There is so much about practicing permaculture in Africa that begs for its own book:
1. The intense dry and wet seasons;
2. The unique flora;
3. The unique culture centered on community; one might call it village socialism;
4. The challenges of nomad herds;
5. The advancing Sahara desert;
6. The dramatic loss of fertility over the past two generations;
7. The loss of traditional knowledge due to colonialism and war;
8. The onslaught of foreign projects and "solutions" to African poverty and food shortage that simply don't work. Often, these solutions are just neo-colonialism that trap farmers into dependency on foreign chemicals while destroying their fertility;
And the list goes on...
Now, for the objectives:
A. I'm thinking something super collaborative, loaded with experiences, photos and illustrations from a wide range of contributors. It's a big continent after all.
B. Light on philosophy, heavy on pragmatics and techniques. Basically I envision something nearly like a reference book for techniques, with only an introduction that lays out broader issues and reasons for permaculture.
C. Ok, maybe chapter one can lay out basics of fertility and the nutrient cycle. But it has to be really accessible.
D. Definitely needs to be in English and French.
E. Needs to avoid depending on the romantic myth that villages will just come together to do wonderful things. While recognizing the opportunities of collaboration, this resource should seek to empower the individual.
F. I would organize the book differently than most in order to facilitate reference: instead of organizing it philosophically, or topically, I would organize it according to the zones, starting with 5 and moving down. This is because most people are interested in field and orchard. This way when seeking techniques or solutions, the reader learns to think about what the space is about and how they relate to it permaculturally, without pounding them over the head about it philosophically.
G. This might be controversial: light on earthworks. People in the village can't just go rent a back-hoe. I would devote maybe a page of illustrations on what one can do on a large scale with earthworks and reference other books already written on the topic. I reserve things like swales to the smaller scale of zone 2, and limit earthworks in zones 3 and 4 to microcatchments on trees and plowing some keylines. This will leave more room to explore the myriad of other awesome techniques and resources available to the individual in the bush.
H. I would not use the word Permaculture in the title. The introduction can present the concept and the 5 zones are obvious enough to the informed, but the book itself needs to invite any farmer, gardener, or wannabe to pick it up as an easy but invaluable source of accessible techniques. As they engage the book, they will also get an education on fertility and permaculture philosophy in a basic way.
I. Housing is an important topic and I'm willing to add a section for it in Zone 1. In fact, there are is a wealth of traditional knowledge on how to make quality cob, for instance (Africans ferment it!) but I would need help gathering photo evidence as this knowledge is all but lost in most areas.
I'm cool with this being a long-term project. I'm no expert or teacher, but I think this collaborative process would be really helpful to all involved and a blessing to countless others. We can take the time to make it a fantastic resource.
Who's with me?