Nathanael Szobody

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since Apr 25, 2015
Boudamasa, Chad
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Recent posts by Nathanael Szobody

Hi Eli, I'm thrilled to hear from you!! I will send you a "moosage" :-)
4 months ago
Sometimes I grow squash for the leaves alone! Chopped up in a stew or soup adds a fairly complex vegetable flavor. Any kind of squash.
4 months ago
Great to meet you Kevin! I have a sneaking suspicion that once you get into cultivating your own food you will find many health benefits...
4 months ago
There are a lot of good books out there that rehash the permaculture principles and ethics. I'll be content to refer to those works. When I work with farmers and gardeners, getting them to embrace a whole philosophy of living is a tough sell. That's no reason not to try--and in fact, the best way to convince them is to show them. They want to know how to make sure this year is productive and next year can be more productive. Subsistence farmers can't afford to experiment. So my aim with this book is to do just that: show them. I imagine a sort of reference book of techniques. Each page is a series of "how-to" photos of a particular technique. Like, a lasagna garden bed, or an agroforestry crop system on a slope, or a desert pit garden, and on and on. Each with its list of photos with step-by-step instructions and a drawing or two to highlight the important elements. In each section I would arrange the techniques from more arid environments to more humid. This way we hit the whole continent. It will be a big book. But we need big reference books--especially when we're in the bush and have no internet.

The permaculture principles and big-picture design will be present in four main ways:
1. The first chapter will be about nature's way of creating fertility. This will focus the aim of the book on patterns and strategies of nature.
2. An appendix that gives an overview of the ethics and principles established by the founders of permaculture.
3. The introduction to each section will give a "framework" in reference to the first chapter of the book, as well as introduce one key principle (from Holmgren) that will help the reader to process the value of the techniques being shown.
4. The organization of the book will be according to the 5 zones--techniques for each zone. Obviously, there will be overlap. But that is the strength of a reference book: you can refer the reader to relevant techniques in other sections of the book as well as include a very thorough index.

Is this sounding encyclopedic? Exactly. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well.  

I've written a first draft of the introduction. If you care to read it, send me a moosage.
4 months ago

Bernhard Gruber wrote:First printed Permaculture booklet in Kiswahili

Fantastic book Bernhard! I look forward to seeing the English version
4 months ago

Jeremy R. Campbell wrote:I'd love to help.  Happy to draft, edit, research, support.  Though I bring no qualifications with regard to Africa in particular other than having been there for a short month of my life, and it being the beginning of my permaculture interest.  

Draft? Edit? Research? There's a return of surplus I can get excited about!!
4 months ago
Johan, you may be surprised. I live in Chad about half way between Egypt and Congo. I get eight months of dry season, comparable to a desert climate, and four months of rainy season just as wet as a rain forest. Not only that, but the northern two-thirds of this country is Sahara desert, while the southern border is year-round mountainous rain forest. If I were to write a book just for this country, it would have to include techniques that would apply both in Egypt and in Congo, depending on the season and region.

At the same time, there is a lot that is shared in common between Egypt and Congo--they're both hot! It is also surprising how many tree species are shared in common. Cultural elements are comparable as well, like free-range livestock and adobe building techniques.

If anything framework of reference can meet this uniquely challenging continent, it's permaculture.  
4 months ago
Well, that's less than a groundswell. I'll proceed on my own then. See you in the book review section.
4 months ago
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;
9. Termites;
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?
4 months ago
Thanks for all the suggestions! Guess I'll try wrapping them in mosquito netting. Last year I tried wrapping watermelons in old t-shirts, but they just rotted.

I do not know what species the flies are because I never see them. They just leave a tiny hole, usually on the underside of the fruit.
4 months ago