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 byAndrew 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Learning together with community members has led to improved problem solving and more effective work strategies.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Please send the completed form and any supporting documents to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
In 2018 the Integrated Rural Development Society (IRDS) of the Salem District, Tamil Nadu successfully applied for a Permfund micro grant to conduct training workshops for 50 tribal farmers from the Mannur, Alamarathukadu, and Poomarathupatti villages in the Kalrayan Hills.
Farmers with an interest in permaculture and new agriculture methods were identified with the help of farmer leaders before being introduced to the project’s goals and main activities.
Seed varieties shared during workshop
A series of workshops were conducted covering permaculture and organic agriculture methods to maximise return from the same land in multiple ways, the control of weeds by intercropping, making liquid fertiliser to increase micro-organisms in the soil and water harvesting to improve soil moisture.
Liquid fertiliser demonstration
Seeds and seedlings were distributed to increase the diversity of vegetable and indigenous grain crops being cultivated. The project has helped the farmers lessen their reliance on outside inputs and improve their harvests for better food security.
Intercropping increasing yields
On behalf of the tribal farmers, the IRDS team has expressed their sincere thanks to Permaculture Australia and Permafund for the partnership, cooperation and support that’s enabled the organisation to implement this important project in their community.
The activities of the Integrated Rural Development Society include raising awareness of the importance of protective, preventive health practices including providing clean drinking water and good sanitation. Other major issues addressed by the organisation are the empowerment of women, environmental protection, HIV and AIDS awareness and health development through alternate medical practices such as naturopathy and yoga practices.