South Sudan refugee project: Using Permaculture design to rebuild lives

maaji permaculture group
s39 team permaculture uganda
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

s39 permaculture
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

permaculture s39
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

 

Much to say about refugees.

group-nyumaanzi800w.jpg
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.

Permaculture, refugees and Uganda

Its a hot arid area and water is trucked in daily from miles away on hastily built roads.

Since visiting Adjumani, Jube and Zone 5 refugee settlement areas in Northern Uganda recently, I don’t think I will be quite the same person again.

A huge influx of refugees has swamped the area with displaced people who in turn are having a devastating impact on the landscape.

Whole forests are disappearing as wood is the only easily available source of energy and land is being rapidly prepared for crop production. There is an air of determination rather than desperation as people there come to grips with what is a hugely challenging situation.

Who knew that Uganda accepted more refugees than any other country in the last 12 months? Over a million from Sudan alone!

From refugees to settlers
New arrivals are being invited to stay, offered ID cards, 30m square plots of land and basic tools and training to establish themselves along side host Ugandan communities.

There are people flooding in from the Congo as well where resource fuelled wars (for minerals to make mobile phones) is also greatly impacting the region. It puts the UK’s 12,000 Syrian in-comers over 5 years into perspective somewhat.

permaculture design course 2018Sector39 have been invited to work with the Norwegian Refugee Council along side our local partners to put long-term train plan together to help the region transition from a food aid reliance to self reliance, a transition that will take 4 or 5 years. Naturally many Sudanese will choose to return home when the chance arrives but the likelihood is after 3 or 5 years of settlement Uganda will start to feel like home for a great many of the settlers.

Sector39 have been supported by the Wales for Africa programme administered by Hub Cymru Africa

Next Steps Our next objective is to establish a training of teachers strategy which we are calling the Permaculture Academy. We have recognised the need to create literally millions of permaculture pioneers in Africa as well as across the world as this is possibly the most effective way to create climate resilience on a scale required of us by the Paris Agreement.

Sector39 have won support over the last year from the Welsh government to pioneer in this field and are grateful for the opportunities created by their help.

Their investment of £10,000 into our enterprise has set  a series of outcomes in motion. We have directly trained 25 students, via the full 2 week PDC course enabled by the grant. Since the course completed in June ’17 several of the graduates have progressed to start projects or initiatives of their own that are already having an impact.

  • PermoAfrica centre, Paul Odiwor Ogola, Homa Bay Kenya.
  • K5 village permacuture, Omito Abraham Owuor, Kenya
  • Nateete urban project, Ali Tebandeke Kampala Uganda
  • Busoga school project, Connie Kauma. Kamuli, Uganda
  • Nyero Rocks School project, Opolot Godfrey and Joseph, Uganda
  • Prince Sebe and Rama Mutebi permaculture outreach. Busia, Kenya

the list grows.. most are linked to this Facebook page

The next Sector39  course will also in clude several returning graduates on their way to become teachers and project leaders in their own right.

Charcoal is a cash income generator but it comes at great cost to the wildlife and environment. This picture was taken within a national park, a supposedly protected area

More importantly perhaps though, is with the momentum created so far we have found ourselves in government offices, talking to budget heads and opinion forers, to head teachers, planners and politicians all of whom can see the immense value and potential of permaculture.

This incredible opportunity to work with refugees and Norwegian programme has stemmed directly from the work supported by the Welsh Government as well as through networking and promotional activities in line with the grant makers requirements.

We have now completed two full PDC’s in Uganda, the first in 2016 was part funded by a a business development grant from our local Credit Union (Robert Owen Community Bank) and involvement from Dolen Ffermio, Wales Uganda link

The second PDC  2017 was in part funded by the Wales for Africa programme. and delivered through existing Wales/ Uganda support links. However through the process of the work and the huge number of people we have met in the process, we have come into contact with a great many of the permaculture practitioners and pioneers of the wider East African region.

It is hugely exciting to think where this might all lead and we intend to use this momentum to reach a great many more people.

S39 on  Go Fund Me
Donations subsidise course places for Africa permaculture pioneers

We are currently running a Go Fund Me campaign to raise money to support student costs on PDC courses for African participants