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Looking Back at a PDC in Southern Ethiopia

A personal account from taking the Permaculture Design Course at Strawberry Fields Eco-Lodge, Konso, Southern Ethiopia, 9-15 June 2010

Together with three Ethiopians and eight other international participants, I recently attended a 72-hour permaculture design course hosted by Alex McCausland and the Strawberry Fields Eco-Lodge in the Konso province of southern Ethiopia.

Tichafa Makovere – 15 years
experience around southern Africa

The course venue was fantastic. Particularly appealing were:

  1. the classroom, a small building located on a hill and with walls opened to the surroundings and incoming breeze;
  2. the accommodation, consisting of private tukuls located on a ridge for scenery, and with a comfortable bed, a mosquito net, private toilet, and nearby showers;
  3. the organic food restaurant, with both indoor and outdoor seating tables, pleasant food from the garden, and inspired architecture and design;
  4. the encompassing permaculture garden – well designed and thriving with biodiversity;
  5. the very friendly Ethiopian staff and workers, and foreign volunteers.

The course content had an appropriate mix of theory and practical exercises, was highly relevant, systematic and nicely structured, and not the least was extremely well presented. The teacher and facilitator, Tichafa Makovere, from Zimbabwe, has a unique African experience base in education in general and in permaculture specifically. He is a truly gifted motivator and pedagog, and a permaculture top expert for Africa.

In addition, the Strawberry Fields Eco-Lodge has a vision of implementing permaculture in southern Ethiopia, starting with 13 village clusters in Konso. Already, after less than two years, implementation has taken place in 5 villages. The vision is multifaceted, consisting of:

  1. establishing permaculture at schools, through provision of seeds, seedlings and consultancy, through teacher involvement (initial 72-hour training course, 3-day consultancy to get the garden started), student involvement (having them participate in maintaining the permaculture garden during class hours and operating a fruit and vegetable market), parent involvement (through fascination over the school garden, and as consumers/customers for the fruit and vegetable produce);
  2. generating interest in the village communities for the sustainability, drought resistance, biodiversity, and year-round productivity of permaculture, which in turn will lead to gardening and small scale farming away from the schools and into the family compounds (facilitated by consultancy and material supply from Strawberry Fields, both towards other schools in a given village cluster and towards village residents and farmers).

The unique vision described above is further stimulated by making an annual permaculture proficiency competition between the schools, where they are evaluated on a number of criteria, and awarded various prizes such as stationary and sports and games equipment for both girls and boys (football, etc). It is a huge asset to the permaculture design course at Strawberry Fields that the participants are taken out to the schools and villages to witness these islands of permaculture starting to thrive, within an otherwise monoculture-dominated farming landscape.

The general impression I am left with is that the Strawberry Fields Eco-Lodge has all the necessary processes in place to generate much value for both the local community, for the regional expansion of permaculture in Ethiopia, for training up-and-coming permaculturists (both nationals and foreigners), and for attracting visitors in search of sustainable ecotourism, relaxation, and Ethiopian friendliness.

Pierre Theriault
Quebec, Canada

One Comment

  1. Im pleased that the course is inspiring and the project thriving, and that you contributed to the permaculture programme in Ethiopia by attending and feeding back your experience. I worked on the project from February to April 2008 as a permaculture consultant setting up systems to prepare for Rosemary Morrows PcD that Summer and am glad the potential has been realised. Prosperity to the Permaculture!

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