During June this year Tanzania hosted its second ever permaculture design course. Twenty-eight participants from around the globe gathered in the bustling northern town of Arusha for 11 wonderful days of learning and sharing. The Australian based non-government organization (NGO) FoodWaterShelter (FWS) initiated the organization of the PDC, motivated by their desire to see permaculture spread into wider circles throughout East Africa through the ‘ripple in the pond effect’.
In 2007 FWS was formed in Australia and registered as an NGO in Tanzania. Their pioneer project Kesho Leo (tomorrow today) is an eco-friendly, early learning children’s village in the Sinoni area of Arusha. Using permaculture principles it strives towards meeting the food, water, shelter and energy needs of the Kesho Leo residents and also to provide community educational opportunities and create income. The desire and demand for self-reliance, sustainability and productivity without chemical dependency is rapidly growing in Tanzania in many spheres, the framework for which can be provided through permaculture.
The course was initiated by one of the FWS board members Robert Cork; an environmental engineer from Australia. He coordinated teachers from Tanzania and America, and participants from Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, Germany, Senegal, UK and America. The teaching team was led by Steve Whitman; a community and environmental planner, and permaculture instructor from New Hampshire, USA. Tanzanian teaching counterparts from Tengeru College of Agriculture and Livestock Resources, Tengeru Horticultural Research and Training Institute, Global Service Corps and the farm manager; John Laizer from Kesho Leo provided balanced Afro-centric solution-based perspectives. The formal teaching was complemented by supplementary sessions on appropriate technology by Global Cycle Solutions based in Arusha, Integrated Pest Management from the Ministry of Agriculture in Tengeru and the integration of medicinal plants into permaculture plots by a Medical Herbalist from the UK. The broad mix of participants provided a wealth of knowledge and a solid network for sharing and supporting the spread of the permaculture network in East Africa; exemplifying the permaculture principle of ‘integrate not segregate’.
The schedule included both theoretical and practical aspects of permaculture design. Dynamic classroom teaching was followed by field visits to inspiring sites in and around Arusha. These included visiting a mushroom cultivation project for small-scale farmers, The Joshua Foundation; a teacher training centre founded on permaculture / organic farming principles, primary schools and villages investing in rainwater harvesting supported by the American NGO ‘Save the Rain’ and many more. Two of the highlights of the field visits included an exemplary small scale garden based entirely on permaculture principles that demonstrated aquaculture, agroforestry, vanilla growing, livestock keeping and no-till agriculture. The owner of the 1.5 acre plot, Mr. Zadok had, using permaculture and organic gardening principles nutritiously fed his family whilst supporting three of his children at university; an inspirational achievement for a ‘subsistence’ farmer in Tanzania. The Kesho Leo site provided the group with a whole host of remarkable examples of sustainable solutions including composting toilets, extensive rainwater harvesting systems, aquaculture, a biodigestor project, rocket stoves, windmills, grey water recycling, money-maker water pumps, an organic market garden, drip irrigation systems and solar energy production.
The staff and residents of Kesho Leo embrace permaculture and integrate it into everything they do in their own site and community. The farm manager John Laizer has been driving the horticultural aspect of KL forward with passion and humour. Having attended school in the Sinoni community and becoming a subsistence farmer after failing to complete secondary school, he was recruited in 2009. A committed organic farmer with an instinctual knowledge and love of gardening and nature, his work has been integral to drawing attention from the local community due to the garden’s productivity despite environmental restrictions of the dry seasons. They have been training local community members in organic / sustainable gardening techniques and slowly helping to transform their community.
The success of the PDC hosted by FWS at Kesho Leo demonstrates their commitment to extending their work and knowledge to other NGOs and projects in Tanzania and building relationships of caring, sharing and support throughout East Africa.
Lucie Bradley is a Medical Herbalist and Ethnobotanist living and working between the UK and East Africa.
- FoodWaterShelter — www.foodwatershelter.org.au
- Global Cycle Solutions — https://gcstz.com
- Global Service Corps — www.globalservicecorps.org