Reflections on the last 2 months of African work

Angie circulated a great email which prompted me to reply below, i surprised my self as I have hardly the strength to hit the keys i am so tired out.. but there is much to say and be celebrated
Well said and much appreciated. (I will add Angie’s email when i have her permission to share it on here)
 Permaculture is a different way of thinking. It helps us see the bigger overriding patterns. Life is complex, we face complex challenges, permaculture builds on common ground and common experience. It is very powerful and it works.
Never forget that we are all  people, we need each other for survival if nothing else  and we are connected together by food and our connection to the soil. Microbes and mycelium run his planet as they connect everything else together.

Personally struggling a bit to get back on top of things. really tired and running on empty but that said is because i put 100% of myself into these things – because that is what it takes. i will be fine, only been here a few days and had to go straight into teaching and funding reports back logs. back 7 days and 6 of those have been work days and the other a work day missed because i was asleep all day. normal service will be resumed.
permaculture course uganda
PDC group at Sabina school, course graduates PDCUG18
BUT, WOW, thanks for putting it so well Angie, we delivered a top rate PDC took many unanticipated challenges in our collective stride and came out not bankrupt, which was a real possibility a couple of months prior to start as the fundraising had been less successful than I had hoped and literally the last pot of money to come in, like Sisters Carbon, Angie etc really saved the day.
The convergence actually made a profit. I have $400 us dollars at least from that for reinvestment. more but we haven’t done the books yet.


The EA convergence was totally shambolic and revealed many flaws and oversights in our planning. Luckily none of this mattered, no one noticed except for us, mainly poor Helen, BUT, it was a really successful event and one that vastly exceed my and many other’s expectations. Maybe if there was one thing Helen hadn’t realised was after all this is Africa and everything is shambolic most of the time anyway.. so people are patient and easily pleased by what does work and dont worry about all the things that didn’t. The quality of the conversation around the edges and the networking made alone it a run away success before the first PowerPoint show or bed bug bite. Everything else was a bonus and people really loved it and were and are buzzing since.
We should all feel really proud of what we have accomplished at Ssanje. I see Charles and team are keen to follow up withe Dec course at Sabina so I hope also what we have done there will create momentum of the school. Of course a PDC is about the participants not the venue.. and there were many complications arising from the blurred edges between course and venue. I am glad to see Charles is working there again, i wont be hurrying back for my own reasons. but it is important to build on what is there.


The contrast that really brought things into sharp focus, was working at the Vocational Skills Training complex in Adjumani. It was just a compound of about 4 acres with a series of simple buildings, designed and built as an adult training center. the catering was by professional caterers , on a three stone fire as ever, but the food was cheaper and far superior than at Ssanje and the prices are 20 or 30% higher at the refugee areas. We had 2 sodas a day, 2 waters each, choice of 3 meat and 3 veg dishes and everything worked because there was an onsite team whose job it was to make things work. Logistics people in back up. it was a very different experience. It really underlined how much of the venue management responsibilities we had to take on at the school.


We taught 42 refugees who between them spoke 8 languages (we even added a little welsh seeing as everyone else seemed to have their own language) . It was more like 50 or so, we had 2 simultaneous translators and everybody worked it out between themselves. made it very slow. but boy does that focus you on what is the key content, no amusing anecdotes and no videos really as it is all too slow. I showed 10 minutes of Geoff Lawton soils the intro bit i always show to start the conversation on souls, with translation and discussion that took 45 minutes ad we only had 2 1/2 hour classroom time am and 30 mins pm. many did not read or write. we had to invent everything about how we teach.


The team were so great, Han earned hers stripes and Grace did so much of the front-line contact time; holding the space and Han especially got to know all the people very quickly. A big unfamiliar group became a family before our eyes. it was truly amazing.
Paul Ogola gets a special mention from me, great teacher, calm but forceful,. very good at getting people into action. We were all good so maybe it is unfair to name check anyone, everybody did so well.. Not least because it was hard, we had to think on our feet and we delivered a life changing experience for all involved. You have to understand the drivers, people hired by NRC to drive the buses around attended the course and took notes. so did the translators, when they weren’t translating. The center staff and manager also took part and apologized and asked for a recap if their job had taken them away for a session. It changed the ethos of the whole centre. actually it gave them an ethos because all they had ever had before was a budget.


The kitchen crew will use the energy efficient stove we built for them, the compost the water recycled.. it was like the whole compound suddenly got permaculture in one collective realization. It is a changed place, for once everyone is in agreement. Permaculture really works, it buts priorities in the right order to think about things in terms of opportunists rather than limitations.


Angie do you mind if i repost your email on the blog. its not too personal is it? i wan tto share this far and wide.. we have done something truly amazing


Although the setting and format was different, the Ssanje course set us up perfectly for Adjumani course. we did 16 practicals, all rehearsed and tolled up and we didn’t fit everything in that we could have. it was all learning by dong the classroom sessions were either explaining water filters and swales or they were a closing plenary when i related what we were doing to the principles and ethics. it really worked for them, they really got it. we also really hit on a good idea fo rthe designs. Instead of trying to teach SADIMET to a bunch of semi literate cattle herders (and a vast assortment along side) each participant worked on their own personal action plan. so the design was on themselves and how they were going to bring permaculture into their respective communities. Each participant will be incentivized to train 5 second tier trainers, through our on going support.


so what comes next is 6 months of hard work, 2 of which will be back in Uganda, maybe a trip to Zimbabwe to network, who knows… but we have a contract signed with NRC worth US$55,000 that’s going to get burnt up pretty fast but we can create real momentum with a budget like that over 6 months. we are going to get good value from taht money for sure.


Watch this space, tell me how you want to be involved, Everyone who was at Ssanje and Adjumani is in for the longer term as far a I am concerned I think a few us learned what our strengths and weaknesses were, but that is why we came with a big team. we must not lose the great value of learned experience we created there.


Jagger is keen for us to do a PDC in Kumi and I see why as they have a really active core team there already. I see a real value in creating clusters in places where people can support each other and build projects rather than just sending loads of loan rangers out there. Permaculture needs nurturing especially in the early days of a project or a career, we need to support each other better. and build that into the overall strategy of what we are doing.


I would like to do on on Mufangano island. Those who remember George and Bernard, two teachers who came for the pdc all the way from there and could only stay 2 days as there school was still in session. I will explain why i think is a great opportunity another time, but yes it will need planning and an advance team to go there and report back. 20 months away that one i would hazard a guess, plus no idea how to fund it.. but its a community of 12,000 people on an island. a place where people really understand limiting factors and finite resources. The 2 guys who came are both headteachers and community leaders.. we could reach the whole island through them, create a mini permaculture nation.. i am serious it could be really significant/ I see it as such anyway. But reality will kick in, it will be a challenge, that said it is not far from Kisumu, 2nd city in Kenya I think its a significant place and Paul Ogola and his mates as well as the islanders all speak the same language, Luo. All of these tings work in our favour. So i want us to find ways to make that happen.


My greatest joy is to see progression in individuals S39 team members growing as people or getting to know each other better, but also seeing the course participant blossom into great teachers.. I remember writing some of these objectives on the first funding application 3 years ago, What a thrill to see it happening before our eyes.


Well done, I love you all, new opportunities will come from this!


On Jun 26 2018, at 3:43 pm, Angie & Andy Polkey <> wrote:
PPS please use this email from now on…
On 26 June 2018 at 15:42, Angie & Andy Polkey wrote:
Hi team (and Dan and Steve J – can someone pass this on please?)
I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart 😍for being such a fantastic teacing & support team.
Everyone made my job so much easier by being willing to step up to challenges (even before we arrived!) – whatever I/we threw at you and you all went the extra mile whenever needed. Added to which your humour, friendship and acceptance of my limitations,  as well as helping me with all the planning beforehand, all made such an incredibly memorable and fulfilling first time for me in Uganda. My fears were dissolved once I’d arrived and I hope I was able to give my best too – at least most of the time!!!
I’ll be pleased to help progress next steps, whatever they are and to feed in to any review process…meanwhile, a question for the teachers, with Steve’s agreement:
Jane Vetiver wants to finish her PDC with us and Steve suggested she could do this on line. I’ve spoken to her and am happy to send her the presentations but she may need some support – and certainly Steve will need to talk through his plenary presentations with her. We discussed her aiming to do one of the principles per week (7-12 which she missed) and she’s keen to do a design for her mother’s land.
Question – if i forward the presentations to her, would individual teachers be up for dealing with any questions relating to your sessions please? This could be by email or Skype, for example.
Steve – are you happy with this approach?
Love to you all –
Angie xxx
PS it’s as hot here as Uganda so I’m pretty acclimatised already!

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