South Sudan refugee project: Using Permaculture design to rebuild lives

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S39 Team Bidibidi

June to November have been a momentous time for our training teams here in Western Nile. In just 6 months we have been tasked with the challenge of introducing permaculture methods in this untamed region where refugees greatly outnumber the indigenous population.

In partnership with Norwegian Refugee Agency Sector39 has led on a 6 month training program for refugees and host community members. Many of the trainees are not experienced farmers or gardeners, more typically cattle herders and grazers. Here in Western Nile they have been given a plot of land and challenged to supplement their basic food aid with what they can grow in kitchen gardens, using organic and permaculture approaches

This is a 15 minute narrated slideshow with thoughts about the final phase of the project with thoughts on how it can be best continued. (below)

Interviews and testimonies

This first interview is with NRC translator and host community member Julius, he has fully involved himself in the project although he wasn’t present at the initial training. He makes some very perceptive observations about the impact of the project and has taken on many of the ideas and insights himself as he can observe them working effectively.

This 2nd video with one of the members, Opio Grace is very revealing and worth listening to. I left in the local language as well as the translation (translated section from 2:10)  as I wanted to share her voice as well. It is clear that permaculture has had a significant impact on her life in just 6 months.

“Permaculture has changed by life”          Opio Grace

Audio testimony from a Maaji 3 team member

Zone 4 BididBidi have the aspiration of securing a 2 acre plot to develop a permaculture enterprise and demonstration center. The map below is the product of group discussion and consultation over several days. We have already worked together to create a small training plot right next to the church we have been using as a class room.

We would hope very much to have the opportunity to support these pioneers over the establishment phases of this project.

Community liaison link and permaculture team member Rashida outlines the plan for a demonstration plot for Zone 4 Bidibidi

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Sector39 training and action support team, Maaji, October 2018
Much elation on completing the training, hopefully just the beginning of much bigger things to come.
Food forest, perfect tropical permaculture

The permaculture team members Maaji settlement

Slides of the Maaji team design presentation

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A creative vision, Permaculture Training Centre Maaji, Uganda

Permaculture Training Centre Maaji,

This audio track is a presentation from the members design team which focused on building and the carpentry skills as an enterprise within training centre sketched above.

Fuel Efficient Stove project

This slideshow and narration explores progress developing and promoting fuel efficient stoves with the community  members

Next steps

Proposal: This  project would benefit from support for a minumum ofr two years.

– ambition is to establish a permaculture training centre which will will transition into a stakeholder owned and managed fully independent enterprise.

exploring a training and Enterprise development model that can be self replicating and able to generate much of the resource need to sustain from within its own internal economy.

The vision is to work closely with the members from the training to create a new and wholly refugee (stakeholder)  owned enterprise that will serve as a permaculture training and demonstration hub for the region. It would incubate several related enterprises that initially would be the service providers for the training centre.

Building livelihood, enterprise and food security is the aim and to create a thriving learning hub at the centre of this new emerging community. We envisage the centre acting a hub for training and outreach across the Western

Nile region, developing many of the resources and skills needed to create a shift in the prevailing methodology for food and livelihood security.

Project proposal summary document below

NRC S39 permaculture project outline

 

Permaculture on the front line

Permaculture and refugees initiative is a Norwegian Refugee Council funded project, led by Sector39 training team.

Images from the third Action Support visit to the Maaji region of Northern Uganda.  Sector39 led on the training for these settlers Uganda; in return for training and in field support the 20 participants are preparing to work as outreach permaculture trainers for the their region. Each has the target to reach 5 more individuals in the region and to support them to set up their own training and demonstration plot to support the uptake of permaculture design ideas and techniques.

In support of this work Sector39 are developing a training manual that focuses on the Holmgren permaculture principles and ethics.  Permaculture is a design system for solving problems, not a set of techniques to be blindly replicated.  We hope that individual trainers will learn how to adapt ideas to fit individual circumstances. So far there has been a great deal of enthusiasm for the work and many participants have already been successful in reaching out to and recruit the net tier level of trainers.

Here is the first draft version, we plan to translate this into 5 languages.

b4This is a new approach to training in these circumstances. The intention is to create pathways from reliance on external aid donations to resilient communities meeting much of their own needs from local resources.

Green team, ready to take permaculture to the masses

Another awesome moment to witness, the zeal and commitment from these Gentlemen and ladies. They are now a part of the ” Green Warriors ” ready to take on the bull by the horns. Well done S39 team and yes NRC, much appreciation for keeping the promise. Gerald Jagwe, S39 trainer

https://www.gofundme.com/refugee-enterprise-support?sharetype=teams&member=496036&rcid=r01-153744812937-ab3544e92efd4e8f&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_w

Much to say about refugees.

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Team Nyumanzi, host community, refugees, trainers, we are all one!

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.

Refugee Project: Norway, Wales, South Sudan, Uganda.

The beginning of our journey to the North!

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!

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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!

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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.

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