Andrew Kalema, PDC graduate from our 2016 Permaculture course, bamboo expert and ex journalist put it best in a recent Facebook post,
Someday we might all be refugees, how we treat them is how we wish to be treated.
Resource wars, climate change, collapse of the old economic order.. we would be foolish to think we are immune to catastrophic change. If displacement were to come to you then you could do a lot worse than arrive in Uganda. The Central African nation has accepted over a million displaced people in recent times, putting many other nations to shame.
International agencies have stepped in, UNHCR, Norwegian and Danish Refugee councils are visibly engaged, but it is the Ugandan government and people that has extended a welcoming hand by releasing land enabling the refugees to become settlers. I first became aware of the enormity of this situation in a BBC Radio broadcast ‘Crossing Continents’ maybe a year ago, highlighting the crisis. Congolese and South Sudanese people have been pouring across the border in search of refuge in huge numbers.
Experience shows these awful situations take time to resolve and by that I mean some years. Boredom, depression, loss of hope and human violation follows in the tracks of hopelessness, there is a great vulnerability and need for constructive action; so turning camps and places of containment into settlements and places of potential is a significant step forward.
Uganda is showing great compassion to its troubled neighbours, not only have the new settlers been given ID cards and land they are also being offered vocational training and that is where we come in.
AID agencies tend to work in departmental bunkers. Roads. Water and sanitation. Farming and enterprise. Education. Housing. Energy. There is little cross departmental strategy, so to even think about Permaculture in this context is an almost heretical departure from the norm.
Houses catch water, waste becomes compost, roads channel surface water in a way that can either accelerate or slow soil erosion. Tackling food and resource issues through community engagement is education, so to my mind Permaculture should be at the heart of resettlement and enterprise development, especially in these fragile spontaneous communities.
I heard that radio 4 program and realised the huge potential that was being overlooked but how was I to capture the attention of these huge NGO’S? I fired off a few emails to no response. After all Sector39 is a tiny training enterprise in a little Welsh village, hardly well placed to win the attention of international agencies or equipped to work at such scale.
Chance is a strange thing and it turns out the head of the Norwegian Refugee Council’s African operations did a Permaculture course in Wales 12 years ago. S39 began teaching PDC courses in Uganda after a 2014 study tour here visiting innovative farming projects with a local Welsh farmers support Charity, Dolen Ffermio. A course graduate and friend from our 2017 PDC attended a conference in Nairobi this January and whilst at lunch permaculture quickly came up in the conversation around the dinner table between my friend and the woman seated beside him. Turns out the lady concerned was operations director for the Norwegian Refugee Council Africa and they both knew me as their permaculture tutor. She announced that there was growing interest in permaculture as a strategy to develop community resilience in the settlements where they are working. She remembered me well and through my friend invited me to get in touch with the Uganda program director who was also keen on Permaculture.
I was coming to Kampala in February already to speak at the university and to prepare for our next PDC here in May, so I agreed to meet the Uganda project head and on arrival they immediately whisked me off to Bidi Bidi, currently the world s largest refugee settlement.
They couldn’t offer me the work directly as it had to go out for competitive tender but I drafted a training program and budget and in April was invited to submit a bid. I gather there were 100 applications from all over the world but we did win a 6 month opportunity to pilot a permaculture for refugees program that hopefully might become a template for future work. An amazing opportunity for Sector39 and permaculture in general.
We started training 40 participants from both refugee and host communities plus staff, whereby each participate would in turn be expected to train and support 5 family groups.
I write this as we speed home along bumpy roads, crossing the mighty Nile en route having completed 2 weeks of the phase 1 of the training. It has gone well. I am humbled and honoured to have worked with these people.
Everything I ever thought about refugees has changed. The dizzyingly huge numbers turn people into statistics. I couldn’t really imagine how to find common ground with cattle herders and subsistence farmers from Central Africa, Maadi, Dinka, Kakwa people speaking languages I hadn’t even heard of let alone had a grasp of. Through simultaneous translation, demonstration and the magic of permaculture we have found a common language. We have become friends. True connection has been made. I look forward to returning in September, we will give active support in the interim but as we part I can say my new friends and colleagues are inspired, empowered and ready to lead their communities. I will genuinely miss many of them and I know the same is true in return.
Through our own needs, food, soil, energy, enterprise and design we all have much more in common with each other than we realise and the differences are trivial and are what keeps life interesting. Permaculture unites us. Peace.
I have much more to say.. And will do so over coming days.
The UK S39 team began with a quick stop in Kampala to pack up the our land cruiser and a few key items for our practical sessions. Here we met our colleagues Paul Ogola (PDC graduate, 2016), Gerald Jagwe and Ali Tebendeke (PDC graduates, 2017)
We had to stop off in Nateete, a satellite town of Kampala. Of course we couldn’t pass by the city without a visit Ali’s budding urban permaculture project which is working with local youth groups to regreen Nateete town with flowers and trees. Although we couldn’t stay for long, Kampala was hot, busy and we had a long journey still to go. We travelled around 5 hours into the night to our next location, losing a sack of t-shirts off the roof along the way!
In a pumping Saturday night in Gulu, we picked up Vicky Akello, a permaculture graduate from our 2017 PDC in Kamuli. Her work since finishing the PDC with farmers in her area of Gulu has been impressive so she was top of the list of people to add to the team. We grabbed some ‘Chips Chicken’ and chapats, heading further North on progressively bumpy roads!
By midnight we were rally driving over bumps and potholes nearly at our final destination after 11 hours of travelling. We arrived in the town of Pakele, at 1am with the place still full of young people getting late midnight snacks. The next morning we found Pakele is bustling town full of street food stalls, clothing shops with fashionable wears from Kampala and small shops containing sweets, mandazi and lots of beans!
The town had a lively feel and felt very different to the region on Kyotera in the south West. There are many aid and NGO agencies here, UNHRC, Danish Refugee Council and World Food Programme to name but a few. There are lots of hotels and guesthouses that reflect the comings and goings of aid workers in the area. In the area of Sanje people were speaking only English and Lugandan and some Swahili, but in Pakele there are around 6 different spoken languages. The team is already learning some few word in Ma’di which is widely spoken in the North West of Uganda and also in South Sudan. On Sunday we rested, recovered, acclimatised to the extra 8 degrees of heat and then got to work planning for the following weeks’ trainings.
The development of Sector39’s East African Permaculture work has been funded by Hub Cymru Africa as part of the Wales for Africa programme. This funding covered the period of April 1st 2017 to March 31st 2018. This has been invaluable support and for which Sector39 are extrememntly grateful. The following report covers this time period the outcomes from the funding support.
Sector39 Permaculture Uganda project report for Hub Cyrmu Africa 2017 – 2018
Feed back and outcomes regarding the £10,000 of support given to Sector39 in March last year to be used between then and March 31st 2018.
Develop Sector39 as a leading supplier of permaculture education and facilitation in both Wales and Africa
Deliver a full permaculture Design course for 25 participants in Kamuli Uganda, May 2017
To use the course to develop strong networks in Uganda and across East Africa to reach both individuals and organisations that can help further these objectives.
Create opportunities for permaculture practitioners from Wales to gain experience and to develop as teachers
Disseminate information about this work in Wales and to raise awareness of Wales Africa links and support work.
Present in local schools and community groups regarding this work and its wider potentials.
Create opportunities for on going developmental training and work experience for African permaculture practitioners to develop and acquire teaching skills knowledge and experience.
The grant obtained from HCA has been utilised largely as planned and as outlined in our project bid so I don’t have any major changes to report. What I do want to report and forgive me for stepping outside the structure of the report form is that our feet have hardly touched the ground since began our project in May 2017. We have found East Africa to be very fertile ground for permaculture and have had a great deal of success in meeting these objectives.
-I am currently in Uganda having just completed another successful round of training and realise I don’t have the final report form blank available so I am submitting this full report instead and will be posting this on the project website as well for reference.
Sector39 have been teaching permaculture in the UK since 2005 and in 2014 we came out to Uganda with Dolen Ffermio (Wales/ Uganda farmer’s support charity, based in our community) on a study tour which prompted us to explore the possibilities for working in Uganda, teaching permaculture and building on the links we gained through our trip out with Dolen Ffermio.
We did submit a bid in 2016 to HCA but were unsuccessful as we had not fully identified the beneficiaries and how we would measure the outcomes.
Instead of funding Sector39 took out a business development loan and proceeded to run our first full permaculture design certificate course (PDC) in Kamuli Uganda using connections we had made via both Dolen Ffermio and by using social media.
This experience allowed us to write a fuller bid for 2017/ 18 which was successful and it is this I am reporting on now.
Full permaculture design certificate course in Kamuli Uganda.
The May PDC reached 25 participants and Sector39 took out a team of 6 trainers from the UK as well as working with 2 Ugandans and 1 Kenyan we had met via the first course. This was the first big development for us, in that we connected with the Uganda permaculture networks and training organisations, dynamic and vibrant groups mainly populated by people much younger and less experienced than us but of course much netter connected to the grass roots of permaculture in East Africa.
Several of the graduates from our first course were keen to return and to contribute to the teaching and running of the course as well as having met teachers and community leaders who were keen to introduce permaculture into their own schemes of work. So not did the numbers involved grow, we found ourselves reaching far beyond the networks we had originally worked with right into remote and much harder to reach groups.
Training team from Wales of 6 people gained experience in teaching in this context and many insights and new connections were made.
25 Course participants completed the 14 day training, these drawn mainly from Uganda with 4 from Kenya. Our strategy was to recruit trainers, or people who were very active in their own communities. We wanted to identify participants who would in turn train others, start projects and demonstration plots and amplify the benefits gained from their training.
We also understood that in this circumstance we needed to work with English speaking individuals with a degree of education behind them so they could benefit fully from the opportunity we were providing. The design to reach much harder to reach groups could be achieved indirectly through the work of the course graduates.
Via connections and past students from our previous course
Following on from PDCUG16 we retained those people who were most likely to develop as teachers and project initiators them selves. These included a Kenyan farmer and black smith, Paul Ogola who had since started his own demonstration plot in his home community and who returned with 3 individuals who had been inspired by his work and wanted to follow his example. A school teacher from Busoga High, Kamuli who wanted to initiated a student support project by developing growing and micro income initiatives within the school and who can connect us to regional educators.
New contacts recruited via social media.
Social media opens up the possibility to easily develop a dialogue with pro-active individuals who are keen to learn and keen to disseminate information. Through the Sector39 website and social media we identified several really keen and able individuals who demonstrated a keenness and aptitude for permaculture that convinced is of their potential to enable us to meet our project goals
Those who can be recruited and funded for course fees by other organisations with similar objectives. In process of developing and promoting the course S39 connected with like minded organisations who wanted to to access training for their stakeholders. These included Dolen Ffermio from Wales and Kumi Orphans project. Kriegskinder, from Germany supporting child soldiers and those training and supporting vulnerable people in conflict zones.
The single most successful strategy to monitor outcomes from the PDC has again proved to be that of utilising social media and blogs to enable graduates to report on their subsequent work and to document their successes and challenges. This has also enable a cross fertilisation of experience between graduates from the course, using Facebook, WhatsApp and blogs mainly as communication tools.
The PDC itself was reported on daily via the blog at
This Facebook group East Africa Permaculture Students union is populated by our PDCUG17 graduates and has been a highly effective way to maintain contact with graduates and see the outcomes of their work
Graduates form PDCUG17 who initiated projects of their own include:
PermoAfrica centre Kenya – Grass roots permaculture education in Homa Bay Kenya (FB and blog)
K5 village permaculture (FB). Omito Abraham Owiour
Nyero School Project, Godfrey Opolot
Nateete Urban permaculture project: Ali Tebandeke (FB)
Busia region Kenya Uganda out reach: Prince Sebe Maloba (FB)
Busia region farmers and villagers training: Aramadam Mutebi, Send a Goat foundation
Busoga high school forest garden and permaculture project Kamuli, Connie Kauma. (blog)
PRI-UG network. S39 signed a partnership agreement with the Uganda permaculture network, which subsequently has linked us to PRI-Kenya and PRI-Zanzibar. Which has challenged us in turn to convene the first East African permaculture conference, which is planned to follow on from our May 2018 PDC.
BEU Permaculture, Charles Mugarura has developed its focus on permaculture following on from the PDC and has been working with UG partners to link Sector39 to educators, politicians and grass roots activists.
Following on from the PDC in May 2017 the Sector39 team carried a series of visits until late June, following up contacts we have generated through the training. These included:
Mr Mula, permanent secretary office of vice president,
We were invited for a meeting on education and enterprise and development in Uganda with the OVP. Interesting the P.A. to Mr Mulla who was present at the meeting followed up the session by researching into permaculture which she followed by attending the 2018 PDC at Sabina school that we have just completed. The intention of the meeting was to seek support for permaculture at a political level and we have been offered support in any way needed as an outcome of the meeting.
With Gerald Jagwe, course participant and key staff member at PRI-UG, we were invited to meet Mr Bakka on whose land is based the demonstration and research farm for the Permaculture Research Institute of Uganda. We had a site tour and discussed future collaboration. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed and we agreed to collaborate on future ventures. I have since been invited to act as a trustee for the organisation and we are still discussing this. Mr Jagwe is now working with Sector39 on our follow on project with the Norwegian Refugee Agency and he has proved to be an excellent contact.
Hon. Mary Kabanda, MP
Mary is the patron of St Jude’s school Masaka as well as the minister for education for the region. S39 were invited to the school where we met the principle, staff and pupils before been given a full site tour. The purpose of this visit was to promote permaculture as a learning tool in schools and as a site management strategy to increase food yields and reduce waste at the school.
We were invited to present at a regional head teachers conference the next day for 38 regional head teachers from both primary and secondary schools. I showed a full slide show for an hour followed by questions, the slides covered the PDC training in Kamuli and practical work we had done with Busoga High School where we had designed a planted an Agro-forestry/ food forest garden for the school.
Following on from the head teachers conference we were invited by Charles Mugarura (BEU permaculture, Kampala) to visit the school/ orphanage where he had been a pupil and had grown up. Sabina had been founded as an orphanage and school as it was central the area with the highest HIV- Aids infection rate and consequently high orphan rate. Links to the World bank had led to an international team coming to the school in 2008 where a permaculture course had been held and subsequent design being implemented.
I met with Jude the head teacher and we discussed the possible placement of volunteers from Wales at the school, to help maintain and renovate some of the original design work and the possibility of their hosting a full PDC and conference there in 2018.
BEU permaculture agreed to sponsor and oversee three Ugandan placements at the school in a build up programme to the 2018 course and this would support the 2 volunteers from Wales who would join the team in late March. The flights and costs to bring the two volunteers out (Nina Duckers and Grace Maycock) were met from the HCA funds.
I returned to Uganda in February, utilising funds from HCA to further these develops and firm up plans for the volunteer placements, the 2018 PDC and conference and to report to other contacts we had generated on the previous visit.
Sector39 had been invited to present at Makarere University business school conference to around 150 students and future leaders in business. As 5th top business school in Africa this was n ideal opportunity to network and promote permaculture to future leaders.
Steve Jones with some of the BEU team as well as some of the participants at MakarereBusinessSchool Feb 2018.
I was also invited to return to the Office of the Vice President to report on developments. Further offers of support were extended
A visit to Sabina School, (Ssanje, Kyotera district) confirmed the May PDC and set up the permaculture internships for Grace and Nina (both ex Llanfyllin High School pupils) and we developed a plan to establish permaculture gardens to demonstrate the key principles of organic cultivation.
Norwegian Refugee Council
This is a very interesting an unanticipated development to come form this work. Happily in February whilst I was in Kampala the opportunity to meet with NRC came about. A co-incidence is that our new colleague Charles Mugarura attended a conference in Nairobi and was seated next to the head of the NRC and they chatted about permaculture. Sarah King from NRC commented she had done a full permaculture course in Wales back in 2006, with Sector39 so of course Charles mentioned my name as his permaculture tutor and mentor so the connection was made. The Ugandan head of NRC operations is also very interested in permaculture so a meeting was planned.
Following on from several skype calls and a Kampala meeting I was invited to travel to Western Nile district to visit the South Sudanese Refugee settlements and to help write a proposal to bring permaculture into the refugee resilience programme as a tool for training and developing action plans. I spent three days in the settlements and then followed this with meetings in Kampala with various representatives of the organisation.
In April I was invited to submit a bid for the work pan I had helped develop and Sector39’s bid was successful, beating a great many other applications (over 100 I was led to understand). This work commences in June this year and Sector39 have been able to recruit and train a team to lead on this work drawing directly on the contacts and training generated by the HCA funded work.
Grace and Nina placement at Sabina school
As placements in Sabina school in advance of the 2018 PDC Nina and Grace travelled to Uganda on 27th March 2018 using the last of the HCA funds to establish them selves at the School.
We have planned and hope that this opportunity can be extended to future participants as well, now that the precedent has been established.
Other Outcomes from the HCA supported training and network
This is a training centre created directly as a result of the training delivered by S39 in Uganda. It is in Homa Bay Kenya and was directly inspired by the PDC training.
The class room pictured was crowdfunded, using skills learned on the course. They are already running regular courses and Paul Ogola the project initiator has already become an adept permaculture teacher.
Students from the course set up this Facebook page to record their subsequent work, it stands as a great testament to the training and the outomces are out going.
Permaculture East Africa Stuents Union Facebook has proved a successful way to keep track of some of the outcomes following on from the course.
You will see contributions from Prince Sebe Maloba, one of our graduates, he and colleague Ramadan Mutebi are reaching very remote and poor regions in Uganda Kenya border area, extending the reach of our training work way beyond anything we could have anticipated. The key thing is that they are making the work their won. They have taken the ideas an concepts we gave them and adapted them to suit different circumstances. Really this is permaculture in its true form.. Infinitely adaptable and flexible to many situations
One technique for integrated farming demonstrated and taught on PDCUG17 was that of the banana circle. Using a mixture of ground profiling to catch rainwater, a mulch pit to promote water retention, composting and nutrient availability this mix of perennial and annual plants creates a more stable plant guild that can be both highly productive and restorative to degraded soils. A second technique demonstrated on the course was that of making and using biochar as a soil additive. Creating high quality charcoal with all the volatile oils driven off by heat enables a pure carbon soil additive to be used that both increases water infiltration into soils, boosts habitat for soil microbes and remains stable in the soil for log periods of time. You can see it being added here in the image above.
What has been noteworthy is that course graduates, esp Prince Sebe Maloba, Pual Ogola, Godfrey Opolot and others have taken these ideas and made them their own. They have experimented with different biochar making retort kilns, different inoculants to boosts fertility in the biochar, different planting combinations in the tree guilds as well as different shapes and sizes of the circles themselves. Permaculture encourages the adaptation of ideas and techniques to suit local conditions, materials availability and cultural preference. Literally a hundred or more of these have been planted since the training in May 2017 and we have received numerous photos and reports back on the progress of the idea as it continues to morph and evolve.
The final tranch of the HCA funds, as mentioned before were utilised in Feb in a follow up visit to Uganda by project leader Steven Jones who lectured at Makarere business school on this and other work, visited the vice President’s office to report on potential s for permaculture in schools and education and to set up the net, bigger and more ambitions PDCUG18 and conference.
Building on the work of 2017-2018 we have retuned to Uganda with a team of permaculture practitioners largely form from Wales, all taught by Sector39 giving them opportunity to develop professionally and gain new and valuable experience in the field. Together with our African partners we have been able to deliver a much larger course, embedded at a key regional school followed by a permaculture conference bringing people from the wider East Africa region
Steven Jones (Wales)
Grace Maycock (Wales)
Han Rees (Wales)
Nina Duckers (Wales)
Dan Grove (Wales)
Steve Jagger (Wales)
Richard Stephenson (Wales)
Sofia Fairweather (Cananda)
Angela Polkey (Wales)
Gerald Jagwe (Uganda)
Charles Mugarura (Uganda)
Paul Ogola (Kenya)
Tom Yaga (Uganda)
Barbara Carbon (Belgium/ Wales)
Helen Wright (England)
We now have a network of Uganda and Kenyan partners and trainees we can draw from for further project work and in turn these has broadened again to include Tanzania, Rwanda, Congo, Zanzibar, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
All of this experience has led to S39 winning a highly competitive bid to take Permaculture education to the Western Nile region to work with South Sudanese refugees. S39 will be working with another welsh partner Jack Hunter PhD in Llanrhaeadr Ym Mochant to share this experience with schools in the area, namely Llanfyllin High School and also to develop teaching resources in Welsh, English and Arabic to share the experience and insight of permaculture in both locations.
We helped develop this website and host it on our own server. BEU is a training and enabling enterprise in Kampala who are supporting our longer term objectives for permaculture education in East Africa.
The May 2018 PDC has now been completed, with 42 participants and 18 staff and trainee teachers.
This was followed by a 2 day permaculture conference, which drew participants from 12 countries and was the first East Africa permaculture ‘Convergence’.
This event was funded by selling places on the PDC’s donations from supporters in the UK, US and elsewhere and was made possible by the groundwork in the preceeding 12 months which was supported by the Welsh Government.
Visit from Honary Rosemay Seninde
A final outcome was a visit from the Honourable Rosemay Sininde and Minister for Primary education Matthias Kasamba, East Africa legislature representite who closed the PDC and expressed great enthusiasm for the achievements of this work.
We are excited for what may happen next.
Sector39 and partners would like to thank Hub Cymru Africa and the Wales for Africa network for their support, without which we would have not been able set this work and its many outcomes in motion.
The Permaculture Design Course is starting this week, and it doesn’t feel real. Even though the work we have been doing has been in preparation for the course and convergence it still feels like we are just going to keep on doing what we are doing. This week has been about preparations out of the garden; sorting beds for 50 people, cleaning the school and the site, washing everything in the rooms, ensuring there is enough water, fruit and other foods for the UK teams arrival and then welcoming the UK team onto site.
With Jagwe’s help we replaced the nursery bed shade, replacing the heavier more useful papyrus with reed matting which will provide a more even coverage over the nursery. We climbed up the rickety ladder that gets smaller and smaller as it goes up, and is balanced precariously against the nursery structure. Grace and I finished the job when Jagwe had left Sabina, fighting against ants that had moved into the reeds while they were being stored.
With some help from the students Grace has been working on removing the lemon growth from the orange trees in the food forest. The roots of the lemon tree is stronger than the orange and so the two are grafted together but without proper management the stronger lemon growth fights through the oranges. Jagwe observed that the trees were diseased which made us aware of how important it was for us to work on the trees.
The UK team have arrived with energy, ideas and projects of their own which is making everything seem so much busier around the site. Richie is working on 407 projects all at once, building a beehive is his own personal project which he is doing around all the other woodwork that has been needed doing for weeks. The library has been painted, creating a brilliant white wall to be projected onto during the course for the big presentations . Han and I are working on making signs to put up around the site helping the participants navigate the grounds as well as making the site seem like an event space rather than just a school site. Helen and Charles have been able to work together to make plans for the Convergence, it has been great to get the team together so people are no longer just familiar names and email addresses.
Dan has been working on making an estoufa finca (with Luigi’s help) which is a wood paralysis stove that burns from the top and cooks the wood below releasing the wood gasses and water vapour, little or no smoke is produced once it’s got going. When fully going it burns at 800 degrees c. Most people in Uganda live cooking on wood, the population is set to double in the next couple of decades and in the last couple of decades the forests have halves. Burning wood on the ground is at best 25% efficient and so there is a huge potential in exploring fuel efficient stoves.
A few days after the first load of UK team members the rest of the team arrived. Now as a complete team we can focus on the course in more detail, everyone is helping each other prepare lesson plans and presentations. If there’s anything that someone on the teaching team is unsure about with everyone who’s here, there will be someone who they can ask.
With more mouths to feed, we have had to change what we eat in order to be able to cater for so many people all at once. Aunty Agnes taught us how to make Chapattis which have been a staple ever since Richie perfected the art. Thankfully we collected enough avocados before the team arrived and so we aren’t missing our daily 3 avocado intake. It’s nice to share each meal with so many people, going from just the three of us who would eat together daily to more than five times that number now that the team has expanded. It’s a bigger affair with more people to get to know and more inspiring minds with a bigger range of conversations to be had.
With participants arriving today and the course starting tomorrow everyone is working hard in the hot African sun trying to get themselves and the site ready. It’s very exciting how massive the course and convergence are to permaculture in East Africa. Hopefully this is just the beginning of something bigger than any of us can imagine.
As we are getting closer and closer to the permaculture design course there seems to be more and more work to be done. This week Charles has been in Kampala sourcing beds, bedding and basins for the course, Grace has been talking to him daily trying to sort out the logistics and prices for everything we need to make this course a success.
Here at Sabina we have been transplanting everywhere, but there are still so many beds to fill! The rains have been forcing us to halt our work again, the rainy season is coming to an end and so we have to be thankful for the growth the rain has helped us to achieve in such a short space of time. We have been heavily mulching the beds before we transplant into them in order to keep the weeds under control. It has made the task longer as we plant but in the long term it has meant that we are not worried about weeding every other day. Yesterday, we bought 1kg it ginger from Sanje market which we will be planting today in the hopes of having an example that we can replicate during the course.
With the rest of the UK team joining us in the coming week we are super excited for everyone to see what an incredible place Uganda, and especially Sabina school, is. We are preparing the site for them and are looking forward to having those extra hands ready to help in the days leading up to the course in order to make the site extra ready.
As the UK team arrive, the pupils of Sabina school are heading home for the holidays. Today the majority of the children we have gotten so used to seeing every where are heading home to their families. Some of the older students will be returning in a week or so to study over the holidays but I’m imagining the school site will be feeling very empty without them for a few days.
Its been great having all the children around while we have been here, as it’s their school and I’m amazed by their willingness and want to work, getting involved in every project we are doing. Not only in their permaculture lessons but in their free time too. Maria has been an especially consistent shadow to Grace, cheekily following her around as she works, chattering away in Lugandan patiently repeating herself until she is satisfied that Grace has understood what she is saying.
Over the weekend Grace, Luigi and I left the site for two nights to celebrate Grace’s birthday on the Saturday. We were deciding between two lakes, Lake Mbara and Nabugabo sand beach and in the end we decided to visit the closer of the two as we didn’t like spending all day on a Matatu. We definitely made the right decision, we had the run of a campsite right on the lakes edge where monkeys were the only other guests. We woke up on the Saturday morning to the most incredible sunrise and the whole day we were blessed by glorious weather. We swam in the lake and when we got tired we could dry off reading in the sun. On the Sunday the weather was a contrast, it rained really heavily and we were forced to seek refuge in the restaurant playing cards and learning how to play pool. It was nice to be able to relax together, so we don’t just have a work relationship and we were able to chat about things other than weeding, plants and the permaculture design course.
Jagwe has returned to Sabina for a few days and he is working on upright sack planting, a type of vertical planting used in urban permaculture to save on space. The idea is to keep the sacks strong and in place using a stone tower as a central pillar which also helps with water filtration throughout the sacks. He has been planting into the sides and top of the sack, in the sides he is planting light, leafy vegetables such as kale, pak choi, spinach and into the top the fruiting, heavier vegetables like broccoli, tomatoes or passions running from the sack to a post. He is using compost and we’ll balanced soil in order to secure adequate nutrients for the plants.
Each week here at Sabina is very different, and it helps keep the monotonous tasks interesting. This week we have lots of people around the site helping us out. First Charles came back from Kampala, then (while he and I visited another primary school that he’s hoping to create links with) Gerald Jagwe joined us at Sabina. Later that night Luigi returned from Fort Portal. On the Saturday we had the help of 6 local workers who helped us to reshape the Mandela garden into beds ready for us to plant into. There have been more people around the site which has been a great energy lift and it has made everything move along so much quicker.
Due to the fact that we have such a big team that stays here at Sabina, we have been able to also leave the school to make visits elsewhere. On Wednesday Charles and I went by Matatu and BodaBoda to Alpha and Omega school just outside Kalisizo where we were shown all around the school and we saw the crops they were attempting to grow in order to supplement the children’s diets. We were given a huge welcome by all of the children where they sang and danced for us before Charles spoke to them and invited the head teacher to the convergence.
On Thursday Grace and Charles went to Masaka in order to cordially invite the local member of parliament, the regional education minister and the district chairman to open and close the Permaculture Design Course in May. They also were able to buy all of the things we have been unable to get in Sanje.
In just one day Charles, KB and a group of children managed to build us a new shower that we really needed- it means we no longer have to bucket wash! The team worked really hard to finish the project in a matter of hours. It is a really a very peaceful feeling to use this shower at night as the moon has been getting bigger and so there has been enough light to shower without torches!
Tom has been working further on a permanent toilet structure that will have removable buckets underneath. The idea is to dry the waste and use it as a fertiliser in the gardens in the future. Tom has been trying to make the structure with completely natural resources but has had to resort to using other materials in some places to better suit the structures function. We will have two latrines, one squat and one seated which will be accessed by steps enabling us to get to the buckets underneath the base easily.
Fencing has been put up all around Sabina site, it encourages the children to avoid walking on the plants and instead to use the pathways. The school children have also found a use for them, so, not only have we created boarders for the gardens but also the school now has extra space to spread their clothes after washing them.
One of the big changes we have made to the site this week has been re-landscaping the Mandela Garden which is just outside the kitchens. We had a group of workers come in to dig the beds and since then we have been sewing and planting into it with all sorts of vegetables that the kitchens will have easy access to once they have grown.
Last week we mixed together some comfrey, chicken droppings and water to create a fertiliser tea, we stirred a few times over the week and it’s beginning to get nice and smelly! The kids can’t believe that something so foul smelling will be so helpful in the garden.
After the rapid growth of the seeds we planted, we have begun transplanting them into the newly dug beds. The cabbages, chard, tomatoes, peppers, onions and kale have been especially successful in their growth and so we have been trying to dodge the intense heat to transplant them with the best chances of survival. The peas have been shooting up getting bigger and bigger everyday, we ventured into Sanje and purchased some local beans from a shop there which we have sewn this week and hopefully they will begin to show in the coming week.
The weather here at Sabina is very changeable, if in the morning it is really hot then it’s almost guaranteed to rain in the afternoon and vice versa. We have had some ridiculously hot days where everyone has to stop working outside and also torrential rainstorms which again disrupt our work schedules.
The pupils have been getting more and more brave spending more time with us than before, our hair is especially popular with the girls who are twisting it about and brushing through it at every opportunity we give them. We have also been able to introduce them to some card games like UNO and Go Fish which they have really enjoyed, they taught us a game called Mattatu which translates to just ‘cards’ and everyone knows how to play this one game. I have also tried to introduce games I know like African Bend-down and 21. The children have all loved getting to know us better and it’s been nice to share some games with one another.
With the help of the permaculture class we have been able to create a large compost area which they will be able to add to now that they understand the components and processes. The primary 6 class had the opportunity to plant their own tree into our new food forest garden. They chose mangoes and orange trees and under Charles’ supervision they carefully planted their trees into the hole of their choosing, digging the earth so it wasn’t so hard for the young plants and working together to water and mulch after planting each new tree. All together we planted over 45 trees with the classes help which will be producing fruits in a few years that can help supplement the children’s diets.
We have experienced the negative to everything growing so fast- weeds. The places that we spent hours weeding last week are beginning to turn green with weeds again and with so much land to upkeep it’s a huge job for everyone involved. We have had a big job weeding around the carrots and chardsome of which we harvested for the kitchens so that the children can have a more varied meal for once!
This week there has been a drumming soundtrack to our work, the children are rehearsing for a competition between local schools. They have been drumming, dancing and singing all week in preparation for their competition.
On Saturday night we ventured into the rehearsal studio (the dining hall) and were enthralled by the energy that everyone had, with even the smallest children up until 11pm dancing and drumming! Dan taught Grace how to drum -Ugandan Style!
The most exciting progress this week has been the compost toilet, it has taken us far longer than we anticipated but it is worth it! Grace and I have been quickly learning basic carpentry on the job! We decided to do this project at the wrong time in some ways due to the fact that both Charles and Luigi are away for the majority of the time we are building and our strength doesn’t match theirs! Thankfully we have had help from other people who are working around Sabina School. Initially we designed how we wanted the compost toilet to look and act from a book about composting in Africa (thanks to Dan Grove!), but we came across some issues and had to improvise their solutions! To begin with we built the frame with poles that were too thin and as a consequence not strong enough. We decided instead of working with what we had to remake the structure and now it is really strong! The sides are made from papyrus and it has a tin roof, we have included a ventilation pipe in our design, this is to try to minimise the amount of flies and smells in the toilet when we have finished.
We had help to build the pit for the toilet on Friday from some of the children around the School, in the heat of the day it was tough work for everyone involved and the children playing about us really made the time go quicker! We used one of the smallest children, Marion as a measure of how deep we were digging the hole. She took great pleasure with being lifted in and out of the hole. While we were digging some of the younger children were catching flying white ants and holding them in banana leaves, we were told that they taste really nice- we are yet to try any!
It has been a week since we made the first compost heap and today we have turned it over, it’s super impressive how quickly it is decomposing down and how hot it is!! Unfortunately the permaculture class on Monday was cancelled due to exams and so the children didn’t get to help us and understand the next stage in the process, hopefully they will be around next week when we do it again.
We have gotten used to our life here at Sabina School just outside Sanje. We have settled into our routine and do things by default now, we know enough faces about that we don’t feel like strangers in this place but a part of it. We have been able to work more on bigger projects as we know what can be done and how.
I have been getting more hands on with the work after I have documented what the school site was like when when we arrived, it feels good to be learning from Grace and Luigi about things that are so basic to them but to me are as alien as neuroscience. On Thursday I learnt the hard way about how weeding for hours on end in this country can give you seriously sunburnt hands! Ouch!!
The more we work during the day the more we eat in the evening and Aunty Anette has provided us with delicious meals every single day! Each day the meals vary but one common factor between all the meals we are eating is Avocado. Never before in my life have I eaten so much avocado (and I love it!).We are surrounded by trees so laden with avocados that they’re doubling over, and of course we are making good use of them. In just under two weeks we have eaten about 25 avocados between us.
The only thing we are fighting against is the weather (be it the midday heat or the pouring rain!) even time is on our side with over 5 weeks to go until the Permaculture Design Course we are well on our way to having examples of growing, composts and soon some compost toilets ready for the course. We are already able to see some growth from the seeds we sowed last week, it is really exciting how quickly things grow in this climate and it is promising for what we might be able to achieve in the coming weeks.
We have also had the help of three classes from the school, in their permaculture lessons they have come to help us with our work, planting orange trees and banana trees as well as moving earth to create beds. The children work hard and fast all the while with huge grins on their faces and it really helps to have that extra 70 hands each time they come to help!
One of our big projects this week has been building a big compost area near to the vegetable garden. We felt that the amount of compostable waste that we were creating was too much to have to wheelbarrow across the site to the other compost heaps and so we wanted to build an area close by. When we explored the area we found that there were already the beginnings of some heaps but they were riddled with plastics and other undecomposable waste, and so we decided it was important to create a more obvious compost to avoid contamination.
Grace, Luigi and I worked together to create a strong structure that we will begin to create compost in once a week ready for examples during the course
One big thing with a small solution, that we tackled this week was hand washing. We were using too much water every time we washed our hands, because you could only wash one hand at a time. Using one hand to pour water out of the jerrycan meant that we used more than twice the amount of water we needed to.
Grace had the brilliant idea of constructing some kind of foot peddled tap. After a quick look around the shops in Sanje we had what we needed to build our very own Tippy Tap! It was such a success that we decided to make another one with the help of some children near the teachers toilets on site
We have spent lots of time this week planning what kind of compost toilets we are going to build and where we might build them. This is really high on our agenda due to the fact that we have to walk half way across the site to visit the toilet and during the night it’s very difficult to access. Tom, Grace and Charles have been working on planning this week and hopefully we will be building over the next few days.
We have been so busy and productive this week that I feel excited about what this next week has in store for us!
On Tuesday the 27th March, we left Wales and made our way to Manchester Airport, our first point of call, after one short flight we geared ourselves up for 10 hours on an uncomfortable airplane seat and some unsatisfying sleep. We touched down in Entebbe (Uganda) late on Tuesday night and as soon as they opened the airplane doors we were hit by a strong humid blast of Ugandan air!
Charles met us at the airport with a big smile, on our ride to our hostel in Kampala we were brought up to date on all the business affairs and we discussed a plan of action. When we finally got to bed it was past 3 am and we hadn’t had a decent sleep for about 48 hours!
We spent the next couple of days around Kampala, getting used to the heat and planning our trip to Sabina School. We watched as Kampala buzzed about us, with all the Boda Boda’s weaving in and out of the traffic and people selling their goods on the street sides.
On Thursday afternoon we left Kampala for Sanje, Charles went on ahead to sort the Taxi because if the drivers saw a Mzungu we would be charged high prices. We loaded all of
our possessions onto the top of the bus and climbed aboard. As soon as the bus was full we set off on our way South on the road towards Tanzania.
We arrived at Sabina School late in the evening where a group of children came to meet us from the bus and helped carry our luggage to our new home, the Banda. We have been working on the site at Sabina School since, getting to know the children and the land.
We visited some projects of a local man in the Rakai District who farmed two areas in a town between Sanje and Masaka. We toured around his land and marvelled at his coffee plantation, jackfruit trees and aubergine plants. We went on to his 25 acre plot of land where he was growing oranges and mangoes with great success and kept pigs in order to use their manure to enrich his soil. He told us about his hopes to build an animal sanctuary and further develop his produce, creating a seed bank for the local community.
At the school itself we have been working on building up compost heaps around the grounds with natural resources from the school site as well recycled papers from the school buildings. Grace has began creating a nursery for seedlings with Luigi’s help and Charles planting orange and mango trees as well as improving the layout of the beds and gardens.
As it’s Easter weekend, the school only has a few children around but everyone who has stayed for the weekend has been getting involved with our projects. Learning about growing and compost with Grace and a few of them are picking up how to use a camera with me, with Charles they are learning how to make structures and helping to clear the space for beds to be made. As the future generation of Uganda and the school they are vital assets to our work here at Sabina.
For Easter Sunday, there was a football match between local sides at the school that had a huge turn out just before the sunset. We have gotten used to our new way of living, eating delicious fruits and I have been discovering lots of the Ugandan foods.
One thing we were concerned about was our access to clean drinking water, and we didn’t want to be buying bottled water everyday and produce loads of waste. Thankfully when we were in Kampala we so
urced a water filter from a market and carried it with us to Sabina, the water is filtered by using a clay pot with holes made by sawdust that has been burnt out of it creating holes for the water to filter through and we now have safe drinking water at hand.
Yesterday we got electricity in our Banda and now we can use lights at night and charge our phones.
After just one week in Uganda I am already starting to feel at home, thanks to the kindest of people and the welcome they have given us.
I thought you might enjoy this short video. . a quick tour of Paul’s permaculture farm. Paul is a farmer and Blacksmith from Homa Bay Kenya, he came on a Sector39 permaculture course in 2016 and is now part of our teaching team in East Africa.
See the short tour of the garden using the link above
The rains have just started and the new season’s crops are in the ground, revealing the diversity and complexity of the 70m square plot that Paul began less than two years ago.
Paul Ogola came on our first PDC in Kamuli in 2016 and in his own words’ Was in the darkness’ had no real plan as to what he was trying to do, basically trying his best and copying what he saw around.
He returned in 2017 and did the PDC again, this time with 3 people from his community who had already become involved in permaculture via his inspiration. They have in turn gone on to start their own projects. In 18 months since becoming involved in permaculture Paul has moved from being a farmer without a plan to a teacher, community leader and role model. Paul said to me recently that his permaculture work has made him ‘someone in the village’. He has used on-line funding platforms to raise small amounts of money for investment in water tanks and other infrastructure, used Facebook to recruit volunteers and students and from a bare patch of scrub has built a productive and inspiration garden that is now helping raise the expectations of a whole community.
From the video you can see the diversity of plants, techniques and approaches Paul is using, He has built a classroom and is already running his own courses and will be returning this May to Uganda to contribute to the next PDC and to become part of the Sector39 training team currently planning to soon be working in Northern Uganda with South Sudanese refugees and their Ugandan host communities.
We believe permaculture can make a significant contribution in developing climate resilient farming systems, more stable income from more diverse sources and in the process building the confidence, outlook and achievement of many people like Paul.. Imagine the collective impact of such development if we can mobilise whole communities!