Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) Course: Permaculture for the Rural African Environment (December 2012, Konso, Ethiopia)
Aid Projects, Community Projects, Courses/Workshops, Demonstration Sites, Education Centres — by Alex McCausland September 17, 2012
This 13-day practical and demonstrative PDC will take place in Konso, south Ethiopia, from December 10th – 22nd, 2012, at Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge. It will have a special focus on the application of permaculture to communities in the developing world. It will involve practical demonstrations both form Strawberry Fields’ own model permaculture site and from school sites in the area which are participating in the Permaculture in Konso Schools Project. There will also be the chance to do field trips into other climate zones in the Ethiopian highlands.
Lead Facilitator: Alex McCausland
Co-facilitators: Abel Teshome and Asmelash Dagne
Dates: December 10th – 22nd, 2012
Location: Konso, South Ethiopia
Venue: Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge
Cost: US$850 ($600 for Ethiopians) [10% early-bird discount available before 15th October, 2012]
Includes: Course fees, food and accommodation for the period of the course
Excludes: Transport, accommodation en-route, travel insurance, etc.
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 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. The PDC will be lead by Alex McCausland, Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge’s founder and director. He will be assisted by Mr Asmelash Dagne, a local science teacher and trainee trainer who has excelled in implementing Permaculture in two school sites in Konso over the last three years, as well as Abel Teshome, a masters degree holder in horticulture, and the Global Eco-Village Network’s Ambassador in Ethiopia.
Alex McCausland, an ecologist by background, has developed as a permaculture practitioner and trainer over the last five years. He graduated in Biological Sciences in 2003 [BA 2.1 (Hons) Merton College, Oxford]. Disillusioned with reductionist science he turned his back on academia and spent several years travelling the world, WWOOFing, 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 the holistic approach to ecology with practical, community-based application that academia completely lacked. He then cooked 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 permaculture. 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 permaculture farm. The model farm has developed with input from a number of volunteers, interns and permaculture practitioners, such as Guy Rees, Dan Palmer, Rosemary Morrow and Tichafa Makovere. Working alongside these people Alex has developed and honed his skills as a permaculture designer and practitioner over the last five years. During this time the project has hosted a total of 26 PDCs — two lead by Rosemary Morrow, 19 by Tichafa Makovere, one by Steve Cran, one by Rhamis Kent and three lead by Alex himself. Alex co-facilitated on many of these while maintaining his role as project administrator.
Abel Teshome is from Addis Ababa and holds an MSc in Horticulture from Jimma University. He attended the GEN Eco Village Network Conference in Sekem, Egypt in 2011 and subsequently became the GEN Ambassador for Ethiopia. Abel since took a PDC at Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge in February 2012 and then went on the act as a co-facilitator on the next course in May 2012, leading topics relating to plant propagation techniques, nursery establishment, zones, and water management. He has now been selected for funding to attend the GEN Eco-Village Design Training in Seiden Linden in Germany in August 2012, from which he will return shortly before coming to co-facilitate this course.
Asmelash Dagne was one of a group of three primary school teachers first trained in permaculture in March 2009, during the pilot phase of the Permaculture in Konso Schools Project (PKSP), by the veteran Zimabwean trainer and consultant Tichafa Makovere. Asmelash has gone on to excel his peers in enthusiasm and ability in the field, consistently showing the best results on the ground in his school at Debena Village. He has participated in various workshops and trainings acting as a translator and assistant trainer on PDCs for Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge, as well and the Slow Food Foundation’s 1000 Gardents in Africa Project, for which he acts as the local coordinator in Konso. Since October 2011 Asmelash has been transferred to Karat Konso Secondary School, where he has been single-handedly driving the school community and administration to implement Permaculture on their school grounds, and with some success. In May 2012 Karat Secondary formally entered the PKSP and Asmelash assisted in delivering the training to two of his colleagues from the staff, who have gone on to develop the school’s PC design plan and begin the implementation there.
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 5 years on degraded land to incorporate elements such as drip irrigation, grey and black water re-use, composting toilets, compost powered water heating, solar power, 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 currently employs 10 permanent staff and up to 20 temporary workers.
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)
Nowadays 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 aims to promote permaculture practice in the Konso community as a means of empowering them to address the issue of food insecurity themselves, rather than continually relying on food aid from the other side of the world. Permaculture in this context seeks to preserve aspects of the indigenous (agri)culture which benefit the local ecology but fill gaps in the traditional system by incorporating new practises, ideas and resources to increase production from the same resource base. Since the coming generation always shows the best potential to adapt to new ways of thinking and practicing, working with schools is the most effective way to positively influence the whole society for the future. But, the school community, of course, also encompasses parents and teachers and who are also actively involved in the project along with the school environmental clubs.
To date teachers from 12 schools have been trained in permaculture and produced permaculture designs for their school compounds. From those, five schools have produced impressive model permaculture sites under phases one and two of the project. The PKSP recently expanded to include two new schools: Jarso Primary and Karat Secondary. Design exercises during the course as well as some of the practical demonstrations will be conducted on the school compounds in Karat and Jarso. By participating on this course participants will be directly contributing to the Permaculture in Konso Schools Project.