• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
  • Nicole Alderman
  • Mike Haasl
  • r ranson
  • paul wheaton
master gardeners:
  • jordan barton
  • John F Dean
  • Rob Lineberger
  • Carla Burke
  • Jay Angler
  • Greg Martin
  • Ash Jackson
  • Jordan Holland

ASF Farm - Western Kenya

master steward
Posts: 4041
Location: USDA Zone 8a
dog hunting food preservation cooking bee greening the desert
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have really enjoyed following your farm and seeing the pictures.

I wish you the best and please keep us updated.
Posts: 9
Location: Jamestown, NY
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Do you grow Sweet Potatoes (not Irish)? The LEAVES of sweet potatoes are very high in a substance that lowers blood sugar. There is a lot of research on this. Look into adding sweet potato leaves to your diet.
Research published in the Journal of Nutrition found that eating foods high in a naturally occurring nutrient known as myricetin can decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 26 percent. Parsley is one of the best sources of myricetin, containing about 8 milligrams per 100 grams of parsley. The study, known as the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (Epic), was conducted in 26 study centers in 8 European countries over several years.

A subsequent study of 12,403 people with type 2 diabetes showed a strong link between consumption of flavonol (a natural compound found in parsley) and a significantly reduced incidence of the disease.


Interestingly, when I looked up foods high in myricetin --I found the highest was Sweet Potato Leaves.

In Africa, most stews use Sweet potato leaves as a "green." Makes you wonder that when people were kidnapped to Americas this crucial info was lost.

Now that is Sweet Potato Leaves --- NOT white potato leaves which are poisonous.



Maureen Atsali wrote:Reevaluating my goals...

From the start my main objective with the farm was to be as self sufficient as possible.  Basically I wanted to feed my family.  Last year, we pretty much achieved that goal, eating almost exclusively from what we raised on the farm.  I was still buying tea, honey, salt and cooking fat.  (If I was really motivated, I could keep bees, plant oil palms, and grow tea... Then all we would really need is salt.). Occasionally the mono diet would make me nuts and I would splurge for store bought stuff... White rice, a loaf of bread, chocolate!  We had lots of animals, but since that's my main source of farm income, we were selling them rather than eating them... So my diet had become unintentionally almost vegan.

A little back story here: I have been obese most of my adult life.  I was over 300 lbs and a hardcore diabetic when I came to Africa.  Within weeks of arrival my blood sugar stabilized, and I was able to go off all medications, and over the course of a year I lost about 120 lbs, effortlessly.  I kept it off for 5 years and through two pregnancies.

But last year, I started to gain weight again.  And while I am out of strips to test, I think the diabetes is also back. (Ants in the pee bucket probably means sugar in the urine!). I was kind of mystified... I am working harder, physically, than I ever have in my life.  Most people would say I have an uber healthy diet.  

Then I had the lightbulb moment back before Christmas.  The farm diet is extremely high in carbs.  Sweet potatoes, cassava, taro, starchy banana and maize make up the bulk of our calories... And I think my insulin resistant body just can't process all that sugar.

So I have been thinking about how to change the farm so that I can still eat... Without overloading on carbs.  The answer I came up with is to focus more on livestock.  Still grow the starchy veggies, but let the animals convert it into energy I can safely consume.  The problem is keeping more animals means we need more infrastructure.  Another problem is that we sold off almost all of our animals to pay for Alex's surgery.  I have a handful of chickens and ducks left, a couple of goats, one rabbit and one cow.  So I feel like I am starting from scratch.  When we moved from my mother in laws compound to our own last year we had to leave behind the big chicken coop, the goat house, the pigsty, and the rabbit hutches.  So we have to build all those structures.  (Currently the chickens and ducks sleep in the chicken tractor, the cow and the goats sleep in the unfinished bathroom!)

Money, money money!

Posts: 1
Location: Louisville, United States
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Love following your story!  The climate and culture remind me a great deal of Jamaica.

Good fences make good neighbors.  I feel your pain on people tying animals in your garden!  Planting sisal and keeping your unfenced borders in thickets of native thorny species until fencing can go up is an option.  In Jamaica we had "candlestick" and "horse dildo" cactus that form impenetravle barriers when planted close enough.  We were dry 10 months of the year however, no hail, so not sure if you have those type of prolific cacti prickly pear seems to be many places so maybe...

Someone mentioned nuts- perhaps cashew trees and almond trees could be on your future planting list?

For erosion control, maybe small strips on contour with Canna, fever grass, aloes?  I find all of those also can form pretty good weed barriers on edges of beds.

You are doing amazing work, sounds very challenging, especially the cultural challenges.  In Jamaica it is called "crab in a barell mentality", as you start to climb up, everyone else pulls you down.  Never stop climbing, each time you climb after being pulled down, you climb a bit stronger

Posts: 447
Location: Boudamasa, Chad
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Maureen,

I've really enjoyed reading your story here, and hope you have found peace in your new situation. I smiled many times, because I also live in Africa (Chad) and have a shoft spot for many of the local foods you mention, like pigeon peas, bambura nuts (love them! ) and sweet potatos.

I would echo the suggestion that you eat sweet potato leaves to lower blood sugar. They're great sautéed like spinach or in the place of any other leaf in a traditional dish.

But even better than that is bitter melon. They grow wild here in Chad and I'm sure you can find them there. They have small leaves and loads of vines that can just COVER people's houses and fences. Most people don't eat them here, but they're proven to reduce blood sugar, acting as an insulin replacer actually. They taste a touch bitter and have a delightful crunch. My wife loves them.

Another great treatment for diabetes is camel's milk if you have that around.

Happy living!

Posts: 2
Location: Kenya
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Maureen...I really enjoyed your blog. It really inspired me to start my own some time. Don't lose hope...if you're feeding the neighborhood kids with produce from your own farm, then you are a successful farmer. I know lots of people with PDCs who like to talk a lot but have never produced a thing.
As a fellow Kenyan, I can relate to a lot on here - the goat and cattle encroachments, the very dry seasons and how to get your farm through them....and now, the flooding...haha.
About the diabetes, ever tried good old cinnamon...about 1/2 tsp a day should do it. You can spread it over a few cups of tea. Also guava leaves are pretty good with that.
There are other cheaper pdc options out there like Practical Permaculture Institute (PPI) http://www.permaculture-eastafrica.com/kenya/about/
They recently did permaculture installations in some schools in Kakamega, perhaps you can check that out, get some ideas on how to set up some systems at your farm. Would be great to see you have a demo site and start teaching those kids some sustainable farming, nutrition and lots of stuff... also get them to help around...learn on the job. Make it fun for them. These are great life skills.
Again, keep it up. Great stuff!
Posts: 24
Location: Chon Buri Thailand Zone 11-12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi Maureen,

it 2 years ago you ended these interesting story.

How is the result after 2 years, would you add some new photos?
Posts: 385
Location: Nomadic
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Maureen, sorry your Permaculture venture went sideways on you. I imagine your children keep you busy now. Thanks for sharing. My dreams of doing Permaculture in Kenya have not fruited, yet.  I went back to Kenya several times hoping to do Permaculture. My mother was renting a house on the outskirts of Nairobi at the horse race course and I started planting fruits and mulching there. I could get horse manure from the horse owners. But it was not sustainable as it was a rental. So after 3 glorious months of tropical Permaculture I returned to Washington. But I did take a Permaculture course from Dee Raymer and others. This is when I learned about constructed wetlands which is a fascinating topic.
I also visited some elderly British folks who were going all out on a Permaculture project out at the Athi Plains. With a little money they could hire lots of help to dig the swales, construct beds, wetlands, nurseries, etc. I asked how it was going and they said “great”, they just wished they had started earlier in life. On a subsequent trip to Kenya I wanted to visit them again but my mother could not remember who they were. I couldn’t find their contact information.  
I went around Nairobi plant nurseries looking for useful plants and found very few. It was shocking and disappointing. I hope it’s improved.
 Rock dust is what one German agronomist told me was a key missing nutrient for Kenya soils. Many of the soils in Africa are ancient and have not seen fresh minerals for millennia. In Kikuyu land in the highlands of Mt Kenya, and also Mt Kilimanjaro, was amazing fertility. I saw incredible produce up there. The highlands really attracted me. Same in the tropical mountains in Panama. Also, there are fewer tropical diseases in the highlands than lower.
  My Dad had malaria in Kenya. He was very secretive about it. I don’t know if he suffered from it later and hope Maureen is not. There’s better therapy now than when my Dad had it.
Growing up in Kenya we would frequently deal with thievery. We were poor but privileged whites. My mother would often argue with the hired help over missing items. My Dad was a government geologist in Kenya, a scientist, until he was promoted into managerial roles. That was it, the corruption, backhanding, and shenanigans with both the British and Kenyans rubbed him the wrong way. He took the first chance to bring us all to the USA where he could teach geology.
My older brother has returned to live and work in Kenya several times . He really likes it and misses it but does not miss the headaches. They make it VERY expensive and complicated to do live and do business or work in Kenya. In some ways what Maureen did flying under the radar on a low budget was brilliant. Living almost like a rural Kenyan. Ive considered doing something similar but am up to my neck in projects here in Washington.  
Is Maureen still on Permies? Bravo, I really admire what you did. Did you get Kenyan citizenship?
straws are for suckers. tiny ads are for attractive people.
Sepp Holzer's 3-in-1 Permaculture documentaries (Farming, Terraces, and Aquaculture) streaming video
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic