Posted by & filed under Aid Projects, Biological Cleaning, Community Projects, Compost, Fencing, Irrigation, Land, Material, Nurseries & Propogation, Plant Systems, Potable Water, Seeds, Soil Composition, Soil Conservation, Soil Rehabilitation, Structure, Swales, Trees, Village Development, Waste Systems & Recycling, Waste Water, Water Conservation.

Editor’s Note: Regular readers will have appreciated Alex McCausland’s regular and comprehensive reports from precariously positioned Ethiopia, and the great work he and his team have been doing on the ground. If you want to learn practical permaculture and gain real-world permaculture aid work experience in a location rich in agricultural history, then please consider taking Alex’s next PDC, to be held in southern Ethiopia between December 10 — 22, 2012. Your tuition fees directly support this important educational aid work.

The Hafto Solar Community Water Project site project is a solar powered water supply facility for the surrounding community of Hafto in the Hadiya Zone, South Ethiopia. The project was planned and implemented by a German NGO called DWC and is owned and run by a local NGO called SMART. The facility supplies water to about 1500 surrounding community members within an approximate 1km radius. There is a small charge for the water of about 0.01 Ethiopian Birr per liter (1$=18Birr) which covers the running costs of the project. The community members currently come to the site with donkeys to collect the water in jerry-cans which they take home for use.

DWC and SMART have planned and are now implementing a second phase of the project where-by the community members will be able to use the water they buy on the site in three new facilities; a shower block, a laundry block and a toilet block, housed in octagonal buildings with an open courtyard at the centre. The facilities also each include a water treatment system featuring constructed wetlands placed in the central courtyard. The real beauty of the system design is that it is a flow-through system – the treated waste water from the shower block passes to the laundry. This is treated again before passing to the toilets. What is used to flush the toilets then passes through a septic tank and another constructed wetland before leaving the system. At this point it enters a drinking trough for local animals. However the expected output of the system is 3 – 5m3 per day, which is more than the expected water consumption of the passing local livestock, hence SMART want to develop some downstream productive systems to make use of the remaining system outflow. That is where they called us in as permaculture consultants.

The initial site design was done after a short visit to Hafto to survey the site for 1 hour on July 10th 2012. The design process was outlined in an article subsequently published on this blog here. The initial site design is shown in Figure 1 below Due to shortage of time for an in-depth survey and lack of information on plans for the project’s development the initial site design was somewhat generic and quite abstract. It has been subsequently modified over the following two site visits with the plentiful extra information we have gained from Oliver and the environment. Oliver is the director of DWC. He was absent during the first site visit, but has subsequently been present on the site for the past two months managing the development of new facilities.

We made the second visit to the site on September 24th for one day, and the second visit from October 8th – 10th. The two visits have given us the chance to gather new sets of information which have resulted in several significant adaptations of the initial design.


Figure 1: The initial PC site design for the Hafto Project
done after initial site visit on 10th July 2012

Observations on micro-climates and seasonal variations in conditions before, during and just after the rains

With several visits were able to assess the hydrology of the watershed across a range of seasonal conditions. The first time we visited the site, it was the end of the dry season. During the second visit on September 24th the area was receiving heavy rainfall on a daily basis. The thick dark base clay was observed to be remarkably impermeable; with water forming puddles on flat areas, apparently for weeks on end.

The area to the west of the currently existing compound – the “local elder’s land” – was extensively waterlogged. It is basically a seasonal swamp, though the fact that there is no organic matter build-up implies that it is dries out in the dry season. As a result it remains muddy, with no peat build up over the base clay.

By the time we returned for the second visit on October 8th the rains were clearly over, and it had not rained for 10 days or so. We observed a marked retreat of the swamp boundaries (see Figure 2 below). The pattern of this retreat gives a good indication of the lie of the land, without having to do any instrumental surveying – water always sits on contour – giving a picture of where the swales will run once we get onto landscaping that area. When the area dries out properly though, we will be able to get in there with the A-frame and the water level to plan in detail. We will have to do a lot of landscaping in the area to turn it from a seasonal swamp into a network of canals, ponds and bunds, some of which will be permanent and others seasonal. It should be a fantastically productive piece of land with that deep dark chocolate soil and plentiful water. To cope with the large amounts of water entering the area from the farmlands up-hill to the SE, a cut off berm will be necessary at the top end (SE end) of the site just below the elder’s house. This should lead run off into a series of swales and ponds, which can feed back into swales further down. A rough diagram of how the Zone II swale, pond system may eventually look is shown in Figure 6.


Figure 2: Shows the extent of water-logging on the local elder’s land: a) At time of the
first visit during the dry season, June 2012; b) September 24th 2012, during the
rainy season; and c) October 8th 2012, 10 days after the rains ended.

By contrast the land to the east of the current compound remained dry and firm throughout the rains. This land is also very flat, though there is obviously no pooling of water on it, so the water running down from up-hill is all running off here. Holding tanks for the outflow water from the community facilities were being dug here and we were able to observe the soil horizons. The dark top-soil goes down to at least a meter deep, though the top 20 – 30cm have been denuded by years of grain cropping. Top soil this deep was probably built by deposition of silt from the up-hill slopes. The area has now been turned over to grazing as it presumably returns less energy than you put into cultivating it by hand when you’re only using that top 30cm.

With the onset of the dry season, by October we could also observe a shift in the wind pattern, from a gentle northerly breeze to a steady easterly, relentlessly streaming in from mid morning through the heat of the day into the late afternoon. We had been informed about this on the first visit, but now we could see it. With the crops all mature and going golden-brown in the surrounding fields, it seemed like a lazy rustic paradise — lots of grain, sunny, breezy, not too hot, not too cold. But once the locals harvest that crop they won’t be able to grow anything for another 9 months. They’ll be sitting about waiting for food aid. We want year-round production on this site, which means staying green. Blocking that wind out of our Zones 1 and 2 is going to be a big priority.

Evolution of plans for site development

With Oliver there and the construction in active progress, we were, of course, also able to determine the exact plans for the development of the community facilities, the lay-out of the different facilities and various different technical aspects of the system operation which affect the overall design.

First of all, Oliver was able to explain the function of the system for the three new facilities in more detail, exposing a flawed assumption in our original design. The three new facilities are part of a continuous through-flow system, so there won’t be three separate streams of waste water discharging from each of them. Rather, as explained in the first paragraph of this update, the waste water from the showers passes via a reed-bed to the laundry, which passes via a reed-bed to the toilets, which goes via a septic tank and reed-bed to be used for animal drinking and irrigation. This means we only have two discharge points for irrigation water; one from the new system and one from the original distribution facility where the community fill jerry cans, rather than four points as assumed in the original design. The discharge from the new facilities is still expected to be around 5m3 per day though, so if desired we can split this into separate streams. The beauty of the system is it allows the same water to be used three times, at least assuming that the demand from each of the three facilities is equal.

Figure 3: Sectional elevation schematic of the water system
for the three new community facilities

Then we got into a discussion. What if it wasn’t equal? Well no problem, each of the three facilities could draw water directly from the main tank if there was a shortage of treated water from the upstream facility. OK, so none of them would lack water, but what if in the dry season, loads of people use the showers and less people us the laundry? IE what if there was too much water usage by the up-stream facility? So we agreed that just in case, we would put in overflows from the holding tanks for treated water from the showers to the laundry and the laundry to the toilet, so that even if the laundry could not keep up with the shower the excess shower outflow would go to the toilets, and if the toilets were also not keeping pace, it would overflow to the animals/irrigation.

Developments and observations affecting placement of the new facilities and the Zone I vegetable garden

Another development which necessarily means a modification of the design was the placement of the new facilities. Tegene, the guy who showed us the site on the first visit, was unable to tell us exactly where they were going to be built. So we strung them along the public bridle-way on the north-eastern edge of the local elder’s land. However SMART was able to acquire land from the government on the far side of the bridle-way and placed the three facilities in a triangular conformation across the road from the original compound.


Figure 4: The location of the new service facilities versus their location in the initial design

Several important considerations emerged together with this development:

  1. We need to insure effective shelter for the Zone I and II areas from dry-season wind from the east – since we had planned to plant a shelter-belt of zone IV harvest forest along the piece land where the facilities have now been placed. So we were able to influence Oliver to lobby local officials for more land further to the east, where we plan to plant our Zone IV forest.
  2. Oliver himself highlighted the desirability of using discharge water from the new facilities for irrigating the Zone 1 vegetable area and the Zone II food-forest system, rather than using water direct from the main 5000l holding tank. This is partly because it is water that has already been sold – i.e. the cost of pumping it out of the ground has been recovered – and also because it carries a nutrient load, as a result of having been used, which will be beneficial for the plants being irrigated.
  3. The fact that the area proposed for the Zone I garden in the initial design is completely waterlogged through the rainy season: meaning that it is a) waterlogged and so and unsuitable site to begin gardening at this time b) not set at a raised elevation in relation to the rest of the local elder’s land.

Considering these facts we decided to move the vegetable garden to the northern corner of the local elder’s land, where it will be a) near to the discharge point the water from the toilet house b) on relatively dry land c) more elevated in relation to the rest of the local elder’s land (See Figure 5).

The car and donkey parking, donkey drinking trough

We also had a chance to discuss the issue of donkeys with Oliver. Most community members bring donkeys with them to collect water in jerry cans. Currently the donkeys hang around on the bridleway near the distribution point, squelching their hooves into the mud which has been created by the spillage from the point and occasionally dropping dung which also gets squelched into the mud. This creates a smelly mucky area around the water distribution point to about a 5m radius. The community have tried to remedy this by pushing rocks into the mud, to create a hard surface with limited effect. Although it can be walked on it still smells bad, is an unhygienic area and there is a wastage of nutrients in the form of donkey dung, not to mention the spilled water, which could all be put to better use.

We have proposed building a “donkey park” which is a place for people coming to collect water to park their donkeys, where they (the donkeys) can get a drink and drop their dung in an organized way so it can be collected for composting. We designated a 3m by 3m area for this, adjacent to the water distribution point. There will be a drinking trough at one end, which will receive the waste water from the distribution point. A cement rim of 10cm height will be added onto the concrete slab below the taps, and a 50mm PVC pipe set into the cement to take all the discharged water to the donkey drinking trough. The floor of the donkey park area will ideally be concreted making it easy to clean and collect the manure at one side. On the other side of the fence a composting area will be established. The overflow from the donkey drinking trough (when the donkeys do not drink all the water) will enter the Zone II food forest system, discharging into one of the swale systems.


Figure 5: Shows the location of the of the Zone 1 garden area, car park
and donkey park in the modified design

Next to the donkey park we placed a car park for visitors and guests. The car park is 3m by 10m, open onto the road and could hold 3 or 4 vehicles. It will have a “solar roof” for shade; basically a bank of solar panels, which will be installed to power the pumps for the new facilities, but will also serve to shade the cars.

Combining all these new observations and physical developments on the ground we modified the site design as shown in Figure 6 below.


Figure 6: Hafto Project Site Design Version II, produced after
the third site visit in October 2012

Physical activities conducted at the Hafto project site during the third site visit

During the second and third site visits we delivered supplies to the site for the initial phase of implementation, which we began during the third visit on October 8th. The initial design plan lays out a strategy for implementation in the final section. We discussed this with Oliver and resolved four priority tasks to begin working on in the few days that we were available:

  1. Establishing the aquatic plant species in the constructed wetlands to begin the water purification as soon as the facilities are completed and planting ornamental but functional species in the central circle of each compound (the hole in the middle of the donut) around which the constructed wetland is built (see facilities plan)
  2. Tree nursery Establishment – to begin propagation of all the necessary trees and plants for the overall site design.
  3. Fencing of Zone I garden and Zone II areas (temporary fencing will also be required for the Zone IV area)
  4. Establishing a compost heap in the new composing area with community members and training them in how to do fast hot-composting for Zone 1 garden establishment and the tree nursery.

Task 1: Establishing the constructed wetlands

When we reached Hafto on Oct 8th, the facilities were still being constructed, so no chance to proceed with tasks 1 and 2. We had however already collected around 30 clumps of aquatic plants including reeds, bull-rushes and aquatic sedges from around lake Awassa and lake Chamo (near Arbaminch). We were worried these plants would not be able to survive without being planted quickly. Oliver estimated it would be another couple of weeks before the facilities were all finished off. We decided to plant them so that they could establish and begin to multiply in the surrounding swampy area on the local elders land. However, we became worried that this area may soon dry out since it was now the end of the rainy season.

We figured the best place to plant them would be in a permanently wet area. Another problem we had right then, was that the spillage water from the community distribution point on the initial facility was creating a large mud puddle, as mentioned earlier. We decided to excavate a channel to direct this water along the NW boundary of the compound and into a small pond, from which water can be drawn by bucket to water the tree nursery. This provided water for the tree nursery from a waste-water source, allowed the mud-bath around the water distribution point to begin drying out and provided us with a planting place for the water plants. We put them along the channel, around the pond and along another channel, which was an over-flow from the pond.

When we return on October 24th we will bring more reeds with us, which we can plant into the wetlands in the facilities. Those we brought earlier can be transplanted again, or left where they are to multiply. Since this project intended to be replicated in the future, it would be easier if we don’t have to go off to the lakes to collect the reeds and rushes in the future.

We agreed with Oliver to plant some functional but ornate plantings in the space in the centre of the wetland (“hole in the donut”) we resolved to plant the following in each:

  • Shower House: Avocado, lufa and lemon grass
  • Laundry House: Mulberry, lufa and lemongrass
  • Toilet House: Kosso (Hagia abyssinica) t’enadam (rue) and lemongrass

Lufa is a climbing curcubit species which produces a natural sponge. Kosso is an indigenous tree species with a strong scent and anti-insect properties. T’enadam and lemon grass are herbs with a strong and pleasant odour.

For this task we have so far delivered the following materials to the site:

Item Unit Quantity Comments
Compost
Bag 10 Done
Tree Seedlings:
     
Avocado
Pcs 1 to be delivered
Mulberry
Pcs 1 Done
Kosso
  1 Done
Herb Seedlings:
     
Lemon grass
  10 Done
T’enadam
  10 Needs more

Task 2: Tree nursery establishment

The initial design had specified we would need to plant the following list of trees which need seedling production in the nursery:

Item Qty
Avocado
200
Mango
200
Orange
200
Guava
200
Kazmir
200
Lime
200
Papaya
500
Leucinnea
2000
Sesbania
2000
Grevilila
700
Ziziphus
700
Terminalia
700
Kushum
1200
Total seedlings
9000

Other species included in the design will be replicated by stem propagation (e.g. sugar cane), suckers (e.g. banana) or just seed. Not all of the seeds could be acquired at this time of the year. Mango, for example, will become available in the next few months as the mango season starts in the lowlands around Arbaminch.

To construct a tree nursery capable of holding 9000 seedlings we needed the following materials. Not all of the materials have yet been supplied to the project, but will be over the course of subsequent visits:

Item Unit Quantity Comments
Compost
Bag 10 Done
Polythene tube 10cm
Kg 10 Done
Polythene tube 5cm
Kg 10 Done
Bamboo screen “satera”
Kg 20 Still required
Eucalyptus pole "mager"
Pcs 30 Done
Cutter (Stanley blades)
Pcs 5 Done
String
M 60 Done
Watering cans
Pcs 3 Still required
     
Seeds:
     
Avocado
Pcs 200 Done
Mango
Pcs 200 Out of season, still required
Orange
Pcs 200 More needed
Guava
Pcs 200 Done
Kazmir
Pcs 200 Out of season, still required
Lime
Pcs 200 More needed
Papaya
Kg 1 Done
Leucinnea
Kg 1 Done
Sesbania
Kg 0.5 Done
Grevilila
Kg 1 Done
Ziziphus
Kg 1 Out of season, to be completed
Terminalia
Kg 1 Done
Kushum
Kg 0.5 Replaced by Jatropha

Note that due to discussions with Oliver we decided to partially replace Kushum (a spiny local fruit tree also known as “kay apple” in some places) with Jatropha. Oliver has an interest in bio-diesel production, and I was able to source a highly productive variety which is distributed by an out-grower’s project belonging to a former permaculture trainee of ours, Mr Taye. Mr Taye gives out the seed for this variety, which he brought from Malaysia, for free. His only requirement is that we sell the product back to him and not to anybody else, which he will buy at the market rate, as much as we can grow!

The tasks for constructing the nursery were:

  1. Marking out the area – we need a total of at least 24m2 to hold 9000 seedlings, and we will probably end up with 32m2. To start with we marked out an 8m2 area to fit in two rows of four 1m by 1m squares for holding the seedlings.
  2. Levelling the area, removing grass and putting down a few cms of sand. We put down the sand so that if the seedling gets its roots down past the bottom of the tube, and grows into the ground, we can pull him out again without tearing off all the roots and causing too much damage.
  3. We set wooden frames around each 1m2 section of the nursery. These divide the polythene planting tubes into different species, but also hold them at the edges to stop them from falling over.
  4. We construct a wooden frame 60cm high to hold grass for shading. Also we used timber to make boards for sheltering the seedlings from the easterly wind and afternoon sun (from the west).

Now we can start preparing the seedlings:

  1. Prepare the soil mix. With the local soil, which is a dark heavy loamy clay we found the best mix was 1:1:1 top-soil:sand:compost. If the soil is clayey and more sticky, you can reduce the topsoil in the mix. If it is more sandy soil, reduce the sand. We want a mix that holds enough water but also allows enough infiltration so that the water can penetrate into the mix in a short time while it is being watered. The compost also adds nutrients to the medium to make sure the germinating seed has all it needs.
  2. We cut the polythene planting tube. To do this we just roll it onto a stick or a piece of wood with a circumference of the length we want the tube to be. If we roll it around the stick 20 times we only have to slice it once and all sections pop off at almost the exact same length. To make longer sections we use a fatter stick. You can also re-cycle the polythene tubes. If you are careful you can take seedlings out of them without tearing them (a skill you can develop). Or you can use rubbish instead, like old plastic bottles, pasta packets, even newspaper, or eggshells. But to do a big nursery like this with limited time and in the middle of nowhere with really not much rubbish about we went with the conventional polythene tubes on the basis that we can re-use them a few times.
  3. Now we prepare the seeds. Each species of seed has its own best practice for planting into the nursery. Some seeds come in a husk, like mango, which you should remove with a knife or tin-snips. Some are best pre-soaked, like the Jatropha. Citrus is best planted when fresh from the fruit. You can let the seed dry out a bit so it’s not too slippery, then peel off the little husk with your finger nails. The embryo is at the fat end, and it already has a little root curled around the seed. Other seeds are easy, you just whack them in.
  4. Now we plant. You choose the right size of container. For the fruits with big seeds like mango and avocado, use a wide container, like 10cm polythene. For the little seeds use a narrow one, like 5cm. You fill the tube to about ¾ full. Pack in the soil. Put in the seed in the correct orientation (this differs between species). Put the rest of the soil in and pack it down again. We leave about 1cm empty at the top of the tube. This will catch a little pool of water as we water the nursery, which will then soak into the mix for a good watering. If the tube is full most of the water may run off.
  5. Place the seeded tubes into the nursery, under shade. We group them according to species. Ideally we should label which species is where and keep a log of what was seeded when.


Jatropha seed soaking overnight

Task 3: Fencing the Zone I and II areas

Zone I is split into two parts. The first part is the original project compound, which includes the water distribution facility and guest house. It is fenced with a stout Eucalyptus pole fence sufficient to keep out livestock by day and marauding hyenas by night. We also decided to place the tree nursery in this area, as being pre-fenced, we could get on with preparing the seedlings while not having to worry about keeping animals out, etc. One problem not solved by the Eucalyptus fence however is wind, so in the design we convert it into a living fence which will block the hot dry easterly. The main species we’ve used for this is Kushum. We planted seedlings at 30cm intervals right around the inner edge of the current fence, along with passion fruit, which is a vine, at 5 to 10m intervals. We will be able to add mulberry or Jatropha, as we please, at a later date.

The second part of Zone I is the vegetable garden. This was initially placed to the SW of the original compound on the local elder’s land. But, observing this area becoming heavily waterlogged in the rains, we realised this would be unsuitable. With the new facilities having been relocated to the other side of the bridleway and Oliver’s stipulation that the discharge water from the new facilities should be priority use for irrigation, it was decided to place the vegetable garden on the border of the elder’s land opposite to the toilet block, which is where the final discharge point for the new system will be. There is also going to be a drinking trough for cattle placed behind the toilet block, so, like the donkey manure, this can be harvested for composting in the garden. Discharge water will go first to the Zone I veggie garden, and what is not used here will pass on to Zone II behind. The area chosen also had a marginally higher elevation than the rest of the elder’s land, meaning water will flow by gravity from here on to the rest of the system.

This whole area was being fenced with barbed wire at the time of our visit. This fence will also be planted with Kushum and Jatropha, once we have seedlings ready to go out from the nursery. The zone II and IV areas as well as the new facilities compound will all be fenced with living fence, including the Jatropha, and also ideally sisal, to keep out livestock (and hyenas) and form a low front line for wind-break.

For the purposes of these tasks we delivered the following materials to the site:

Item Unit Quantity Comments
Compost
Bag 10 Done
Tree Seedlings:
     
Avocado
Pcs 1 to be delivered
Mulberry
Pcs 1 Done
Kosso
Pcs 1 Done
Herb Seedlings:
     
Lemon grass
Pcs 10 Done
T’enadam
Pcs 10 Needs more

Task 4: Establishing a composting system and training the community members who will manage the project in fast hot-composting for Zone 1 garden establishment and the tree nursery

From the considerations in the previous paragraphs it is clear we will have two composting sites in the design. One will serve mainly for the tree nursery and be supplied manure from the donkey park, so is placed adjacent to them both. The other will serve mainly for the vegetable garden and be supplied manure from the area of the cattle drinking trough.

We were unable to get going with the composting system during the previous visits since the composting materials we had ordered were not ready. Hopefully these will be in place for our next visit on October 24th.

Item Unit Quantity Comments
Vegetable seeds
tin 5 Done
     
Compost:
     
Dry grass/organic waste
load 3 Required
Fresh organic material
load 2 Required
Fresh manure
load 1 Required

We hope to report back with more info following our fourth visit to the site scheduled for October 24th.

3 Responses to “Update on Permaculture Implementation and Design Development at Hafto Site, Hadiya Zone, Ethiopia”

  1. Jenny

    What y’all are doing is awesome. Good job! I look forward to more updates – including your current trip to Jordan. I can see potential for great success, especially in developing countries. I hope to do permaculture myself one day, but cannot yet.

    Reply

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