72h Permaculture Design Course, Konso, Ethiopia: February 2012
Joined: Dec 25, 2008
This PDC will take place in Konso, south Ethiopia, from 13th – 25th February 2011, at Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge. It will have a special focus on the application of Permaculture to communities in the developing world and low tech solutions to food establishment in rural and urban schools and communities drawing inspiration from established projects in a range of locations and climate zones around the country.
Facilitators: Tichafa Makovere and Alex McCausland
Dates: February 13th – 25th, 2011
Location: Konso, South Ethiopia
Venue: Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge
Cost: US$650 ($500 for Ethiopians)
Includes: course fees, food and accommodation for the period of the course
Excludes: Transport, accommodation in Addis, travel insurance etc.
This PDC will be lead by Alex McCausland, Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge’s founder and director, and Tichafa Makovere, a veteran consultant and trainer of the Schools and Colleges Outreach Permaculture Program (SCOPE), with 17 years experience working and training in Permaculture around southern and eastern Africa. This PDC is of particular relevance for those interested in rural development and indigenous communities in Africa and the wider 3rd world. The focus is on appropriate technology, soil and water harvesting, indigenous knowledge systems and Permaculture in schools. Schools are a key focus point for the communities and a chance to influence the coming generation to shift away from the mentality of dependence on aid towards self sufficiency and sustainable resource use.
Tichafa grew up in a marginalised farming community in Shurugwe, Zimbabwe. He has developed a career in education over 30 years, including 20 years as a successful headmaster in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Botswana. In June 1994 he took a PDC at the Fambidzanai Permaculture Centre in Zimbabwe sponsored by the SCOPE (Permaculture in Schools and Colleges Outreach) Program. He went on to take first prize for best implementing school nationally, in 1995. He sat as secretary of the Permaculture Association of Zimbabwe (PAZ) for 2 years from 1994 – 1996 and subsequently as chair person from 1996 – 1998. He took the Training of Trainers Course and become the official lead facilitator for the SCOPE Program in 2001. His activities as a SCOPE, and more latterly ReSCOPE, have included: Drawing up 1-week and 2-week programs for SCOPE have included facilitating at both 1-week and 2-week workshops; producing training materials and handouts, making follow-up visits to schools; participation on the curriculum, training and fundraising committees for the advancement of Permaculture in Zimbabwean schools; attending and contributing to Permaculture planning workshops, reviewing and monitoring workshops for expansion of Permaculture in schools in 66 districts of Zimbabwe, representing SCOPE at international fora e.g. Environmental Education Association of Southern Africa (EEASA) and reviewing books on Permaculture before they were published e.g. SCOPE Learners Book [on Permaculture for primary and secondary schools].
In November 2008 Tichafa travelled to Ethiopia and took up the role of Resident PC Facilitator and Farm Manager for Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge in Konso, where he has to date facilitated a total of 17 PDCs. He subsequently went on to spear-head the formation of the Permaculture in Konso Schools Project working in partnership with various NGOs as well as SFEL itself. In June 2010 Tichafa formed his own independent consultancy, Shumba Integrated Eco Designs (SIED) and handed management of the model farm at Strawberry Fields over to Alex McCausland, SFEL’s Director.
Alex an ecologist by background and has been developing as a Permaculture practitioner and trainer over the last 5 years. His lifelong passion for ecology and the allowed him to excel academically in that area. He graduated from with a BSc in Biological Sciences in 2003 from Oxford University but by that time he had became disillusioned with reductionist science and turned his back on academia. He then spent two years to travelling the world, WOOFing, working on farms and learning about cultures and languages, during which time he became interested in development and food-security issues. In 2005 he heard about Permaculture and realised it combined holistic ecology with the practical action and community orientation that the academic approach completely lacked. He then dreamed up a plan to establish a project which would promote Permaculture as a means to achieve sustainable development in the third world. The next year he came across Ethiopia. Seeing a land of great ecological wealth and yet economic poverty and food insecurity, he resolved that this would be the location for the project. He took his first PDC later that year in Catalunya, Spain. In 2007 he returned to Ethiopia to establish a viable Permaculture–based business which would facilitate the local community to learn about and practice PC. It ended up being an Eco Lodge in the South of the country, which went on to become the site for Ethiopia's first model PC farm. The model farm has developed with input from a number of volunteers, interns and PC practitioners, such as Guy Rees, Dan Palmer and Tichafa. Working alongside these people Alex has developed and honed his skills as a PC designer and practitioner over the last 3 years. During this time the project has hosted a total of 24 PDCs to date, 2 lead by Rosemary Morrow and 19 by Tichafa, 1 by Steve Cran and 1 by Rhamis Kent and one by Alex himself. Alex has co-facilitated on many of these while maintaining his role as administrator. He took over the running of the demonstration farm in June 2010 and has designed and developed systems such as drip irrigation and terraced vegetable beds, black water, composting and compost powered water heating. Alex will explain and demonstrate some of these systems during the PDC.
The Venue: Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge (SFEL)
The venue for the PDC will be Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge, the first working PC demonstration site in Ethiopia, where a model design has been established over the last 3½ years on degraded land to incorporate elements such as drip irrigation, grey and black water re-use, composting toilets, hot composting, tree nursery and solar fridge, solar power, solar shower and much more.
SFEL integrates an Eco-Lodge, model PC farm, an organic restaurant, a PC design training facility and runs a program of trekking and community based cultural activities in Konso. SFEL’s project objectives are to promote alternative livelihoods for the Konso community through facilitating community inclusion in eco-tourism activities, and to promote food security locally and more widely in Ethiopia, through Permaculture. SFEL employs 20 permanent staff and up to 30 temporary workers seasonally.
Location: Konso, SNNPRS, Ethiopia
Konso Woreda is in the South Ethiopian Great Rift Valley (situated at 5'15' N 37'30' E). Konso’s capital, Karat-Konso, is at 1600m altitude, located 85km south of Arba Minch, and around 590km south of Addis Ababa. The Konso people have a unique culture, based on sedentary mixed agriculture, which distinguishes them from their neighbours in the lowlands to the east and west who are pastoralists. Their intensely social mode of life and love of hard physical labour is unique in Ethiopia. Their villages are remarkable for the beauty and simplicity of their workmanship, constructed entirely of natural materials, cultivated or gathered from the surroundings, and ringed by massive dry-stone walls, at least a meter thick and two meters high. Stone-lined pavements run between the housing compounds and the stones have often become polished to a shine by long years of service in the village’s transport system.
Konso’s agricultural system is renowned for its terracing, which has been constructed over large areas of the rugged landscape by centuries of communal labour. The terraces are crafted to balance maximum infiltration of rain water, with adequate drainage in times of deluge so they don’t collapse. They are planted with sorghum, intercropped with a range of other species; including trees, Moringa stenopetala (also called the cabbage tree) Terminalia birowni, and Cordia africana; shrubs such as pigeon pea, coffee and chat (Catha edulis) (a cash crop) and annuals including sunflowers, maize, millet, chick peas, various bean species, cotton and cassava. The terraces are fertilised with wastes from the villages including partially burned plant residues mixed with animal dung, which acts to keep the soil fertile.
The Permaculture in Konso Schools Project (PKSP)
Today Konso suffers increasingly frequent food insecurity due to climate change. The UNDP’s Rapid Assessment Report: Konso Special Wereda, SNNPR (1999) states that; “since the 1950s, drought induced famines have hit Konso and the immediate area almost once every ten years.” “Konso was devastated by the droughts in 1973/74 and 1983/84”. In 2008/9 Konso was again suffering food shortage due to droughts.
The PKSP seeks to preserve aspects of indigenous (agri)culture which benefit the local ecology, but fill gaps in the traditional system by incorporating new practises, ideas and resources such as rain-water harvesting, small scale irrigation, nutrition gardens, tree nurseries, small livestock, appropriate labour-saving design-technology, alternative energy and nutrients based on locally available resources.
To date teachers from 10 schools have been trained in Permaculture and produced PC designs for their school compounds. From those, three schools have produced impressive model PC sites under the pilot phase of the project. The PKSP is eventually looking to expand to all 70 schools in Konso with likely support from the UK-based Ethiopia Permaculture Foundation. Visits to the school model sites will be included as part of the PDC.