the Application form and Grant Guidelines are available here to download as PDF and Word documents.

2020 Grant-Guidelines (PDF)

2020 Grant-Guidelines (WORD)

2020 Application-Form (WORD)

2020 Application-Form (PDF)

Please send the completed form and any supporting documents to before the closing date of Sunday 30th August 2020 ( midnight Australian Eastern Standard Time AEST).

Permaculture Australia’s Permafund plays a unique role in the worldwide permaculture community through its micro grant program that distributes donations received from individuals, businesses and fundraisers.

Donations of $2.00 or more are tax deductible in Australia and are shared with grateful recipients who put their grants to work in a wide variety of creative environmental and community building projects.

For more information please contact Grant Coordinator, Jed Walker

Seed stored to improve village food security