(this is an early announcement of a course we are currently developing and seeking funding for, if you are interested to hear more please contact us after May 1st 2019)
As a design system for food security, sustainable livelihood and land regeneration permaculture directly addresses many of the challenges faced by farmers, urban communities as well as displaced people throughout Africa. Permaculture theory is easy to learn and to apply, draws heavily on local experience and resources, and is spreading like wildfire in East Africa. Permaculture is also a process of developing social cohesion whilst combining design skills with a consensus approach to problem solving.
Over the last 3 years Sector39, PRI-Uganda and PermoAfrica Centre in Kenya have been working closely to build a team of permaculture trainers, practitioners and teachers as well as demonstration plots and training hubs. With its young and vibrant population permaculture is being readily adopted and adapted by its enthusiasts. There are already many models and case studies to offer as building blocks to achieve much greater ambitions.
We are proposing two, 2-week courses in November/ December 2019, the first in Kumi, Eastern Uganda and the other on Mfangano Island, Homa Bay, Kenya.
Kumi – 12 day full PDC in English language. Permaculture for teachers, community leaders and pioneers.
Mfangano – 12 day full PDC in Luo, Swahili and English. Permaculture for community transformation and teacher development.
This second course is especially aimed at Homa Bay area aspiring permaculture teachers and practitioners and especially Mfangano islanders who are farmers, teachers and community leaders.
S39 is UK based and a leading permaculture training enterprise with over 2 decades of experience and with 3 years experience working Uganda. We are involved in teaching permaculture for schools, teachers and community leaders in UK and Uganda and also for refugees and displaced people. We have recently completed a 6 month contract for the Norwegian Refugee Council delivering training to refugee and host community members in the Western Nile region.
PRI-Uganda is a non-profit organisation whose major objective is to empower individuals and communities to undertake sustainable agriculture and culture using the Permaculture Approach. We work in close partnership developing appropriate training experience and outcomes. See more at Permaculture Research Institute Uganda.
Founded by Paul Ogola who was a graduate from the first Uganda PDC with Sector39 in 2016. PermoAfrica Centre are a training organisation based in Homa Bay, Kenya. They reach out across their local farming community to train, support and develop capacity for permaculture farming and demonstration.
Paul has developed his own training centre, PermoAfrica Centre as well as a strong local network of farmers he has trained with his team
EK-FM is a community radio broadcaster based on Mfangano Island. Their core listener-ship covers the island and reaches the lake shore communities in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. They broadcast daily in Luo and Swahili reaching up to 300,000 listeners.
Wales/ Uganda farmers support link. Dolen have been a supportive partner to our interests in permaculture in East Africa since 2011 and are based in the same rural area of Mid Wales as Sector39.
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.
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!
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 have 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. And 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.
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.
The pupils have been getting more and more brave spending more time with us than before. Our hair is especially popular with the girls who are twisting it about and brushing through it at every opportunity we give them. We have also been able to introduce them to some card games like UNO and Go Fish which they have really enjoyed. They taught us a game called Mattatu which translates to just ‘cards’ and everyone knows how to play this one game. I have also tried to introduce games I know like African Bend-down and 21. The children have all loved getting to know us better and it’s been nice to share some games with one another.
With the help of the permaculture class we have been able to create a large compost area which they will be able to add to now that they understand the components and processes. The primary 6 class had the opportunity to plant their own trees into our new food forest garden. They chose mangoes and orange trees and under Charles’ supervision they carefully planted their trees into the hole of their choosing, digging the earth so it wasn’t so hard for the young plants and working together to water and mulch after planting each new tree. All together we planted over 45 trees with the classes help which will be producing fruits in a few years that can help supplement the children’s diets.
We have experienced the negative to everything growing so fast- weeds. The places that we spent hours weeding last week are beginning to turn green with weeds again and with so much land to upkeep it’s a huge job for everyone involved. We have had a big job weeding around the carrots and chardsome of which we harvested for the kitchens so that the children can have a more varied meal for once!
This week there has been a drumming soundtrack to our work, the children are rehearsing for a competition between local schools. They have been drumming, dancing and singing all week in preparation for their competition.
On Saturday night we ventured into the rehearsal studio (the dining hall) and were enthralled by the energy that everyone had, with even the smallest children up until 11pm dancing and drumming! Dan taught Grace how to drum -Ugandan Style!
The most exciting progress this week has been the compost toilet, it has taken us far longer than we anticipated but it is worth it! Grace and I have been quickly learning basic carpentry on the job! We decided to do this project at the wrong time in some ways due to the fact that both Charles and Luigi are away for the majority of the time we are building and our strength doesn’t match theirs! Thankfully we have had help from other people who are working around Sabina School. Initially we designed how we wanted the compost toilet to look and act from a book about composting in Africa (thanks to Dan Grove!), but we came across some issues and had to improvise their solutions! To begin with we built the frame with poles that were too thin and as a consequence not strong enough. We decided instead of working with what we had to remake the structure and now it is really strong! The sides are made from papyrus and it has a tin roof, we have included a ventilation pipe in our design, this is to try to minimise the amount of flies and smells in the toilet when we have finished.
We had help to build the pit for the toilet on Friday from some of the children around the School. In the heat of the day it was tough work for everyone involved and the children playing about us really made the time go quicker! We used one of the smallest children, Marion as a measure of how deep we were digging the hole. She took great pleasure with being lifted in and out of the hole. While we were digging some of the younger children were catching flying white ants and holding them in banana leaves, we were told that they taste really nice – we are yet to try any!
It has been a week since we made the first compost heap and today we have turned it over, it’s super impressive how quickly it is decomposing down and how hot it is!! Unfortunately the permaculture class on Monday was cancelled due to exams and so the children didn’t get to help us and understand the next stage in the process, hopefully they will be around next week when we do it again.
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. 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 teacher’s 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 halfway 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!
On Tuesday the 27th March, we left Wales and made our way to Manchester Airport, our first point of call, after one short flight we geared ourselves up for 10 hours on an uncomfortable airplane seat and some unsatisfying sleep. We touched down in Entebbe (Uganda) late on Tuesday night and as soon as they opened the airplane doors we were hit by a strong humid blast of Ugandan air!
Charles met us at the airport with a big smile, on our ride to our hostel in Kampala we were brought up to date on all the business affairs and we discussed a plan of action. When we finally got to bed it was past 3 am and we hadn’t had a decent sleep for about 48 hours!
We spent the next couple of days around Kampala, getting used to the heat and planning our trip to Sabina School. We watched as Kampala buzzed about us, with all the Boda Boda’s weaving in and out of the traffic and people selling their goods on the street sides.
On Thursday afternoon we left Kampala for Sanje, Charles went on ahead to sort the Taxi because if the drivers saw a Mzungu we would be charged high prices. We loaded all of our possessions onto the top of the bus and climbed aboard. As soon as the bus was full we set off on our way South on the road towards Tanzania.
We arrived at Sabina School late in the evening where a group of children came to meet us from the bus and helped carry our luggage to our new home, the Banda. We have been working on the site at Sabina School since, getting to know the children and the land.
We visited some projects of a local man in the Rakai District who farmed two areas in a town between Sanje and Masaka. We toured around his land and marvelled at his coffee plantation, jackfruit trees and aubergine plants. We went on to his 25 acre plot of land where he was growing oranges and mangoes with great success and kept pigs in order to use their manure to enrich his soil. He told us about his hopes to build an animal sanctuary and further develop his produce, creating a seed bank for the local community.
At the school itself we have been working on building up compost heaps around the grounds with natural resources from the school site as well recycled papers from the school buildings. Grace has began creating a nursery for seedlings with Luigi’s help and Charles planting orange and mango trees as well as improving the layout of the beds and gardens.
As it’s Easter weekend, the school only has a few children around but everyone who has stayed for the weekend has been getting involved with our projects. Learning about growing and compost with Grace and a few of them are picking up how to use a camera with me. With Charles they are learning how to make structures and helping to clear the space for beds to be made. As the future generation of Uganda and the school, they are vital assets to our work here at Sabina.
For Easter Sunday, there was a football match between local sides at the school that had a huge turn out just before the sunset. We have gotten used to our new way of living, eating delicious fruits and I have been discovering lots of the Ugandan foods.
One thing we were concerned about was our access to clean drinking water, and we didn’t want to be buying bottled water everyday and produce loads of waste. Thankfully when we were in Kampala we sourced a water filter from a market and carried it with us to Sabina, the water is filtered by using a clay pot with holes made by sawdust that has been burnt out of it creating holes for the water to filter through and we now have safe drinking water at hand.
Yesterday we got electricity in our Banda and now we can use lights at night and charge our phones.
After just one week in Uganda I am already starting to feel at home, thanks to the kindest of people and the welcome they have given us.