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Exploring the food forest at Sabina school. A diversity of plants has created a lush and productive landscape around the school where 6 hours ago there was only hard flat dry ground. When the food forest was originally proposed there were doubts from many sides that the soils could even support life such as this. However as the should build and come alive with microbes, worms and everything else that comprises healthy soil it can hold more water, more nutrients become available and the whole ecology develops.
The idea tha chemical farming can feedn the world is a huge mistake, enormous damage has been done and huge debt created in the process. Debts to banks is one thing but debt to the environment is far more serious. Permaculture teaches us that nature will rebuild, will heal if only we let it. Embracing the diversity of species and moving away from simple monocultures is the key as demonstrated so clearly here.
A wonderful diversity of people have come together to deliver this course. From Uganda, Kenya, Wales and England. Actually 8 of the team come from the same small area of Wales which we are very proud of but really it is permaculture and a love of practical solutions that has drawn us all together and it was a proud moment to stand in line as part of the amazing team of people.
A healthy eco-system is built on mutually beneficial relationships and it is these connections that build resilience and bio-diversity. Permacultureʼs 8th principle is integrate rather than segregateʼ which speaks to the importance of seeing how all aspects of a natural system support the health of the whole and its ability to regenerate and prosper. When we fail to equally honour the contribution each organisms makes, we break away from the wisdom of nature and start to loose our understanding of the symbiotic bigger picture life requires to thrive.
As part of the current PDC being facilitated by Sector 39 at Sabina School,
Uganda, we linked the understanding of integrated rather than segregateʼ to the 7
principles that established the ethical and functional guidelines for setting up a co-operative. The founding co-operative principles were established back in 1800 by Robert Owen from Newtown, Wales and in some ways relate to the logical and empowering principles of permaculture if applied to a social-economic enterprise.
Humanity initially evolved from a tribal culture where each member of a community had a significant role that supported the whole. Both permaculture
and the co-operative model can be connected to the understanding that it truly
does take a community to meet humanities physiological, psychological and aesteemedʼ basic needs to have a healthy, happy and fulfilling life. When humanʼs are able to recreate a symbiotic community it establishes a diverse, creative,rewarding and meaningful infrastructure where everyone is appreciated for their contribution.
So what causes us to asegregateʼ? When economy becomes the driving force of a
system, the life enhancing behaviour of co-operation is quickly killed.
Compartmentalizing life for profit has enabled rapid destruction of the precious
eco-systems that provide a hospitable environment for us to live. Segregation has enabled the earthʼs finite resources to be abused for the gross profit of a few. No system in nature survives with the ongoing practice of segregation.
When we work with the permaculture ethics of Earth care, People care and Fair
shareʼ we inspire creative, solution focused approaches that look at how the end
for economy can be integrated into a symbiotic relationship with community and ecology. So, as our PDC group begins the design process to see how
permaculture can best support the evolution of Sabina School, it feels like an
exciting challenge to develop both a near future and long-term plan of action that can integrate the social, ecological and economic needs of this beauty rural community, full of potential and fertile soils.
A CARROT A Day – UGANDA PERMACULTURE DESIGN COURSE. .. You can see the joy in this photo as some of our students harvest carrots for our meals. Every day there’s a range of practical tasks to be done from harvesting to weeding to topping up the compost loos with dried coffee bean husks – a waste product that can be used as carbon rich ‘soak’ to balance the high nitrogen content of the loo contents! These essential jobs are accompanied by chat and laughter as friendships are made and experiences shared. Daily practicals are also hugely enjoyable, breaking up the classroom learning about all aspects of sustainable systems from food to funding to organisational structures. Everyone’s getting more and more excited as they progress in anticipation of applying all this when they get home. And there’s a serious side of course. Yesterday I sat down with a Kenyan lady who seemed upset – she told me that there were floods in her district , with people losing their homes and huge amounts of soil erosion. She was sad but also grateful to learn about alternative practices that nurture the earth and people whilst also mitigating climate change – and to know that we are all in this together and will support each other however we can. It was very humbling.
It’s a brand new week at the PDC and we are ready, energized and full of excitement to start the new week…. But before we do, we would like to reflect a little on the previous week and our “time off” during the week-end…
Last week we had the introductory phase covering Holmgren’s first six permaculture principles where we learned to observe and interact, catch and store energy, how to obtain a yield, about the different ways to apply self-regulation and accept feedback, how to use and value renewable resources and lastly, produce no waste. We rounded this week up with a very exciting week-end during which we had a ground visit with our Honourable Mathias Kasamba, the Republic Member of Parliament of Uganda and legislator in the Parliament of East-Africa. His farm is about 300 acres with a variety of crops, mainly practicing conventional farming with a little bit of permaculture.
The crops he is growing on a large scale are coffee, passion fruits (which is his main income generating crop), banana, maize, eucalyptus and pine. From there, he is generating wood for selling and his personal use for his house and farm construction. In addition, he also raises animals which includes cattle, pigs, poultry and will soon be introducing rabbits with an aim of producing meat in order to feed the growing Ugandan population as rabbits produce so fast and multiply quickly. We ended our tour by suggesting to the minister that he may want to practice permaculture and still get yields but minimize the use of chemicals, produce no waste and find more environment friendly ways to feed his animals. He seemed quite open for the suggestion, having visited our course last week. He is also going to launch an institute for further agricultural research with an aim of transforming lives. Hopefully this will lead useful cooperation and who knows, some change on a larger scale.
Otherwise our group is getting tighter together, people are loosening up, sharing and we were enjoying playing games like volleyball, we danced with the kids in the school. Some people went to church for their Sunday prayers and others just took advantage of the week-end to catch up with some highly longed for sleep. We were a smaller group as some of us left for the week-end, either going home or visiting the area a bit, which made it quite nice and peaceful to remain here together and relax during the week-end. We also had a very nice lunch at the minister’s place where we also took lovely and tasty juice made from his farm’s sugar cane. We also had chicken at Sabina’s, which made it a good change from the beans and meat we usually eat.
As the course is rolling on, just like a stone stone downhill, its already the fifth day tackling the fifth principle as put down by David Homlegren. Our 5th day out of the 12 days started with weeding which was by 6 out of the 8 home teams. One of the two groups headed by Uncle Ritchie performed some pruning of the mango trees.
The team headed by Nina were the time keepers of the entire day on top of filling up the hand washing facilities. Health issues are not to be taken for granted, most especially when we’re living as a family.
We are lucky to be joined by Jane Wegesa from Kenya who is a specialist in working with vetiver grass. In line with our pricniple of valuing natural resources we are learning how to use plants to stabalise lanscape, encourage water infiltration and generate biomass to feed animals and for compost.
Later in the afternoon during the practical session, there was a practical session headed by Richie of digging Swales which is a method of water storage. This helps to keep water in the soil and also to stop surface fun off. Grace and the other participants were planting vetiver grass which is also a method of water retention and can also be used for water purification. Vetiver is a deep rooted grass which was carried along by Jane Klegea a participant at the Permaculture Design Course. It was shocking to learn that nearly 70% of all the perfumes contain oil extracted from vetiver grass.
We highly appreciate the facilitators for good information being relayed to us aluta continua.
On day 5, we were introduced to principle 5:
“Use and value renewable resources and services”.
We started the day joining our home team and Richard took us to a mango tree to show us everything about pruning. After giving us a warm welcome, he explained the reason why we should prune. Pruning is important to get more air moving through the tree, which is stimulating the photosynthesis process and give us a better yield quality. Richard showed us the tools we needed to cut and the importance of the technique.
Using the right technique is important to avoid diseases on the cut parts. As mango trees can grow really high, the best thing to do is to cut the middle branch. Branches can be used for firewood, biochar, mulching, compost… When you have a big forest full of trees, you can use the wood after having it cut into very small pieces and putting it together to produce energy by letting the oxygen interfere with it (aerobic composting).
After lunch, we had the opportunity to dig swales right behind the library. Swales are very useful as they trap the water in the landscape to help for farming or house holding purposes. It was a sunny day but as soon as we started swaling, it started to rain. We loved it, it was so refreshing! The practicum ended by planting vetiver. During the hard work of the hyppos, Dan introduced the girafs to the benefits of coppicing. Coppicing is providing you a permanent supply of wood.
Our guest speaker of the day was Laura from Zanzibar. This amazing lady told us everything about the Practical Permaculture Institute Zanzibar. The school, situated close to Stone Town in Shakani, created a tropical food forest, where people live in a sustainable environment and in total harmony with nature. Their mission is to spread permaculture knowledge through organizing different kinds of courses. Thank you, Laura, for sharing your project with us!
One thing is for sure, we all slept like babies (Evans words!) after having learned so many things in one, beautiful day…
When we observe nature what we see is plants reaching out in all directions to trap the energy of the sun. Only plants (except some odd exceptions) can do this, using chlorophyll to turn sunlight into sugars and starches; stored forms of energy, photosynthesis.
Simply put they use the energy of sunlight to join CO2 and H20 together, forming sugars, starches and carbohydrates. When we digest these sugars we break the bond, releasing the energy and the CO2 and H2O becomes available to the environment again.. it’s a simple system and pretty amazing in its power when you think about it. This idea of catching and storing available energy is the backbone of the second of David Homgren’s permaculture principles.
Here at Sector39, as a training enterprise we are developing an ambition to evolve our teaching processes into a permaculture academy. If we are to reach more people and spread permaculture wider we will need to train more teachers.
Permaculture is all about learning by experience, so in this PDC we are trying to create the opportunity for new teachers to learn and gain experience. Along with 43 participants we have 6 trainee teachers and three experts as well developing practical tasks relatiing to the course content. Early days maybe but we are reciving invitations to teach in more and more places and this is driving us to think more seriously about this proposition. So in some ways we have the aim of catching and storing the experience of the course by providing learning experiences that will in turn create new teachers.
What we human do in the next 50 years dictates what will happen in the next 10,000 for planet earth.
Professor Johan Rokstrom
On the evening of day one we watched the WWF climate change lecture from Dec 2015 led by Johan Rokstrom. We are confronted with the stark reality that humans have passed the carrying capacity of the planet. Human activity is now the most significant factor affecting the atmosphere and climate of planet earth. This new era of human driven global change is to be known as the ‘anthropocene’.
The upside of reality is that if we humans are the most significant force for destruction on the planet, then we can also be a force for repairing it. Catching and storing energy means building soils, adding carbon via humus, compost, mulches, biochar, low tillage and no dig systems, working with the biology of the planet to heal at least some of the damage we have done. It was only in about 1990 that humans became this dominant presence, and over the coming 30 years we will have to fix it, if we wish to preserve any semblance of the world we evolved to be part of.
Permaculture is fun, a PDC generates a huge amount of positive energy but underlying the work we do are huge challenges and potentially terrifying threats. Facing these challenges will take a great many people working together towards common goals and with a common vision, I honestly believe permaculture is the best tool we have to achieve this.
As we prepare for the course beginning tomorrow I was pleased to see a post from Prince Sebe Maloba who was a graduate of the #PDCUG17 course held in Kamuli last year. Permaculture is a set of strategies that really work, to restore land, build soil and fertilitity where previously it has been depleted. If we are to successfully fight the on set of climate change and build food security then I know no better way. Permaculture is the most powerful tool we have to secure a sustainable future. Follow this blog over the coming fortnight to see the progress of the course.
This land was barren due to over use of chemical fertilizer and nothing could grow beyond two feet,we decided to use permaculture techniques of fixing nitrogen in the soil using velvet beans and calindra trees as green manure and organic fertilizer after one year now the soil fertility increased, own my among my best farmer now harvest 25 bags of maize on half an acre of land.
Green manure is effective in soil restoration there is big change as crop cover control weeds, temperature, hold more water,control soil erosion, provide soil fertility ,this is one the best farmer have, maize plantation is purely organic, its the way to go. Prince Sebe Maloba
Volunteers have been on site for weeks prior to the event here at Sabina. Grace and Nina from Wales and Luigi from Uganda. Beds have been planted, compost toilets made, and enournous amounts of preparation has been underway that i cant do justice to here. I have seen all three volunteers blossom and benefit form the hard work as the benefits begin to show. The school is already transformed before the course has even begun.
Meet Helen’s home group!
There are about 40 people on the course so we have created ‘home groups’ of 5 or 6 people with a facilitator from the teaching team. These home groups will give people a chance to get know a few people in more depth. They will also be allocated a task each morning to help with the smooth running of the course and site. Today Helen’s team were given the task of developing material for the blog so we decided to share our highlights from day one.
The theme of day one is observation and interaction and in that spirit the afternoon practical was a walk round the site seeing what was there and thinking about how the natural systems work.
John Robert was interested to see how water can be caught in the landscape and how many different crops can be grown in a small area. Joseph was interested in the concept of planting food forests and making compost.
In the evenings we watch relevant videos and Laura was moved by the one we watched on the eve of the course starting. It showed astronauts talking about their emotions on first seeing earth from space. They became intensely aware of the fragility of the earth hanging in space and the importance of everyone working together to protect and improve it.
Enock was amazed by the compost toilet, he has never seen one before. The toilets are not quite ready so he is looking forward to making his first deposit!
Helen has been on site for a week now helping to get ready for the course. It is very different now that everyone has arrived and the number of new people feels a bit overwhelming. It is humbling to see how many people have come, some traveling a long way to learn about Permaculture. It won’t be long before we go from being a group of strangers to becoming friends.
Most of the participants are staying in dormitories near where the children at the school stay. This morning they were woken up at 6.30am by the sounds of the children doing their morning exercises. Realising they weren’t going to get back to sleep many joined in with exercises instead.
Sabina was honoured by a visit from the regional representitive of the East African Parliament, Mr Mathias Kasamba. Also a farmer, Mr Kasamba is an enthusiast for jack fruit. This tree is originally from East Asia and its amazing fruit has many uses and health benefits. The PDC has been attracting interest from a wide variety of local dignitaries and the Head Teacher here, Jude has been quick to capitalise on that. It is great to be noticed and our intention to create a wave of interest in Permaculture seems to be paying off.
We must thank Mr Mathias who as donated 200 jack fruit seedlings to Sabina School, which we will be planting in the school forest garden as part of our design practical work.
This site is dedicated to the PDCUG18 and EAPC18 Uganda