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Update on Karat Primary School’s Permaculture Progress, Ethiopia

The ‘after map’ design — does not resemble the actual implementation

This is an update on my recent post on new school projects here in Ethiopia. We visited Karat Primary School again as a group on Friday 28th October 2011. The group comprised Alex McCausland, Tichafa Makovere, Rhamis Kent (an international permaculture trainer accredited by the PRI Australia) and five permaculture students; two Ethiopians from Fiche, North Shoa, two Mexicans and one American, who were participating on an international Permaculture Design Certificate course at SFEL.

Tichafa (consultant) gives information on the project to the visiting PDC group

The work on the ground at Karat Schools was impressive and has been developing well. Effective rainwater-harvesting infrastructure had been built using a range of techniques — some of which were quite innovative.

Mr Halake, the headmaster, explains about the project to the group

Zone one gardens had been established in fenced off areas between the classroom blocks where some vegetables had begun to be grown. The previously built concrete drains running along the edges of the classroom buildings had been dammed at 3m intervals and holes broken into their sides so they would irrigate the adjacent vegetable beds with run-off from the classroom roves.

Stone lined path between Zone one vegetable bed area

However there was not a great variety of vegetables planted in these beds. It was mostly limited to salad (which is generally not consumed by the school or the local community) and sweet potato, which is consumed, but it should be balanced in abundance with other crops. There was also a lack of mulching, with soil amendments limited to manure, but was missing a litter layer above this to protect the soil surface. Some new tree seedlings including papaya, banana and moringa had been established in these areas and some other fruit trees which were previously planted were obviously benefiting from the improved water availability and growing fast while also bearing fruit, such as guava and mango.

Swale with spillway leading to an infiltration pit

A well dug swale had been established and planted with fruit trees just below the school entrance and driveway. This was impressively mad and holding water well. A spillway at one end led into a series of infiltration pits also planted with bananas and likewise effectively holding water for infiltration into the ground. This area would correspond to Zone 2 in a Permaculture design. Another large area corresponding to Zone 3 was extensively planted with sweet potatoes and beans.

Fruit trees and sweet potato stems being delivered to the school

We used the visit to the school as an opportunity to deliver 250 tree seedlings including the following:

  • Leucaena — a nitrogen fixing legume tree that can be intercropped with fruit trees the build soil fertility and provide mulch by “chop-and-drop” (200 seedlings)
  • Mango (5 seedlings)
  • “Kishta” — a local fruit tree variety (10 seedlings)
  • Siringa — a shade tree and good pioneer to colonise bare ground in harsh growing conditions (15 seedlings)
  • Moringa — a local staple food tree-crop (20 seedlings)

We also delivered metal-handled tools to the school for their use on the garden as a reward for their good achievements to date: 2 shovels, 2 picks and one hoe, with the promise to deliver more tools if they continue their good work.

Tools that were delivered to the school: 2 shovels, one pick, 2 hoes

We also asked to see the original design work which the teachers had prepared during the permaculture training. It is usually expected of the school to have their ‘before map’ and ‘after map’ displayed so that people can see how the implementation is progressing relative to the plan envisioned. However when we went to the teachers’ office the design maps were not displayed and the teachers even had some trouble locating them. When the ‘after’ map was found it was clear that the implementation done on the ground bore little resemblance to the teacher’s design. We would recommend on this basis that the teachers update their after map and henceforth keep it clearly displayed on the office wall.

Following the visit to Karat the group went to Gocha Primary School and delivered a similar load of tools and seedlings, although I did not go with the group so am unable to report on this.

Leucaena seedlings being delivered to the school

Rhamis and two of the students who took the course — Nigst and Stephanie.

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