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The Spreading of the Permaculture Revolution in Northern Central Tanzania, and Beyond…

Seven years since the first formal permaculture training in Tanzania by Geoff Lawton, there is now a vast network of mutually interdependent and resilient communities of knowledgeable permaculture practitioners in the country.

As Global Resource Alliance (GRA) leads the way in Western districts, in the city of Arusha in central northern Tanzania, the Australian non-profit organisation FoodWaterShelter, for whom I worked as the project manager, spearheaded the development of formal permaculture training by delivering two-week Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) courses in both English and Kiswahili. In the space of two short years permaculture is spreading like wild fire. As Geoff Lawton succinctly pointed out;

With the knowledge that permaculture design principles provide, people become truly empowered. — Geoff Lawton, 2007

Through local empowerment permaculture has expanded as a viable systems approach for those looking towards sustainable solutions. The application and success of permaculture is even more pertinent in the third sector. People are looking towards innovative and creative problem solving to reduce overheads and operational expenses usually maintained through overseas donations and aid. Permaculture provides a viable, practical model for development in contrast to conventional donor aid, which is heavily criticised for actually increasing poverty and food insecurity, whilst reducing economic growth in many African countries (1).

The results of PDC training provide numerous examples of locally driven development. Expatriates and Tanzanian nationals working in development organisations and private companies across Tanzania have gone on to implement permaculture, share knowledge and teach others. In addition Tanzanian nationals have used the knowledge in application to their own small-scale family farms, spreading the knowledge in their own communities to improve food security, biodiversity, environmental resilience and household incomes.

Permaculture meeting the needs of the Kesho Leo residents

Over the two past years more than 150 individuals have graduated with design course certificates. Permaculture in Tanzania has brought out innovative and experimental individuals in an essentially conservative collective culture. As an example: graduates of the 2012 class from the Australian non-profit organisation Testigo Africa work in the northern district of Longido. They have used permaculture concepts to improve food security and increase household income among Maasai women by implementing perma-gardens, household dams (hafirs) for irrigation and carried out extensive permaculture training. The results of this particular project are helping women increase their average monthly incomes throughout the year (around 100USD) through the sales of vegetables, creating autonomy and independence for women to provide for their families, improving general health and by proxy reducing disease through the consumption of green leafy vegetables. In addition, permaculture training has provided opportunities to those without formal education to create a niche within their own linguistic communities by training others. It has expanded local employment. The practical aspect of permaculture has empowered individuals beyond their limitations to provide long-lasting, sustainable solutions and build resilience. This project alone has trained 100 Maasai in each village they work in, impacting a further 5000 women, men and children per village.

Another graduate of the same class, Franko Göhse has been instrumental in the development of permaculture in Northern Tanzania, particularly among the Maasai of West Kilimanjaro. The Africa Amini Maasai Lodge, for whom Franko is the general manager, provide the vast majority of their own produce through organic gardens, teach and utilise permaculture as a method for agricultural education within their community, have a natural swimming pool, and helped give the lodge international recognition with the Responsible Tourism Board of Tanzania. In addition, Franko’s love of trees and environmentalism has seen thousands of trees planted, soil fertility has returned to long-forgotten standards and there has been a phenomenal restoration of the environment; leading to deep healing of both land and people. Franko has also undergone teacher training through PRI Kenya, and is now deeply committed to teaching, training and working with Tanzanians to spread permaculture knowledge.

In the South of Tanzania graduates from the 2012 and 2013 classes working in Mbangala have implemented extensive water harvesting systems by building a 1000m long swale. The swale is estimated to capture approximately 1,000,000L of rainwater, thus having a significant effect in increasing ground water levels whilst reducing the erosion of valuable topsoil. Development workers from the British charity COCO in the south of Tanzania near Songea have had enormous success using permaculture. Research conducted by the organisation in 2012, and repeated in 2013 showed that 20 farmers in one village more than quadrupled their household incomes as a direct result of receiving permaculture education and implementing simple techniques. As a benefit of surplus income from agriculture farmers were able to diversify income streams through entrepreneurial investment, increase livestock herds and land purchases. Of the farmers interviewed, all of them shared permaculture techniques to approximately 68 others.

Whilst permaculture knowledge spreads in Tanzania, it is likely to move at an even faster pace in the coming year as two graduates and their respective organisations, Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania and Africa Amini Earth, are set to run their own Permaculture Design Certificate courses. Although the sharing of permaculture knowledge does not require the formal training of a design certificate course, in Tanzania the achievement of completing the 72-hour training is highly regarded and greatly valued.


  1. Moyo D, 2009. Dead Aid: why aid is not working and how there is another way for Africa. Penguin Books

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