Over the course of 2019 Llanfyllin BRACE initiative held a series of regular bi-weekly meetings along the theme of community responses to climate change and ecological emergency. These meetings brought together a range of interested people and an overlapping of us ordinary folk trying to figure out what to do with the Llanfyllin town council, with special interest groups like Severn Rivers Trust, Powys CC roads and verges, with school governors, the church, and farmers.
One of the outputs of this was a connection between the Llanfyllin town council, the public hall committee, where the town council meet, and this eclectic group of citizens wanting to channel their frustration and energy into something positive and tangible. An important note in the Transition Handbook is don’t just have meetings but make sure to prioritise creating observable, visible outcomes and changes. Having such a coalition was the genesis of this community garden project.
Previously as a community we have been able to establish Cae Bodfach Heritage Orchard in the field behind our local supermarket, so with this as a track record and new friends and connections this new space became available, an odd, steeply sloping truncated piece of land behind the public institute. It had become to be seen as a bit of a liability, not really used or productive and costing limit budget for strimming and hedge trimming. All it really takes is a bit of vision and there is always a potential for a community group to develop in a way that meets community needs.
We were exactly at that point of project genesis when the opportunity to apply to the NGS scheme came along, and we hurriedly fired off an application. Things were delayed as the national quarantine happened, so we took the plunge and ordered a few items in advance so we could be ready to hit the ground running as the new season unfolded. We were all ready with a worked out plan to get the key elements such as the raised beds in place, and make rapid progress as the season unfolded and we finally heard the grant application had been successful.
Since those early days when a small group of people was driving this project forward it has quickly grown to achieve a momentum and shape of its own. In a few short months this has come together with what is really a small injection of capital investment, but precisely enough to set something in motion that can create its own energy to become self sustaining.
We are enormously grateful to the Llanfyllin Institute and Town Council and of course the National Garden Schemes for supporting this venture and helping us get started. Next to arrive is our tool shed and that will allow us to purchase tools and other things like propagators with the remaining funds from NGS.
The biggest thanks of course to every single person who has volunteered at the garden over previous months. Tuesday mornings are the key volunteer slot and anyone is welcome.
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 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.
Audio testimony from a Maaji 3 team member
Zone 4 BidiBidi 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 classroom.
We would hope very much to have the opportunity to support these pioneers over the establishment phases of this project.
The permaculture team members Maaji settlement
Slides of the Maaji team design presentation
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.
Proposal: This project would benefit from support for a minimum of two years.
– ambition is to establish a permaculture training centre which 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 as 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.
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 in Uganda; in return for training and in field support the 20 participants are preparing to work as outreach permaculture trainers for 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 recruiting the next tier level of trainers.
This 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.
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
Great to see progress at Maaji refugee and host community settlements. Of all the permaculture related innovations we have been developing and demonstrating and for good reason, the energy efficient stove has proved the most popular.
Here is a narrated slide show of progress from the second week of in field visits following on from the June 12 day permaculture training provided by the Sector39 team.
The 2 week residential course is designed to create a permanent shift in the way people think. It is an immersion in permaculture ideas to the point that the participant starts to perceive and see things differently in a way they can’t un-see them.
I sense that many who attend a residential PDC are looking to create a watershed point in their lives, where long held convictions are turned into actions. There is no doubt that completing a PDC is both a reassertion and discovery of ones own core values and convictions and a deliberate attempt to forge a pathway towards ones own stated goals and ambitions. If you really want to turn your own ideas into actions do a PDC. Not least because you are surrounded by people at a similar stage in their own development, you tend not to forget your PDC classmates, long term bonds and important connections can be made.
As a teacher of 40 full PDC’s I have started to spot the patterns and see how it really works. It is always a pleasure to see people go through this journey and I am always genuinely interested to see where they go with it and what they do next. Our most recent course, for refugees from South Sudan was taught through two simultaneous translators to a group who spoke 8 different languages. Class content was pared to a minimum and we completed 16 different practical activities over the fortnight.
Interestingly the results were exactly the same or even more powerful than our usual format we use in the UK. Permaculture really works, it is adaptable, powerful and relevant and I think it is one of the best we have to shift the mindset of humanity to a harmonious relationship with each other and our living planet.
Our next one is planned for November in Wales, staying a housing co-operative and Air B+B in the mid Wales borders.
Angie circulated a great email which prompted me to reply below, I surprised myself 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 this 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 report backlogs. 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.
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. Perhaps 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 don’t worry about all the things that didn’t. The quality of the conversation around the edges and the networking made alone, made it a runaway 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 with a Dec course at Sabina so I hope also what we have done there will create momentum for 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 won’t 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 soils, with translation and discussion that took 45 minutes and 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 her 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 apologised 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 realisation. It is a changed place, for once everyone is in agreement. Permaculture really works, it puts priorities in the right order to think about things in terms of opportunities rather than limitations.
Angie do you mind if i repost your email on the blog, it’s not too personal is it? I want to 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 the Adjumani course. We did 16 practicals, all rehearsed, although we didn’t fit everything in that we could have. It was all learning by doing, 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 for the designs. Instead of trying to teach SADIMET to a bunch of semi literate cattle herders (and a vast assortment alongside) 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 incentivised to train 5 second tier trainers, through our ongoing 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 that 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 as 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 a course 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 their 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 it’s 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 individual S39 team members growing as people or getting to know each other better, but also seeing the course participants 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!
Steven Jones Permaculture education and consultancy
On Jun 26 2018, at 3:43 pm, Angie & Andy Polkey <firstname.lastname@example.org> 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 teaching & 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 online. 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 –
PS it’s as hot here as Uganda so I’m pretty acclimatised already!
The Permaculture Design Certificate 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 pyrolysis 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 by 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 halved. 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 of 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 everywhere 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.
It’s 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 desire 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 has 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 Mandala 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 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 structure’s 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 borders 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 Mandala 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 sowing 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 sown 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 rain storms which again disrupt our work schedules.