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.

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!

Paul’s permaculture plot

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.
Paul recieves a data projector donated to the PermoAfrica centre’s teaching project

 

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!

 

Steven Jones