Supporting capacity building and the establishment of permaculture food gardens to improve nutrition and a place to demonstrate and learn.
Introduction to permaculture workshop in a demonstration permaculture garden, Kambiri Kenya
Introduction: Thank you to Permafund and all those who contribute to it, for supporting programs that help vulnerable women and children in East Africa with a $1,000 grant.
In December 2018, I was invited to Uganda and Kenya by small community-based organisations to support local permaculture education programs particularly with women and children. I went as a volunteer and took my two eldest children, Maia and Hugh (then 12 and 10). As well as being helpers along the way, they also graduated with their PDCs from the course held at the Sabina Primary School led by young people from Uganda, Kenya and Liberia. The core goal of this course was to teach teachers.
(Note: As volunteers, my children & I paid for all our expenses & received no payment for our work.)
My children meeting the women’s self-help group leaders who are sharing permaculture in the local village and schools
Goal: The overall goal of this project was to enable communities to vision, design, implement and manage permaculture food gardens for education, food security, and sustainable livelihood capacity-building.
The project: The funds donated by Permafund were spent on helping to develop the practical land-based centres for learning about permaculture at two main locations.
A: Sabina School, near Rakai, south west Uganda
The school at Sabina is important for a number of reasons.
It is a place of learning for hundreds of local children
It is a becoming a teaching garden for permaculture teachers
It is becoming a teaching garden for school teachers
The funds were used to buy tools, fruit trees, seeds, building materials for compost systems, animal enclosures and animals, and provide educational materials.
This school was also the site of permaculture design course in December 2018 followed by local farmer training and local school teacher training programs.
The ongoing management of the project is the responsibility of the school, with the permaculture trained teachers and school students who attended training. A local permaculture organisation, BEU Permaculture is regularly checking in with progress.
Children at Sabina School learning permaculture with my children.
B: Women’s Self-help Group, Kambiri Village, Kakamega, Kenya
This region of Kenya is experiencing prolonged drought and the women have come together to find solutions. Permaculture makes good sense to them. Through additional crowdfunding, Ethos Foundation sponsored 5 people from this region to attend permaculture design courses at Sabina School in Uganda.
In December 2018 in Kambiri I offered an introduction to permaculture workshop and undertook an assessment of the area to understand the needs for developing a permaculture education centre. During this introductory workshop we undertook a collaborative process and drafted a design for the demonstration gardens. We also helped start a seed-exchange program.
The demonstration gardens are now being developed and a Permaculture Design Course was held in August 2019. Participants of the PDC were mostly women and they have returned to their communities to share permaculture design ideas and strategies.
Jane Amunga – the initiator of the Women’s Self Help group at Kambiri.
The Women’s Self-Help group leaders, Kambiri Kenya in their permaculture demonstration garden
The Permafund funds were used to purchase a water tank and seeds, set up for the permaculture training, pay a local translator and distribute educational materials.
Ethos sponsored four local leaders to complete their PDC in Sabina School, Uganda – principal, agriculture extension worker, support worker for girls health, disability advocate. These people are now teaching locally and supported the Women’s group PDC in August 2019.
Permaculture and the government: It’s also interesting to note that while in Uganda, we met with the East African Minister for Agriculture and the Ugandan Minister for Education, as well a number of local and regional officials. All of them are very keen to see permaculture developed further in the region. One particularly interesting discussion was around having permaculture taught in university to teachers, and there being a series of schools around Uganda where teachers could go and learn in-situ. It was identified that support was welcomed in helping to develop curriculum and teaching those who can lead such programs in university.
Meeting with the Minister for Education at her home in Uganda.
Permaculture and the refugee council: Also interesting to note is the community resilience work of the Danish Refugee Council, particularly that of Natalie Topa, in her role of Resilience Officer. I spent some time with her in Nairobi and was delighted to hear about how much her work is based on permaculture throughout East Africa and Yemen.
Natalie Topa with Morag Gamble in Nairobi. Natalie Topa works with the Danish Refugee Council and implements permaculture throughout her work.
Ongoing: Ethos Foundation is continuing to provide some additional support for the development of these gardens and is dedicated to sponsoring permaculture education programs that will help people implement and manage more of these types of local permaculture demonstration gardens. The aim is to create a network of permaculture gardens in local communities – places to learn, to demonstrate, to access resources and connect with others wanting positive change.
Impact: Several gardens have been renewed and/or established where people can come to learn about permaculture. Gardens and systems are developing for the seeds and plant materials to be freely exchanged. New networks of local permaculture teachers are being established.
About Ethos Foundation: The Ethos Foundation, a sister organisation to the Permaculture Education Institute, is a small registered permaculture charity dedicated to:
supporting the spread of permaculture education through practical community-based projects led by local people to address local needs in their local communities
mentoring, enabling and supporting local permaculture leaders and educators
providing micro grants to local projects to access the resources needed to implement sustainable food garden initiatives.
A sincere thanks again to Permafund for supporting these communities. I encourage you to continue donating to Permafund. The difference that can be made with a small amount of resourcing is quite phenomenal.
In September 2019, the members of Permaculture Australia’s Permafund team gathered at Brogo Permaculture Gardens, the home of John & Sharon Champagne, near Bega, southern New South Wales.
Property tour guide John Champagne
The team members, who’d travelled from Tasmania, Victoria, Queensland and the Blue Mountains, New South Wales, enjoyed a tour of the permaculture-designed property before settling in for a weekend of discussions to look back at the previous years of Permafund projects and to plan for the years ahead.
It was great to see each other face to face, exchange ideas, work on projects, enjoy Sharon’s delicious meals and see the results of years of planning, creativity and hard work come to fruition in the form of Brogo Permaculture Gardens.
Sharon’s vegetable gardens protected from the birds and insect predators
Spring flowering of fruit trees protected in a fully screened orchard, also home for a family of happy geese.
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.
In 2018 Permafund supported the Foundation for Research and Sustainable Development (FRSD) with micro grant funding for their project in Tamil Nadu, India to teach marginalised farmers how to produce biochar as a low cost solution for the remediation of degraded soils.
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.