Editor Note. This site is a great example of Permaculture in an environment that can be quite challenging, if you would like to see first hand how people work with their local conditions, please check out their website here or attend one of the PDC’s on offer.
The Laikipia North region is a dryland facing severe problems of drought, food shortage, malnutrition, high mother/infant mortality, climate change challenges, massive soil erosion and general conditions of poverty.
Joseph Lentunyoi of PRI-Kenya and Laikipia Permaculture Center (LPC) sees permaculture as the main way of bringing sustainable livelihoods to the people of the Laikipia North area because of the 3 guiding ethics behind permaculture – earth care, people care and fair use of resources.
Earth care means that instead of destroying our planet and natural resources for short term gains, we instead focus on practices that protect, replenish and even improve the earth. The permaculture design courses (PDC) teach people how to work in harmony with natural systems, to build good soil, incorporate trees into food production, conserve water, maximize on climate and soil appropriate crops and to improve biodiversity to create healthy ecosystems that promote the well-being of all inhabitants.
The people care aspect of permaculture explains on the importance of building healthy communities and social structures in which the economic, social and psychological wellbeing of the people are catered for by the structures in place. The permaculture design and Natural Building courses offered by LPC have created a social centre and network in which locals and internationals can interact, learn from each other and share respectful friendships in a cosy, homely, rural environment that lacks pretence and is open to the neighbors and the community.
The trainings give students and members of the local community the knowledge to improve their economic condition while being good stewards of the land and learning to fashion their lives according their own personal values and vision as well as giving them hope and ownership to what remains dear to them.
The design element of permaculture means that students learn to choose from a wide range of tools and techniques and to apply them to suit their own specific conditions and needs in the most efficient and regenerative way. LPC were honoured to receive students from all over coming from diverse backgrounds during their first PDC in April, 2015, sharing insightful knowledge with another and leaving the course feeling positive and renewed. Students are now designing their own land and projects while some are getting hands on experience in permaculture projects all around the world.
Joseph Lentunyoi is passionate about the permaculture approach and philosophy with its long term view towards sustainability and its focus on empowering people to become creative entrepreneurs and achieve a better quality of life for themselves, their families, their communities and for the planet.
The funds received from the courses go directly to the host sites, towards creating a good, comprehensive experience for students and also to developing a demonstration site and the facilities to train local community members. In addition to training the local community members of Kariunga, the Laikipa Permaculture Centre also supports four women´s groups in the Laikipa North area – Osuguroi in Timau, Naatum in Dol Dol, Nabulu in Kimkandora and Twala in the Ilpolei region. Together with LUSH Cosmetics U.K who have been an enormous support to the projects, LPC are able to receive funds to host the women from the various groups to attend the courses/trainings as well on full scholarships which is a huge part of LPC’s role, to engage and empower the communities.
LPC has supported these partner centers in growing aloe and lemongrass for cosmetic products, giving seedlings from the LPC tree nursery, beekeeping training and development of honey based products, developing a sand dam to help with water harvesting, building gabions and planting trees to help halt soil erosion, and building a basic infrastructure to support eco and cultural tourism in the area. Other projects such as using the invasive opuntia (prickly pear) to produce health juices, jams and plasters for natural building are in development. All these projects have helped the women of the area become more self sustaining.
The natural building course, started in January of this year, 2015 has already enabled local builders to improve their skills and earn more income building cob homes for clients.
In July, Cesar Loiza, a natural builder from Cantabria, Spain became the resident cob builder and teacher at Laikipia Permaculture Centre and led a permablitz in which people could come learn how to build and volunteer. During this process he has trained a team of builders from all over Kenya. At present, the project continues with more cob structures and ovens being built and builders are now finding employment at the center and in the surrounding area through this initiative.
After the Natural Building course in January and permablitz in July, Louis Kabbani, a former student of LPC built his own cob home, Fredrick Ntunyoi, Paul Maina and Philip Epuri got job contracts as natural builders.
Cesar has enjoyed living among the locals and appreciates all the enthusiasm from visitors and neighbours who pass by amazed that such comfortable and beautiful houses can be built from mud and straw. He says that they already have the knowledge systems and have always lived in natural homes, so he just helps them to ¨tie the knot¨ by adding small steps and improvements that make their houses more durable and comfortable. In turn, he also learns a lot from the locals about materials and techniques.
Cesar also sees the community-focused lifestyle of rural Africa as the ideal setting for spreading this knowledge of cob building because people have a culture of helping each other build their homes. He envisions small rural towns such as Nanyuki filled with small cob homes and structures as a more sustainable and beautiful alternative to tin (mabati) and cement houses. He has also identified the necessity of offering Natural building knowledge as a complement to permaculture courses to enable people to create entire systems offering food, water and shelter and also to provide additional skills and means of earning income. Cesar is hosting a ten day cob building workshop soon at one of the women’s groups before the PDC which will be a great start to watch his vision blossom.
Becoming a natural builder has vastly improved the quality of Cesar´s life while allowing him to support himself financially. Through this knowledge, he has travelled the world, been able to live among the locals in Mexico, in Kenya. He looks forward to working on more projects in Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Canada and returning to Mexico and Kenya. He loves the independence of being self employed, even though it does come with a lot of responsibility, but it has allowed him to enjoy his life and to see the positive impact of his work.
The upcoming PDC in September, led by Joseph Lentunyoi, includes a natural building introduction by Cesar Loza and an opportunity to join in the ongoing cob projects.
As Laikipia Permaculture Center grows through offering permaculture design courses and Natural Building courses, it is developing into a learning center, demonstration site, social hub and benefitting the North Laikipia area as well as creating employment and networking opportunities for community members as well as local and international graduates of the courses.
If you are interested in further information about the upcoming PDC in September or another great course in Novemeber, please contact Sheena at courses at pri-kenya.org; www.pri-kenya.org; +254 725618 737.