Final preparations for the Permaculture Design Course!

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.

Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.

 

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.

Problems and Solutions

 

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 chard some 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.

Growth at Sabina School

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!

Welcome To Sabina Home

Week 1

 

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. 

East Africa’s first Permaculture Convergence, plans and advance notice

permaculture design course 2018 permaculture convergenceA convergence is a coming together, in this case we are hoping to bring together leading practitioners and advocates for permaculture design in East Africa. The aim is to accelerate the already considerable momentum in the region by profiling some of the amazing work already underway in the region.

Since 2015 Sector39 have taught two full PDCs in Uganda and are planning the third currently. We have also formed a supportive partnership with two Ugandan organisations to enable us to extend our regional ambitions. East Africa is literally hungry for permaculture and there is so much that can be done to significantly improve people’s lives and resilience utilising resources that are largely already available.

It seems an obvious step forward for our East African partnership to try to raise the profile for permaculture by creating an event that demonstrates the many possibilities for its positive application. We are inviting some of the region’s biggest enthusiasts as speakers and workshop leaders and planning for an event that can bring together students from our first three courses with school heads, politicians and other scoial and financial gatekeepers with whom we might build new and mutually beneficial relationships.

The planned venue couldn’t be more ideal as it is home the most mature designed food forest in whole region and the school has embraced permaculture design and ideas within its core curriculum, even the Head Teacher has completed a PDC!

Sabina school is near to Rakai in central Uganda, the region that was the epi-centre of the global AIDS epidemic. They are still in recovery from the terrible loss of life, creativity and human resource but are well on track to have the situation fully under control by 2030. Modern drugs have massively reduced the mortality rate, it is no longer a death sentence and people are open about their HIV status. That said there are still many orphans in the region and a great deal of work to be done to compenstate for the terrible effets of the epidemic.

sabina permaculture garden

Sabina students in the school’s forest garden. Bananas, avocado, pumpkin, jack fruit, there is food everywhere!

The 2-day conference is intended to both bring permaculture practitioners, students and pioneers together as well as creating a platform to celebrate and showcase achievements to inspire and demonstrate possibilities for new and interested parties. There will be talks, demonstrations, a permaculture futures forum and a school partnerships proposal launch.

As well as site tours and demonstrations at Sabina there will be a chance to visit The Permaculture Research of Uganda, (PRI-UG) which has an ecological farm and demonstration site less than an hour from the intended venue and that is en route for anyone traveling from Kampala. The day immediately before and after the actual convergence will be open days for the site with guided tours and discussion forums planned

Political persuasion.

Permaculture belongs in schools. Imagine the anxiety for young adults when confronted with the fact that the next 30 years of their lives is going to dominated by climate change, a dwindling oil supply and the possibility if never-ending resource wars accompanied by ceaseless waves of refugees.

Currently it feels like no one in the main stream is offering solutions or ways forward they are battoning down the hatches and tightening border controls. We need to offer more than vision of a sustainable future, we need to provide the mechanism for change and pathways for empowerment and inclusion in that process and where better to begin than at school?

We have the support of the minister for education for Buganda and the national minister for education was a founding force behind Sabina school where the event will be held  so there exists a solid foundation to link the event to movement on a political level. When arrived in Kampala some 6 weeks ago our first meeting was with Mr Mula, permanent secretary to the Vice President of Uganda, he offered us his full support and strongly endorsed the work of Charles Mugarura and partners BEU Permaculture. We are looking to the younger generation to take the lead he emphasised.

launch_portrait_selfie

Launch of BEU permaculture, Uganda’s most dynamic permaculture team and partners with Sector39 delivering this event

Sector39’s education team have since began work on 12 educational units for use in school that will introduce permaculture’s key principles to the curriculum, not as a subject but as cross curricular themes.

The East African Convergence gives us a timeline now to develop and profile this work. We have a key partner school in Wales to develop and trial the materials with as well as an emerging school network in Uganda so we are absolutely ready to take this work to the next level.

Pre booking and sponsorship packages are available to help us develop these potentials and we are also reaching out to teachers and educators to help realise these ambitions.

Delivery Partnership

  • The Sector39 education team are taking a lead role in organising this event, please contact us for bookings, sponsorship and other offers of help. There will be volunteering and internship opportunities as well.
  • On the ground logistics, site development, volunteer hosting plus marketing support and branding services are being provided  by BEU Permaculture, Kampala.
  • PRI-UG are offering demonstration visits, networking a practical support fir workshops and site development.
  • PermoAfrica centre and K5 community permaculture are linking us to on the ground community permaculture practical work in Kenya and will be profiling their 2 years of developmental experience for the conference.
  • Key note speakers tbc. We are  inviting a leading Author on East African botany, a leading agronomist and politician in the educational field to outline the key themes of the conference.