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.

Not long to go!

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 it 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 every where 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.

Its 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 want 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 we’ll balanced soil in order to secure adequate nutrients for the plants.

World on fire – time to send the fire brigade

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Is it Portugal, Spain, California? Right now it feels that the parts of the World not under water are on fire.

How many super-storms does it take before we notice something deeply terrifying is happening?

There is a shit storm of consequences coming our way and precious little we can do about it sat home on the sofa. We have 30 years of change before us and the sooner we start the better. I think a great many people are now feeling an increasing sense of alarm as the symptoms of the climate crisis present themselves with increasing regularity.

This is what J H Kunstler calls a clusterfuck.

  • Un-seasonal weather, cycles of deluge and drought stress the forests and create conditions where whole landscapes become vulnerable to outside forces.
  • Austerity strapped authorities cut back on essential maintenance and services, staff and resources are trimmed from budgets.
  • Hurricane and gales of a ferocity never seen before sweep in, turbo-charged by the extra warm oceans, reaching areas never before exposed to such forces.
  • Be it  the firestorm that just engulfed central Portugal or the deluge that drowned Houston or the ferocious winds that destroyed whole island nations such as Puerto Rico the scene is set for catastrophe.

We have to learn to think and plan differently.

We will need to realise that authorities and services will not be there if they are not invested in and trained for new challenges. Time and time again we see essential services breaking down or overloaded when these events happen, consequently the first thing we need to prepare our selves for is partial or temporary systems collapse.

The key word is RESILIENCE, community resilience is our first line of defense to help us overcome whatever catastrophes might be waiting for us.

Tesco’s distribution center might get carpet bombed by the Taliban, three feet of snow may cover the nation for a month or maybe a freeze so hard every pipe bursts – we don’t know where the next challenge might come from. In a world where we are not much more than three meals away from social breakdown, the just in time delivery model of the highly specialized modern world does not stand up well to external shocks.

How do you create clean drinking water or cook from basics? How long can we live without power or internet? Could we manage for long without proper sanitation? How long would it take us to re-create a more local food economy? Addressing these and a great many more issues through, training, skills sharing and innovation is becoming an imperative.

Puerto Ricans are being told it might be a year before normal service is resumed, what if another super-storm happens along in the mean time?

The world is not having a run of bad luck, it has entered a new reality; a climate changed reality where extreme weather events not only become more common but they join together to create monster catastrophes that we might struggle to ever fully recover from.

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What comes next? Ecological development

Yes we have to organise to build resilience from the ground up but we also need to pursue a new long-term strategy. Lets call it ecological development for now. China have already embraced this model; recognising that development has to compliment and enhance the living world not just be slightly less damaging than before. This really is new thinking for a government and they are dead serious about it as well.

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Cities that can capture CO2 and clean the air, whilst providing water filtration and wildlife habitat, food and waste processing.

We call that Permaculture design

Shiny new green cities aside, as sexy as they are may not be the full solution. Most of our cities are already built, sub-urbs too and the greater challenge is to redesign and re-purpose the resources we already have invested in.

There isn’t a simple solution but we need to find a consensus of what is happening to us and use that to formulate a bigger plan. Here at Sector39 we are looking for the teachers, leaders, innovators and change makers who can help create new options and build that consensus.

We have been teaching and demonstrating permaculture in many ways since 1990’s and much of that experience has been channeled into our ground breaking courses.

Our PDC is ground breaking and life changing, bringing together teachers and practitioners, projects and enterprises. We keep our charges as low as possible and offer a life changing experience that for many is the start of a new direction in their own lives.

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We would love to hear from you if you are interested in being part of this course. Together we can build a new reality and create new possibilities.