The ‘master plan’ concept is alive and well in Ethiopia – allowing low-income
locals to have their permaculture training subsidised through the tuition fees
of western students, who in turn benefit from indigenous wisdom
and exciting cultural immersion
This PDC will take place in Konso, south Ethiopia, from October 17 – 30th, 2011, at Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge. It will have a special focus on the application of Permaculture to rural African communities where the successful application of PC is a way to develop long term food security and community empowerment.
Facilitators: Rhamis Kent, Tichafa Makovere, Alex McCausland
Dates: October 17th to 30th
Location: Konso, South Ethiopia
Venue: Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge
Includes: Course fees, food and accommodation for the period of the course
Excludes: Transport, accommodation in Addis, travel insurance etc.
This PDC will be lead by Rhamis Kent, a certified trainer for the Permaculture Research Institute (PRI) of Australia, who joins forces with our regular team; veteran facilitator, Tichafa Makovere (SIED), of Zimbabwe, and Alex McCausland, Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge’s director. Rhamis’ experience of applying PC in the technologically advanced western setting, complemented by his background in advanced technical engineering, joins forces with Tichafa’s local knowledge and traditional African wisdom to produce a team which covers the needs of those looking to practice permaculture across the spectrum of conditions. This PDC is however of particular relevance for those interested in rural development and indigenous communities in Africa and the wider third world. The focus is on appropriate technology, soil and water harvesting, indigenous knowledge systems and permaculture in schools. Schools are a key focus point for the communities and a chance to influence the coming generation to shift away from the mentality of dependence on aid towards self sufficiency and sustainable resource use.
Rhamis Kent: Rhamis is a consultant with formal training in mechanical engineering (University of Delaware, B.S.M.E. ’95) and Permaculture-based regenerative whole systems design. He has previously worked for the renowned American inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen at DEKA R & D for almost 3 years, with subsequent engineering work ranging from medical device research and development to aerospace oriented mechanical design. After taking an interest in the design science of Permaculture, he sought extended training with Permaculture expert and educator Geoff Lawton at the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia. This led to his involvement with design work connected to the development of Masdar City in UAE after Mr. Lawton and his consulting company (Permaculture Sustainable Consultancy Pty. Ltd.) were contracted by AECOM/EDAW to identify solutions which fit the challenging zero emissions/carbon neutral design constraint of the project.
Rhamis recently lectured at Schumacher College (named after the influential economic thinker E.F. Schumacher) in Totnes, Devon UK about the application of Permaculture in post-industrial Detroit:
He is presently consulting with a delegation of Somali expatriates initiating ecological restoration and education work in Northern Somalia.
Given the rapidly growing interest in sustainable development, Mr. Kent hopes to bring to the attention of the investment community an aspect of the emerging sustainable economy that has yet to be seriously considered for significant financial support — Earth Repair/Ecosystem Restoration Work (ERW) and regenerative design.
Rhamis completed his Permaculture Design Course, Permaculture Aid Worker, Permaculture Teacher Training, Permaculture Earthworks, and 10-week internship at Zaytuna Farm in 2009. He has since taught PDCs in the U.S. and Palestine.
Tichafa Makovere: Tichafa grew up in a marginalised farming community in Shurugwe, Zimbabwe. He has developed a career in education over 30 years, including 20 years as a successful headmaster in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Botswana. In June 1994 he took a PDC at the Fambidzanai Permaculture Centre in Zimbabwe sponsored by the SCOPE (Permaculture in Schools and Colleges Outreach) Program. He went on to take first prize for best implementing school nationally, in 1995. He sat as secretary of the Permaculture Association of Zimbabwe (PAZ) for 2 years from 1994 – 1996 and subsequently as chair person from 1996 – 1998. He took the Training of Trainers Course and become the official lead facilitator for the SCOPE Program in 2001. His activities as a SCOPE, and more latterly ReSCOPE, have included: Drawing up 1-week and 2-week programs for SCOPE have included facilitating at both 1-week and 2-week workshops; producing training materials and handouts, making follow-up visits to schools; participation on the curriculum, training and fundraising committees for the advancement of Permaculture in Zimbabwean schools; attending and contributing to Permaculture planning workshops, reviewing and monitoring workshops for expansion of Permaculture in schools in 66 districts of Zimbabwe, representing SCOPE at international fora e.g. Environmental Education Association of Southern Africa (EEASA) and reviewing books on Permaculture before they were published e.g. SCOPE Learners Book [on Permaculture for primary and secondary schools].
In November 2008 Tichafa travelled to Ethiopia and took up the role of Resident PC Facilitator and Farm Manager for Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge in Konso, where he has to date facilitated a total of 17 PDCs. He subsequently went on to spear-head the formation of the Permaculture in Konso Schools Project working in partnership with various NGOs as well as SFEL itself. In June 2010 Tichafa formed his own independent consultancy, Shumba Integrated Eco Designs (SIED) and handed management of the model farm at Strawberry Fields over to Alex McCausland, SFEL’s Director.
Alex McCausland: Alex is developing as a Permaculture practitioner and trainer. His lifelong passion for ecology and the allowed him to excel in school and at university in that area. But, having graduated with a BSc in Biological Sciences in 2003, he became disillusioned the reductionist science and turned his back on academia. He dedicated two years to travelling the world, WOOFing, working on farms and learning about cultures and languages, during which time he became interested in development and food security issues. In 2005 he heard about Permaculture and realised it combined the holistic aspects of ecology which he had been so fascinated with the practical orientation and community empowerment that the academic approach completely lacked. He dreamed up a plan to establish a project which would promote Permaculture as a means to achieve sustainable development in the third world. The next year he came across Ethiopia, seeing a land of great ecological wealth and yet economic poverty and food insecurity, he resolved that this would be the location for the project. He took his first PDC later that year in Catalunya, Spain.
In 2007 he returned to Ethiopia to establish a viable Permaculture–based business which would facilitate the local community to learn about and practice PC. It ended up being an Eco Lodge in the South of the country, which went on to become the site for Ethiopia’s first model PC farm. Unable to think of a better name for it at the critical time, it ended up being called Strawberry Fields. The model farm has developed with input from a number of volunteers, interns and PC practitioners, such as Guy Rees, Dan Palmer and Tichafa. Working alongside these people Alex has developed and honed his skills as a PC designer and practitioner over the last 3 years. During this time the project has hosted a total of 19 PDCs to date, 2 lead by Rosemary Morrow and 17 by Tichafa. Alex took over the running of the demonstration farm in June and has designed and developed systems such as drip irrigation and terraced vegetable beds, black water, composting and compost powered water heating. Alex will explain and demonstrate some of these systems as part of his contribution to the PDC.
The Venue: Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge (SFEL)
The venue for the PDC will be Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge, the first working PC demonstration site in Ethiopia, where a model design has been established over the last 3½ years on degraded land to incorporate elements such as drip irrigation, grey and black water re-use, composting toilets, hot composting, tree nursery and solar fridge, solar power, solar shower and much more.
SFEL integrates an Eco-Lodge, model PC farm, an organic restaurant, a PC design training facility and runs a program of trekking and community based cultural activities in Konso. SFEL’s project objectives are to promote alternative livelihoods for the Konso community through facilitating community inclusion in eco-tourism activities, and to promote food security locally and more widely in Ethiopia, through Permaculture. SFEL employs 20 permanent staff and up to 30 temporary workers seasonally.
Location: Konso, SNNPRS, Ethiopia
For interesting articles shedding more light on the location and its people, see Alex’s author profile.
Konso Woreda is in the South Ethiopian Great Rift Valley (situated at 5’15’ N 37’30’ E). Konso’s capital, Karat-Konso, is at 1600m altitude, located 85km south of Arba Minch, and around 590km south of Addis Ababa. The Konso people have a unique culture, based on sedentary mixed agriculture, which distinguishes them from their neighbours in the lowlands to the east and west who are pastoralists. Their intensely social mode of life and love of hard physical labour is unique in Ethiopia. Their villages are remarkable for the beauty and simplicity of their workmanship, constructed entirely of natural materials, cultivated or gathered from the surroundings, and ringed by massive dry-stone walls, at least a meter thick and two meters high. Stone-lined pavements run between the housing compounds and the stones have often become polished to a shine by long years of service in the village’s transport system.
Konso’s agricultural system is renowned for its terracing, which has been constructed over large areas of the rugged landscape by centuries of communal labour. The terraces are crafted to balance maximum infiltration of rain water, with adequate drainage in times of deluge so they don’t collapse. They are planted with sorghum, intercropped with a range of other species; including trees, Moringa stenopetala (also called the cabbage tree) Terminalia birowni, and Cordia africana; shrubs such as pigeon pea, coffee and chat (Catha edulis) (a cash crop) and annuals including sunflowers, maize, millet, chick peas, various bean species, cotton and cassava. The terraces are fertilised with wastes from the villages including partially burned plant residues mixed with animal dung, which acts to keep the soil fertile.
Today Konso suffers increasingly frequent food insecurity due to climate change. The UNDP’s Rapid Assessment Report: Konso Special Wereda, SNNPR (1999) states that; “since the 1950s, drought induced famines have hit Konso and the immediate area almost once every ten years.” “Konso was devastated by the droughts in 1973/74 and 1983/84”. In 2008/9 Konso was again suffering food shortage due to droughts.
The PKSP seeks to preserve aspects of indigenous (agri)culture which benefit the local ecology, but fill gaps in the traditional system by incorporating new practises, ideas and resources such as rain-water harvesting, small scale irrigation, nutrition gardens, tree nurseries, small livestock, appropriate labour-saving design-technology, alternative energy and nutrients based on locally available resources.
To date teachers from 8 schools have been trained in Permaculture and produced PC designs for their school compounds. From those, three schools have produced impressive model PC sites under the pilot phase of the project. The PKSP is eventually looking to expand to all 70 schools in Konso with likely support from the UK-based Ethiopia Permaculture Foundation. Visits to the school model sites will be included as part of the PDC.