Natalie Topa works as the Regional Resilience and Livelihoods Coordinator for East Africa and Great Lakes Region (EAGL) of Danish Refugee Council (DRC). Natalie has been living in East Africa for 16 years and brings her experience in urban and regional planning, economic recovery, community design, agroforestry, earthworks, permaculture and humanitarian assistance to restoring community agro-ecosystems in Africa, Middle East and Southeast Asia.
This Sponge Village Primer is one section of a series of trainings that Natalie co-hosts with Warren Brush under the DRC Uganda Northern Uganda Resilience Initiative (NURI), a DANIDA-funded program focusing on rural access roads, market infrastructure and water resources management in over 20-sub catchments in 13 districts of northern Uganda.
Using a combination of Permaculture, Agroecology, Agroforestry, Rainwater Harvesting, Ecological Restoration and the Circular Economy the Danish Refugee Council is working with the villagers of Atego to design for a resilient future. This approach is part of DRC’s Regional Regenerative Resilience portfolio in East Africa that is establishing household, farm and landscape level permaculture resilience design initiatives with demo sites in Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya and Uganda at various scales.
The villagers of Atego Village in Nebbi District, Uganda, remember a time when the hills were lush, the forests were green, the springs contained sweet water and the trees, shrubs and other native plants provided their medicine. But today the ecological balance has been disrupted. Rainwaters no longer percolate in to the hillsides and groundwater as the tree cover has been depleted. The valley floor now floods yearly, accumulating with other stormwaters that grow and flow in to the Nile River causing the river to swell, banks to be eroded and economic movement to be compromised. Local water resources for domestic use and livestock watering are increasingly strained which contributes to tension within the community as families compete to access water for their herds.
By creating a “Sponge Village” – a landscape design that soaks up the energy and resources that flow through it – the community aims to retain the water and nutrients in the landscape, thus allowing the trees and other natural features of the landscape to restore. Full details of the project can be found in the PDF below (click the image below to download/view)
In addition to the Sponge Village pilot site, the attached video shows how Warren and Natalie bring concepts of permaculture, agroecology, agroforestry and water harvesting to large scale rural infrastructure projects to mitigate floods and drought, and turn water from floods in to food.
Both the Sponge Village Primer and DRC Resilience Design for Infrastructure video were created in partnership with Mark Wambui and Re-tuning Cinema in Africa.