Aid ProjectsBuildingCommunity ProjectsLandVillage DevelopmentWaste Systems & Recycling

A Permaculture Consultancy in Ethiopia

Two hundred kilometers south of Addis we turn left at a little town called Achamo, and dive off the tarmac into a dusty, bumpy adventure somewhere in the middle of nowhere in the green rolling steppes of the south Ethiopian countryside. This is my first foray into Hadiyya country. We’ve just passed Siltie, my own tribe (by marriage). We’re en route into the deep south, but this little foray off the usual 14 hour slog down to Konso is going to be something different. The countryside is all populated. Open farmland, mostly beans and maize, dotted with little settlements. Donkeys, gangs of skinny cattle and groups of bearded men out on a Sunday morning stroll punctuate the forty minutes of grinding along the rough climes of the roadway, till we pull into the dusty market town of Bonosha. I call our contact, Tegene, and tell him we’ve arrived. He sends a couple of local lads to show us the way. They jump into the back of the car and direct us out of town. As it turns out, I’m off to do my very first commercial consultancy as a permaculturalist. It’s quite exciting really.

The clients are a local NGO (called SMART), working in partnership with the a German organisation called DWC. Smart and DWC have developed a community water distribution centre on a site in a little place called Hafto. The solar powered pumping station drawing from a deep bore delivers high quality drinking water for use by the local community at a very reasonable price. The site is about 16km out of Bonosha. Currently the pumping station is only delivering water by tap to the community members from a water distribution facility. This comprises a building at the front of which 4 taps are installed over a concrete platform. Behind this is a service window, inside which an attendant sits and collects payment for the water. The community members place jerry-cans on the concrete platform to fill them. They are generally messy and splash a lot of water about the place.

DWC has informed us that they intend to expand the site and to construct three new facilities: a shower house, a laundry house and a toilet house. Each of the houses will comprise eight units arranged within a circular structure of 15m diameter. There will be a circular court-yard at the centre of each of the three structures, which shall be occupied by a constructed wetland/swamp, comprising a community of reeds and aquatic species which will perform the function of purifying waste water from the facility itself. The waste water shall first flow out of the facility to an initial treatment tank (a septic tank for the toilet, a filter-bag for the laundry and showers) before being pumped back into the constructed wetland in the central court-yard and then draining back out to a treated water holding tank/basin outside the main service structure, before it can be directed to further use. Treated water from the shower house shall then feed into the laundry for re-use. The treated laundry water shall then again feed into the toilet house. The treated water from the toilet facility shall be used to water cattle and donkeys. The remaining water after this, they want to use for growing food. This is where we come in.

The brief of the clients is that they want us to design a sustainable food production system, downstream of the water treatment systems, to make effective use of the treated grey/black water for income generation to cover the project running costs and provide income for potential future expansion of the project.

So as we pull up at the site, this is what we are faced with:


The compound is currently an oblong shape, 45m long by 15m wide, with the long axis running SE-NW. The entrance is at the NE corner of the compound, just next to where the current water distribution point to the community is located. There is a public bridle-way running along the NE side of the compound. The NW and SW sides of the compound are bounded by pasture and a residential compound belonging to a local elder. This land, which is a field of about 50m x 50m will be available for use in expansion of the project area according to Tegene. This land is flat. However he was unable to specify exactly the dimensions of the land that are planned to be used for expansion of the current compound, or which land would be preferable, but it is assumed that the land can be acquired as we need, according to our design. On the SE side of the current site is farmland belonging to another neighbour/community member. The compound is fenced on all sides with a stout Eucalyptus pole fence.


The site itself is essentially flat. A very gentle slope runs to the down-hill from SE to NW. This slope picks up, becoming steeper at the SE end of the site as the land crosses the boundary onto the neighbouring farmland to the SE and South. This farmland slopes down towards the site and the neighbouring local elder’s compound.

Sector Analysis

Winds: The main winds are East to West, especially in the dry season. In the rain season wind may also blow from north to south, infrequently.

Sun: The sun arc is very high in the sky, with the nadir slightly south of vertical, with little seasonal variation, being within 7 degrees of the equator. DWC, who designed the site, are clearly experts in solar engineering and have installed an array of 14 panels which are on a rotating stand that automatically moves to directly face the sun all day. It looks almost like a space station just landed here to give out cheap water, against the local technological backdrop.

Water: Piped water is drawn from the bore hole which is currently outside of the compound about 5m to the SE, on the property of a local community elder. The water pumping system has an expected output of 2 – 5m3 per day. There is currently an outflow of waste/spillage water from the community water distribution point. Much of this water is splashing forwards from the taps causing a muddy area in front of the distribution point. The remainder of the waste/spillage water is running away to the NW, where it is forming a large shallow puddle which covers the grazing land of the local elder. This puddle seems to occasionally get enlarged and at times even to encroach into the current project compound itself from the SW boundary. In rain times this pooling of surface water will be increased, enhanced by direct rainfall and soil saturation. There is also apparently run-on water which comes from uphill, from the neighbouring farmland to the south and SE. This may also carry silt with it as the land is cultivated and is a clay-loam consistency.

People: The main flow of people to the site is along the public bridleway on the NE side of the site. Most of the people currently using the site facilities are standing around inside an alcove at the northern corner of the site, while they queue for water, in front of the distribution facility. Their donkeys are also hanging around outside this area, frequently dropping manure.

Views, noise and sensory influences: There did not appear to be any disruptive or unpleasant sensory influences affecting the site. The surrounding lands are all farmlands or open wooded pasture areas. The site is low-lying and there are no unpleasant views, large roads or disruptive industrial processes in the vicinity. Being low lying, there are no particularly striking landscape views from the site, though it is still a very pleasant environment.

Situation Analysis

Structures: Structures on the site are:

  • The water-distribution house — ~5m diameter, octagonal, cement block structure, corrugated roof.
  • The solar array — ~8m x 3m oblong, oriented E-W. Raised up to about 3m above the ground, casts a wide fully-shaded area below itself.
  • The Guest house –10m diameter circular structure, cement rendered, corrugated roof.
  • Toilet block — behind guest house 2m x 2m concrete/cement block structure, corrugated roof.


  • A ground-covering layer of short grass vegetates most of the site.
  • Some Abyssinian cabbage is being cultivated in the southern corner of the site, behind the guest house.
  • One Wanza (Cordia africana) (about 5 years of age, about 4m tall, 3m spread) is situated to the east side of the guest-house, casting heavy shade below its canopy.
  • On the field to the SW, several acacias of differing degrees of maturity are present and one large Warka (Ficcus sp) is established.


  • The site has a rich, clay loam soil, it is dark underneath the surface, but seems to whiten up when drying off at the surface. It is very fertile, with a rich earthy smell. Most people can only dream about soil like this. The soil type is fairly uniform across the site and the surrounding plots of land.
  • This soil can be effectively used for mud-walling (surrounding mud walled houses are rendered with the soil from their own compounds). With application of some lime/gypsum/manure/cement this soil can be effectively used to produce clay bricks if desired.
  • The soil will also be effective for holding water to infiltrate in swales. Ponds will need to be lined to prevent infiltration loss into the ground.

Other resources:

  • There didn’t appear to be any rocks available on site.
  • Some old unused concrete reinforcement rod was lying about in the compound.

Site Inhabitants Survey:

  • 1500 community members use the water facilities on a daily basis. Many of them bring donkeys with them to carry the water back to their dwellings.
  • One full-time supervisor takes care of the facilities, based in the water-distribution house — also acting as a guard at night.

Community Survey:

  • Skills: The community has a wealth of indigenous knowledge on the cultivation of various crops annuals (e.g. red pepper, maize), bee-keeping, etc. There is also reported to be a fish farm in the area, which may have the potential to share knowledge and skills with our project.
  • Markets: The available market for fruit appears to be high, with the project managers placing a special emphasis on the importance of fruit production. Coffee is also reported to be expensive in the area, with one small cup (sini) of coffee beans valued at 5 birr. There is also a sawmill in Bonosha, so there is potential to sell timber.
  • Community Resources: Since most families keep cattle and donkeys, gaining access to manure for compost production is fairly easy. Waste products such as wheat chaff can also be easily accessed for composting and humus production.

Figure 1: Survey Map of the Hafto Site as it is Currently


Design aims

The aims of this design are to create a productive, stable polyculture system which can:

  • Be installed using available community resources
  • Be maintained and managed effectively by a work force of two local workers
  • Incorporate maximum indigenous knowledge into the design, making the system workable by the community
  • Make effective use of all the treated waste water coming from the three new facilities to be installed on the site as well as from the currently existing water distribution facility
  • Operate without the need for continuous inputs from outside the local area
  • Be replicated by the local community
  • Generate significant income, to cover the running costs of the project and even yield a surplus to support future rounds of project expansion
  • Be ecologically sustainable: maintain and build the fertility of the soil on the site over the long term rather than destroy it
  • Capture and put to use all available nutrients from the environment, including human and animal sources
  • Result in the re-percolation of clean water back into water table to replenish the aquifer after use.

Elements to be included in the design


Nitrogen Fixers


  • Cow pea (Ground cover; can produce food)
  • Alfalfa (Ground cover; also possible fodder source)
  • Vetch (Ground cover; also possible fodder source)


  • Pigeon pea (Fast growing; drought tolerant, can produce food)

    Early succession nitrogen fixing trees (NFTs)

  • Sesbania (possible fodder source)
  • Leucinnea (possible fodder source)
  • “Kwantir”(Fencing species – thorny)

    Mid-to late successional NFTs

  • Grevillea robusta (timber species)
  • Acacia nilotica (Climax canopy shade tree, pods can be used as fodder for donkeys)

Fruit trees and plants

Early successional

  • Papaya

    Mid to late successional

  • Coffee (understory)
  • Passion fruit (climber)
  • Banana
  • Mulberry

    Climax community species

  • Avocado
  • Mango
  • “Tazmir” (Mexican apple)
  • Citrus (Orange, lemon, lime)
  • Kushum (spiny species, can be used for fencing)

Other Crops


  • Taro (swamp loving root-crop)
  • Sweet potato (ground cover and root crop)
  • Loofah (natural sponge; tendril climber)

    Perennial crops

  • Sugar cane (clumping cane crop, high value)
  • "Shumboko” (Spanish cane; local building material, wet-dry tolerant)


  • Terminalia birownii (indigenous timber tree, animal fodder)
  • Ziziphus sp. (indigenous timber tree, animal fodder)


  • Donkeys: already a part of the system, potential nutrient source
  • Cattle: will be part of the system, though not resident on the site, also potential nutrient source
  • Chickens: easy to include in the system
  • Fish: Could be included in the system; skill/knowledge share with local fish raising project should be conducted.


  • Water distribution facility (present)
  • Solar panel array
  • Guest house
  • Current pit toilet
  • Toilet block with septic tank and holding tank for treated water
  • Shower block with filter bag tank and holding tank for treated water
  • Laundry block with filter bag tank and holding tank for treated water


  • Basic surveying equipment: A frame, plum-line, spirit level
  • Basic hand tools: shovels, picks, hoes, machete, sickle
  • Existing solar array (provides all power)
  • Drip irrigation system may be used in tree nursery and vegetable beds.


  • Community trainings on Permaculture and panting food forests can back up sales of seedlings to the community.

The Design

Ground-Plan: Zonation of Available Spaces

It is assumed the site will expand onto the local elder’s land, to the west and south-west. This land is level or very slightly down-hill from the existing site, so gravity will naturally draw the flow of waste water from the point of discharge into this area, as evidenced by the current water-logging of the pasture in this area. It is about 50m wide and over 80m long. The design will make use of the currently-discharged water, as well as the discharged waste water from the three new service facilities to be built. The main focus of the design is on a Zone II food forest system, which will be on this piece of land.

The area within the currently-existing compound, as well as the adjacent part of the local elder’s land to the SW of the current compound, shall comprise the Zone I area. Zone I shall thus comprise the 135m2 within the currently existing compound, though only part of this will be useable as much of it is occupied by structures, as well as an area of 12m x 20m to the SW of the current compound, which shall be used for the annual vegetable garden.

A strip of land on to the NE of the public bridleway is apparently government owned and may be available for the project expansion also. This is designated for a strip of Zone IV “harvest-forest” (ideally about 30m wide) which can be planted for fodder, fuel, mulch and timber production, to provide economic yield, but also serve as a wind-break/shelter-belt for the Zone I and II areas. There is no Zone III area in the design as most of the community are engaged in extensive agricultural practices on their own lands, so grain crops etc. are not in demand in the area. There is the potential to do some aquaculture on the site, if the motivation and means to develop it are forthcoming. This is included in the design as a suggestion for potential expansion in the future.

Zone I: Intensive use (Figure 2)

Zone 1 systems are the most intensively managed systems in a permaculture design, requiring daily attention and comprising the most delicate and valuable elements in the design. In practice this means vegetable nursery, vegetable gardens, tree nursery, green-houses, small livestock (e.g. rabbits), composting, mother plants of high value for grafting from, etc. Due to the high labour intensity and need for continual follow-up, maintenance and inputs focus has not been put on the use of annual vegetable crops in this design.

The assessment of on-site community and surrounding community skills and resources has highlighted the following factors:

  • The surrounding area and climate is potentially very productive for fruits such as avocado, “kazmir” (Mexican apple) and citrus, and the community have an interest accessing fruit tree seedlings to plant on their land.
  • There will only be one or two full-time workers employed on the project.
  • The nearest market is 16km from the site, so there will be a requirement for bulk transport of product to the market for sale, unless products are of interest to the local community, and they will purchase them directly from the facilities.

The core Zone 1 area in the design will comprise a large tree nursery and a not so large vegetable garden:

The Tree Nursery should have a capacity of up to 10,000 trees to supply not only the development of the Zone II food forest and Zone IV wood-lot/shelter belt in this design, but also the local community’s needs for fruit trees and (indigenous) timber species. The tree nursery should be adequately secured to prevent loss of seedlings by theft or destruction by livestock. In order to get the project rolling quickly, therefore, the nursery will be located within the existing compound and will occupy most of the available space.

The Vegetable Garden must not be too extensive, at least not until the other systems are all well established, as vegetable production is labour intensive and will occupy too much of the available labour if it is over-extended. Vegetable seeds available in Ethiopia are mostly hybrid/or GM seeds and hence require inputs on a frequent basis and need to be continually re-purchased. In order to avoid the use of expensive chemicals, the garden vegetables should be intercropped with aromatic herbs and pest-repellent flowers, such a marigolds. A focus on local varieties, where possible, and those that are high value but not frequently subject to infestation (e.g. garlic) should be maintained. The high value vegetable varieties most in demand by the community (e.g. carrot, potato, Swiss chard, onion etc.) can be grown in strips 1m wide, each strip serviced by two drip irrigation lines. Ideally the beds will be heavily mulched with dead organic matter, though it may be a struggle to imbue this practice into the workers in a short time, as mulching of annual crops is not generally practiced in Ethiopia.

The vegetable garden can be irrigated from a 100l tank elevated to 2m above the ground to feed a drip system. This can be filled by pumping from the treated waste water storage tank of any of the new facilities. It will need to be filled once per day, possibly twice in the dry season. Hence it is proposed to locate the drip irrigation tank on the same stand as the current main water tank and fill it by pumping from the toilet facility waste water storage container, though this can be adjusted if desired.

The garden will comprise seven 1m by 20m raised strip-beds, laid out on contour and mulched. There will be a 50cm path way on either side. Each bed will be serviced by 2 drip-lines, so there will be a total of 14 drip-lines, total length 280m. The drip lines can be secured with stakes of steel-re-enforcement rod. Some of this material is available on-site already.

Security and Shelter

In order to reduce the irrigation requirement the garden and the tree nursery should be well sheltered from winds. The garden must be fenced with a secure fence, which can be gated to the current compound as well as to the Zone II area. A stout Eucalyptus pole fence will suffice initially. This can be planted with steaks of mulberry which can in time be espaliered to form a living fence, as the dead eucalyptus rots away. The mulberry fence will offer some shelter too. To increase production from the fence, it will also be planted with passion-fruit that grows well on mulberry. The mulberry will need to be trimmed back periodically, but in doing so will provide more planting material to plant on the wider compound. Outside the mulberry fence another layer of spiny “kushum” can be planted. This is a spiny fruit-bearing bush which will exclude any kinds of animals including monkeys and ‘jirt’ (a digging animal which eats root crops — possibly aardvark though not yet identified…) once well established. The Zone I and II areas will also be sheltered from winds by the Zone IV shelter belt placed to the NE of the public bridleway.

Tool shed and chicken house

A 4m by 3m structure has also been placed in the present compound at the NW end behind the solar array. This will be divided into two rooms, one for storing materials and tools for the garden and nursery, the other as a chicken house for a flock of up to 20 hens, with roosting area and nest boxes. The door for the chickens lets them into the Zone II area, so once the trees are established, they will forage for fallen fruit and remove pests from the food forest by day. They will be excluded from Zone 1, but will return here at night to roost in the security of the Zone 1 area.

Figure 2: Zone 1 – Garden and Tree Nursery Design

Zone II: The Food Forest

Modular unit of the food-forest design

It is suggested that the new facilities are spread at 20m intervals along the bridle way to the NW of the currently existing water distribution facility. This is to spread the waste water discharge over a wide area. Each facility will discharge water into a swale, as will the currently existing facility. [A swale is a dead level excavation that runs along a contour line, which comprises a ditch and a mound (bund). The earth removed from the ditch is heaped on the down-hill side of the swale to form the bund. Swales hold water and allow it to infiltrate. Swales can be designed with a spill-way to allow excess water to flow out of them into another swale or into drain or pond.]

In this design one swale will receive the waste water discharge from each service facility at its beginning which is at the NE edge of the local elder’s land. The swale will be about 30m long and run across the land, on contour, to the south-west. The ditch part of this swale will be a permanently wet microclimate in which water loving crops can be grown. The swale will have a spillway fixed at 5cm depth at its far end, which will over-flow into a second swale to the down-hill side. Since the ditch of the swale is 2m wide, and it is 30m long, it has a total holding capacity of (2x30x0.05 = 3m3) of standing water. If we assume the daily water output of the bore-hole is divided roughly equally across the four facilities the swale will receive 0.5-1.25m3 of water per day. Judging by the standing water on waterlogged land we observed, this will be enough to maintain permanent standing water in the swale bottom which will overflow into the second swale quite frequently, especially in the rain season, even following small rain events. The second swale will therefore be a wet-dry microclimate, receiving frequent overflow from the first swale, but probably won’t hold permanent standing water. The third swale will receive overflow from the second swale during heavy rains. The third swale will thus be a generally dry microclimate, but will hold temporary standing water quite frequently during the rainy season. This means the first swale will only tend to overflow during rains when the waste water discharge is supplemented by rain water. This means the second swale will have a wet-dry ecology, representing a different microclimate from the first swale, allowing us to plant different crops here. The second swale will also have a spillway. The second spillway will flow into a drain that leads to a pond at the bottom of the site to the north-west. This is the modular unit of the system: one service facility discharging treated waste water into three swales of total length 90m (Fig. 1).

During heavy rains the third swale in each unit will discharge into a flood drain running down the SW edge of the elder’s land, taking the water to a pond or series of ponds at the bottom (SE end) of the site. The pond(s) may be developed for used to conduct aquaculture activities if the budget and interest of the project managers allows.

Protection of the Zone I garden and food forest swale system from flooding and siltation

There will be a total of 12 swales running across the local elder’s land receiving water from the four facilities. The swales will be planted with a successional polyculture of productive species. In order to protect this whole food forest system as well as the Zone I garden from flooding, which may come downhill from the farmland to the south and SE, another swale will be placed above the garden. This swale will run from the boundary of the present compound to the SW of the elder’s land. The swale will not receive any discharge water from any of the community facilities. Its role will be to catch and divert flood water and the silt load that it may be carrying, thus preventing it from entering the garden or the food forest system, and damaging or silting up the swales. This flood protection swale will discharge into a small pond of approx 3x3x2m at the SW edge of the elder’s land. This first pond will act as a silt trap, and may need to be periodically re-dug. The first pond will further feed into a flood drain running down the SW edge of the elder’s land to another, larger pond, or series of ponds, which can be developed to support an aquaculture system. The swale itself, as well as the flood drain can be planted with shumboko (Spanish cane) which will stabilise the structure to stand up to the flood, as well as being a building material.

Security for Zone II

Zone II should be fenced with the same living fence system as Zone I.

Relative location of the different facilities

In this initial design the toilet block is placed closest to the current water distribution facility. This may be adjusted according to priorities during further rounds of discussion/design development, but the logic behind this is that the toilet block is likely to produce some unpleasant smell, as is the general trend with toilets in Ethiopia. A drinking trough for animals (donkeys, which are used to carry water to the community’s homes, and also cattle, sheep, if passing in the area) is located outside the toilet block. This will receive treated waste water discharged from the toilet block. A bank of stalls and a tethering area where people can tie their animals while using the other facilities is attached to the watering trough. A concrete slab foundation is set below the stalls, so that manure can be washed off the ground periodically. A drain will divert liquid waste into the stream of discharged waste water which is overflowing from the treated waste water tank of the toilet system and entering the first swale of this unit. Solid waste however can be swept or shovelled into a storage cubicle at the edge of the tethering area. This manure will be used for making compost for the Zone 1 garden and tree nursery (hence the need to locate this facility near to the Zone I compound), or it can be distributed by hand to plants in the food forest. The smell of a pile of manure in that area will not be a big problem, as it will be next to the toilet block anyway, so there would be a smell already — if anything animal manure is a more pleasant smell than the average human toilet in Ethiopia.

The laundry block is placed beyond the toilet block, and the shower block is last in the series. This placement may be adjusted, but the logic is that people will like to be furthest from the bad smell of the toilet/animal manure storage while taking a shower. The layout of the three new facilities is thus:

Species in the Food-Forest Design

The swales will be planted with a successional polyculture of productive species. Early successional species will initially stabilise the soil following the excavation of the swales, fix nitrogen and build a humus layer. Early successional species which can produce food too are also included, to give a yield of fruit and crop even in the first two years. However as the system matures over 5 to 7 years, the early successional species will be phased out and replaced by the climax species, which will have a greater productivity into the long term.

The design of the food forest species assemblage takes into account the differing microclimates of the swales 1, 2 and 3. Within this, each individual swale can be broken into 4 different niches:

  • Niche 1: The edges of the ditch
  • Niche 2: The bottom of the ditch
  • Niche 3: The bund
  • Niche 4: The down-hill space before the next swale

Within each unit of the modular food forest design, each of the four niches on the 3 swales will be assigned particular species on the basis of the predicted conditions.

Once the swale system has been dug out the whole plot will be sown with a cover crop of alfalfa and cow-pea, to stabilize the soil, fix organic nitrogen and begin building up a humus layer quickly. This cover crop will be slashed back down to provide mulch for subsequent plantings after 6 to 8 weeks, before it sets seed.

The four niches will be planted with appropriate species as follows:

Niche 1: Will be planted with canes that have a heavy root mat to stabilize the sides of the swale. In swales 1 and 2 sugar cane shall be used. In swale 3 it shall be bamboo, if available, or Spanish cane (‘shumboko’) if bamboo can’t be obtained locally.

Niche 2: Will be an aquatic environment in swale 1, planted with taro. It shall be a wet-dry environment in swale 2, planted with sugar cane (swale 2 will crop sugar cane in both niche 1 and 2). It shall be a dry though occasionally flooded environment in swale 3, and can be planted with sweet potato or cassava.

Niche 3: The bund will be the main productive niche for long term climax species. It will receive water by capillary action from the ditch, but will never get waterlogged, allowing the long term fruit trees to establish here which will form the main canopy of the system. Pigeon pea can be sown here as a fast growing bush species that will give shelter to the fruit tree seedlings over the first six months. The pigeon pea can be slashed back for mulch or animal fodder if it becomes too prolific. Trees shall then be planted along the bund according to the following planting scheme:

This sequence shall be repeated 7 to 8 times along the swale depending on its exact length.

Niche 4: is the area downhill from the bund. Plants here will be able to access moisture due to lateral seepage through the lower part of the bund, but they may also be able to access moisture from the ditch of the subsequent swale via their roots (e.g.: Niche 4 on swale 3 can access water from the ditch of swale 1 on the next unit of swales), making this a good location for thirsty species. It will also become a shaded environment as the main canopy trees develop, so it is a good site to locate shade loving species.

Coffee is given preference as a high value shade-loving crop. The coffee seedlings will be planted with fast growing support species (Sesbania) to shade it quickly, before the main canopy develops. As the system develops the Sesbania can be repeatedly slashed back to provide mulch and release nitrogen through root die-back (chop-and-drop technique). On the third swale banana is given preference and coffee is not planted, since banana and coffee are said to be antagonistic. Here the banana will be able to access the water from the ditch of swale 1 downhill.

Zone IV: The Harvest Forest / Shelter Belt

Species Assemblage

Wind breaks are designed to mimic the natural pattern of a forest edge. This means that the windward side of the shelter belt should comprise short and dense species which are leafed to the ground. The species further into the windbreak become successively taller. This gradually raising profile lifts the wind so that it passes up and over downwind areas without affecting them. Accordingly this design specifies five groups of species to be planted across a 30m belt of land on the NE side of the public bridleway along the entire length of the project compound (150m), as well as along the NW edge of the project compound (50m). The five groups of species will be planted in belts made up of rows at 1m spacing.

Strategy for Implementation of the Design

1) Tree nursery Establishment

The first priority in the implementation of the design will be to establish the tree nursery and begin propagation of all the necessary trees and plants for the overall site design. This will be done within the current compound without the need for any prior groundwork. Major material requirements for this task are:

  • Polythene tubing for tree seedlings (10km, range of sizes)
  • Eucalyptus pole for shade frames (‘mager’) 50 pieces
  • Compost/decayed manure (20 bags)
  • Sand (20 bags)
  • Seeds for propagation of all required species

[Note: for some species, especially climax fruit trees, local root-stock can be grafted with special varieties for larger fruit/better production. The grafting material may be acquired from nurseries (e.g. in Butajira) where seedlings can be purchased to grow mother plant stock for grafting from. Hence we can use local, or as local as possible, seed for all seedlings, including fruit trees, by purchasing fruit in the local market, or taking from neighbouring farms, since these will be best adapted to the local conditions]

2) Fencing of Zone I garden and Zone II areas (temporary fencing will also be required for the Zone IV area)

For the development of the Zone II food forest, subsequent tasks in the development will be:

3) Excavation of swales, mulching and sowing to cover crop
4) Planting out seedlings
5) Chopping and dropping the legume trees during the rain season
6) Grafting high value scions onto the local root-stocks of the fruit trees

For the development of the Zone 1 garden area subsequent tasks will be:

1) Establishment and operation of a compost production system
2) Laying out the garden beds
3) Installing the drip system (follows the construction of the new community facilities)
4) Establishing a vegetable nursery

For the development of the Zone IV harvest forest/shelter belt subsequent tasks will be:

1) Planting and mulching seedlings/propagules of the selected species.
2) Maintenance of young trees by removing grass and re-mulching as required
3) Chop and drop (pollarding) of Leucinnea and Sesbania as required.

So there you have it. That’s my first Permaculture consultancy design.


  1. Dear Alex,

    Is this your first design? …Looks great and fantastic!!!

    Wish you all the best.

    Yam BT Malla
    Eco-Organic Farms (P) Ltd.

  2. Brilliant situational analysis and a relevnt Permaculture Design that can grow over time. Wonderful! Keep on going! Nici Richter, Johannesburg, South Africa

  3. Hi Alex,
    Fantastic review of the knowledge you have aquired in Konso applied to a new situation. I wish you luck on getting the design implemented.
    3 points:
    Who is doing the work on what basis and for how long? Local community members who will then learn about site maintenance and function? Foreign aid workers looking for PDC skills?
    Whats the budget like?
    Care needs to be taken on the water elements that there is no cross contamination between sources and outputs especially with the volume of projected users and functions.
    Best wishes Guy

  4. Hi all thanks for commenting. Pics are up on our FB page:
    We have also posted the next update on the project at this stage:

    Guy: SMART is prety well funded, by the looks of it, through a German Foundation called Antonia Ruut Stiftung, though they will only fund project development and dont cover running costs. All running costs have to be covered from project income – by selling water, water realted services, produce or other permaculture realted services.

    We are looking at running the PC part of the project through international interns who will oversee a local team, headed by a gardener called Tesfaye, who will participate on our PDC in December. We’d ideally be looking for resident interns who have a PDC on 6 month to a year turn around. If potential interns dont have a PDC they can do one with us at the start of the internship at a discounted rate.

    Oliver, the water/solar engineer has got all the water-solar technical stuff covered, we are only handing the biological elements, and he’s got all that sorted to German standard, so no worries.

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