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permaculture advocate in Zimbabwe - too little/too much rain

 
pollinator
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Hi everyone.
I am working on a 1/2 an acre piece of land, growing mostly maize with plans of inter-cropping it with beans. I started using permaculture principles in 2015 and my wish is to spread sustainability practices, through applying the principles and introducing an alternative farming method.

Generally the area is usually drought stricken, so we have been putting systems in place to have increased control over water availability. We have stopped using fertilizers and we are using compost to feed our plant. We also dug conservation holes and mulched the area.  From the weather forecast it seems like we are going to have a period where the rain might be too much. How do I deal with excessive rain in the most natural way.
 
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In a situation such as your describe many would advocate using swales dug on contour to capture rainwater and store it in the soil for plants to use later. Swales are usually described as "tree planting systems" though, rather than for intensive cropping.

You might then consider alternating rows of fruit trees with normal crops.
 
pollinator
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in flat land, basins may work better than swales.  Basins can also be easier to fit between existing features than swales.

More info about rainwater harvesting in dry places:  http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/

Here's our largest basin after flooding rains.
basinjune212016.jpg
water-harvesting-basin
 
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We have a rain fall pattern in my part of the world that often swings between drought and flood. If you have enough man or machine power to do large scale earthworks, I'd be looking into the feasibility of catchment ponds starting at the top of your property and connected by swales, where ever possible.

During the rainy period a lot of soil fertility can be washed away, so slowing and capturing that water can be vital. One thing to also watch out for (if you're more accustomed to drought conditions) is plant disease. Prolonged wet conditions and soil splashing up on the plants creates the perfect environment for a lot of plant diseases. Mulching around the base of plants to protect from splashing soil is at least a start here.
 
Rufaro Makamure
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Thanks for the responses. I have attached a picture of what we have done so far. Mulching and conservation holes for each plant have been done already. Unfortunately we are running on a very tight budget. I am looking for solutions that can be afforded by a person who can afford basics.

For example I am thinking of using animal manure, if ever we receive too much rain so that it absorbs heat as it decomposes. I am not sure of the effect on the plant itself or whether it actually works. I am also hoping that the mulch that we put,in as much as it conserves water, it might also aid in absorbing too much water. These kind of simple solutions for now are the ones I am looking for until we can afford the bigger and better solutions. Any other ideas are most welcome.

As I mentioned the objective of my farming is to introduce sustainable agriculture in my area. The people around me will adopt anything that proves to give a good yield. In order to sell my idea, I have broken my aims in sub tasks. The first goal is to grow the common crop, which is maize, but employing permaculture principles to produce a good yield. The intention is to prove that this method works and get people interested, using a crop that everyone is familiar with.

Second would be the introduction of indigenous crops that are more drought resistant (still focusing on food crops) and also to introduce variety for nutritional value. Maize is the staple crop and it is grown simply because that is the plant that is common and it has been grown for years. Little attention is paid to nutritional value or plants that adapt to the different farming areas and as a result we are caught in a cycle of food inadequacy year in and year out. So the second goal is aimed at food variety.

Third goal would now be to concentrate on conscious action to improve our environment, where it will be possible to convince people to invest in slightly expensive methods of improving soils, water conservation techniques....e.t.c, which is where most of the above suggestions would come into play so thank you in advance.

You can check out my blog to have an idea of the place I am dealing with. "www.abundnant .wordpress.com" its titled greentobrown
IMG-20161204-WA0010.jpg
Mulching-conservation-holes
 
Tyler Ludens
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Zai holes http://en.howtopedia.org/wiki/How_to_Start_Culture_in_Zai_Holes

http://blogs.worldwatch.org/nourishingtheplanet/the-man-who-stopped-the-desert-what-yacouba-did-next/

Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration  http://fmnrhub.com.au/
 
Casie Becker
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I wonder if you could manage stone bunds like in this video  
 would work in your location. I think it's the least technical and relatively low work compared to digging that many swales. Putting stones on top of all that mulch would probably help keep it from washing away in heavier rains, also.
 
Rufaro Makamure
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 "Yacouba" is very inspiring. I am using the zai pits as well and I am in Zimbabwe WOW!!!.....Can't wait to see our place transformed like in the links you have shown. Thank you everyone.
 
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Rufaro, great job on identifiing your problems and choosing the right tools for them. All you need is added organic matter and conservation individual holes like you've done.
Excellent sense problem solving.

Keep us updated, please.
 
Rufaro Makamure
pollinator
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Hey everyone....!!! Exciting news...! I managed to beat the target of the 31st of December in order to join some competition ( not really a competition but I will just call it that because I don't know what else to call it). A friend shared a site for "Regeneration hub international" well they have grants they are offering to five people in January and the due date was the 31st. I JUST SUBMITTED MINE!!! Anyways please like my project in order for me to stand a higher chance in winning its called "green to brown" am still trying to figure out how to "like" projects on the site. And for those who have their proposals or projects in place always you might want to send. They support any project which has anything to do with regenerative agriculture, land use ...e.t.c. that is their link (http://www.regenerationhub.co) The forum also acts as a platform to put your project out there. Oh....! I am just so excited
 
Rufaro Makamure
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Andre Lemos wrote:Rufaro, great job on identifiing your problems and choosing the right tools for them. All you need is added organic matter and conservation individual holes like you've done.
Excellent sense problem solving.

Keep us updated, please.



About progress, it did rain a lot in the past weeks and as predicted, the rains were intense and now they are gone. Hwange which is where I work is one of the driest places in Zimbabwe but check how much rains poured and this was after a day's rains. Imagine if we had a way of rain water collection for the town, all that water could have been stored for later use. Permaculture is just unbelievable. I never got the chance to visit home and initiate use of stones to hold the grass in place but I am happy to tell you that the place survived. Check out the attachment. I will try to push for the growing of beans now and if no-one can do it, that will be possible when I get home in the next 2 weeks . It is the right time....right? I am planning on having the runner/ climber bean plant this year so that the maize will not starve the bean plant of the sunshine.

I can't wait to visit home and really see for myself. Hopefully I will be able to take pictures of the surrounding places so that  you can all see that, we as humans have the power to make a change if we choose to. I am seriously considering being a full time permaculture practitioner in my area. Well it has been on my mind for the past year. I mean why else would we waste energy on destructive things yet we really could spend time mending our earth.
IMG-20161214-WA0004.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG-20161214-WA0004.jpg]
too much water (Hwange)
sustainability.jpg
plants in Gweru
plants in Gweru
 
Rufaro Makamure
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Hope you are all doing well. The next phase of my project is going to involve some research in daily lifestyles  of targeted families. It might seem strange, since I am doing a project in my home area, but I have come to realize that we might have some habits, beliefs or cultural related daily choices that might be holding us back from relieving ourselves from poverty. So I am going to consciously record daily routines, choices and other things that might have an impact on a successful implementation of my sustainability project. If there is anyone who is interested in collaborating with me for the year 2017, please let me know. This is a stage I cannot do alone seeing as I am a product of my community there are so many things that I might consider normal, impossible or not even think about because of my exposure, so your assistance will be greatly appreciated, to help in the analysis and study planning, coordination and all other things that are a part of a detailed research.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I can only offer my own experience - it was tremendously helpful for me when I finally understood the Permaculture concept of Zones - that one develops the area close to the house first, because it is the easiest to work with and has the most resources such as food scraps, waste water, etc.  My original kitchen garden was far from the house - when I moved it to a position right outside the kitchen door, it immediately became more productive.  First because this is a position more sheltered from sun and drying winds, and also importantly, I can more easily care for it, and harvest from it while in the process of cooking a meal, if I need an herb or other ingredient.

This idea of starting right near the home and working outward, was the single most important thing I have grasped of permaculture principles, I think.

 
Rufaro Makamure
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Thank you that is very encouraging. You know I took for granted the understanding of permaculture that I had obtained and I thought it would be automatic to my family and neighbors too. They do appreciate the benefits, but I will tell you one thing, my introduction to permaculture has also revealed some truths that are both scary and maybe good to know because they could lead to some true progress. The following are highlights of pointers to things that scared me:
  • last year we grew maize in two places the one area we were doing the conventional farming and the other piece we were trying out conservation farming. The season was a really bad one but the place we had mulched at least gave us maize that we are still using. But the strange thing is that, not a single person was interested to just know a little bit more through reading, it seems as if as long as we are not studying for work or school, reading does not come natural and I think it is one of the best cultures to nurture if we are ever going to become open minded or exposed to what is out there. Also believe it or not this year again conventional farming was repeated, though we all are confident with the conservation farming, already we have replanted maize in the other field because germination was not too good and yet permaculture field (shown in pic from the previous post) had a 99% germination again.


  • I was fortunate to attend some public lecture on, "Climate is changing, food and agriculture must too” the attendance was not as I had expected especially from the responsible people (people who can actually effect changes, whether financially stable or the general working literate class that is exposed to media). I have been asking around on people's opinions on climate change, no-one cares at all, the only person I have met who is concerned is of European descent (not meaning to be racist or anything), the answer I usually get is we are too small a country to be worrying about that. I certainly do not expect everyone to b into agriculture or conservation but at least some concern or knowledge in changes that are happening could show some sense of concern and responsibility I think.


  • What if our decisions are based on tradition (what we have been doing for generations) or mainly assumptions, guess work or faith and rarely factual
    What if we do not know the value of things (e.g. it is okay to replant seeds and not to worry about yield vs input)
    What if our priorities are upside down? How then are we going to develop, have enough of the basics for everyone
    There is a saying that " when you are in a hole stop digging" What if we are not even aware that we are digging, how will we stop

    Even though this scared me this is what made me think that it is important to do an analysis of the lifestyle of families directly affected by the success of the project, being a part of their daily lives, circumstances choices and all. Maybe some of the seemingly "irresponsible" actions could be a lack of understanding or shortage of alternative ideas. I am imaging the implementation stage after the analysis, we might just stumble onto the grassroots of our problem and it will help in finding the right approach in the introduction of sustainable agriculture, not as an event but as a lifestyle.
     
    Rufaro Makamure
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    Happy New year everyone.  
    If there is any opportunity for permaculture internship may you assist with details.
     
    You would be much easier to understand if you took that bucket off of your head. And that goes for the tiny ad too!
    133 hours of video: the Permaculture Design Course and Appropriate Technology Course
    https://permaculture-design-course.com/
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