Here is the first of a series of videos taken from interviews with some of the participants from the May PDC in Kamuli.
In conversation with Grace from Sector39, teacher Connie talks about the 10 girls she acts a patron for at Busoga high school. Moving and inspiring talk, using permaculture ideas to support education for otherwise economically excluded people.
The woods have been destroyed, they have gone away, how can permaculture help respond to this challenge? Wilbur
We must replant, using local resources and by propagating the few trees we have around. They will grow. Connie.
What are you taking back to your community and home from the permaculture course? Wilbur responds to Connie’s question with a full and inspiring answer. He hopes to become a model for his village, by applying what he has learned.
He responds with a challenging question,
What can we do about the illiterates, those who do not understand the environment? Wilberforce, Dolen Ffermio, Kamuli
which Connie replies to begin by doing it.
Let them see you put these things on your land, if you cannot talk to them, let your actions speak. Connie, Kamuli 2016
This two week course will be a huge experience and the perfect introduction for anyone interested n working in East Africa in the future. We are partnering up with Dolen Ffermio, the farmers link charity that for the last 20 years has been building mutually beneficial links with the Eastern Ugandan region around Kamuli and Mbale.
The idea is bring together an international group of permaculture students, half from Europe and rest of the World and half from East Africa, principally Uganda. The course will cover the internationally recognised permaculture curriculum with field trips and practical sessions directly involved with local projects, with long established links with Dolen Ffermio.
In late 2014 14 of us from Mid Wales undertook a 2-week study of the region, visiting many of the projects and meeting many of the people concerned. It was immediately apparent from the this initial visit that there was much that could be achieved by running some permaculture sessions to help consolidate and the build on the many works already under way in the region as part of the project. The single thing that came over the strongest on our visit was how much people appreciated the international link. For a relatively small emerging nation such as Uganda the exchange of ideas, support and momentum that comes from these links is tremendously important and supportive, reinforcing the really important work they are doing there.
Topics and practicals that I can see could have huge relevance and usefulness in the region include biochar production, wood gas, biogas and composting toilets. Most Ugandans cook on firewood every day.. by most I think that is as much as 80% and with a rapidly growing population that is a huge burden on the nation’s forests and scrub. Biogas and wood gas production might be able to help displace much of the wood use or at least make it much cleaner, less smoky and more efficient.
The soils there are deep and fertile so the need for composting toilets is not driven by a need for recycling nutrients, however, the smells from pit latrines and danger of pathogen spread from people using the fields means that is a huge benefit to be had by developing and trialling new systems. Village well development initiatives are now linked to improved toilet facilities, so the new wells don’t become contaminated, so this is important work
There is already a strong interest in agroforestry and agro ecology within Dolen Ffermio and the projects and schools they work with.. so adding this work and awareness to a broader framework of permaculture could really help authenticate and add momentum to these approaches. a common problem in the majority world is that the best aspects of traditional systems are undervalued in the light of exciting new seeds and technologies from the outside. Practices that have worked effectively for multiple generations are abandoned overnight in pursuit of a marginal gain from a technology that might be both expensive and unsustainable.
Background; Climate and History
The equatorial nation of Uganda is about the size of UK and sits just north of the massive inland lake Victoria. Especially in the southern half, where most of the people live it has excellent, deep fertile soils and people grow 90% of their own food locally and largely organically. The population of 33 million is young, and has grown strongly in recent years, the nations problems of tribal warfare, financial collapse and instability are now hopefully long behind them as 20 year stable political period has allowed the country to greatly move forward. It sits at an interesting junction in its history as a nation, with choices to get drawn into the globalised economy or to concentrate on developing its own grass roots sector.
The Government tends to be drawn into large scale international projects and can be criticized for overlooking the localised sustainable agricultural sector.. and that is why the role of NGO’s like Dolen Ffermio is so important. 80% of the people still live in rural areas, in Mud huts surrounded by crops with chickens and goats, fruit trees and more as the backbone of the rural economy.
The uptake of technology has been rapid and they have one of the highest rates of mobile phone use in the World, with better coverage than we have here in Wales. This,coupled with a new currency system based around the ability to transfer phone credit between users using SMS messages has greatly stimulated the local economy.. and it is this marriage of new technology and traditional, tried and tested systems that excites me the most. Uganda as a nation has the potential to lead the way into genuinely low carbon economies. They have the potential to evolve a set of technologies that could be exported across the globe, helping transforming the oil-addicted climate changing economies that predominate around the World.
More on this soon.. please get in touch with me if you are interested in this opportunity. I hope to be able to run a course in November 2015, or April 2016, depending on levels of interest.
PRESS RELEASE: DOLEN FFERMIO STUDY GROUP VISIT UGANDA. For Tanat Valley Chronicle
530 words by StevenJones firstname.lastname@example.org
IT WAS A WONDERFUL opportunity to travel with the Dolen Ffermio group to Eastern Uganda earlier this month to see progress on projects that the Llanfyllin area has been supporting for 20 years. The UK is Europe’s least-forested country, so it was powerful to see the extensive reforestation efforts going on over there in part of their wider on-going battle with climate change. The coffee growers of the stunning Mount Elgon region were clear about the effects of deforestation on their landscape. Landslides and floods, as well as the erratic weather patterns that have been developing over the last two decades, have made their ambition to produce one of the world’s really great coffees ever more challenging.
Uganda is a young nation, with its tribal conflicts and civil war behind it. It is an inspiration to meet the young population, hungry for knowledge and with an eye on the future. They have revolutionised their own economy by creating a form of money transaction using phone credit, one that bypasses banks and has stimulated economic activity by a factor of 10 times where it is active. Suddenly everyone has a mobile phone and is hooked into a surging and energised economy. Britain feels like a rather grey, tired and aged nation compared to modern Uganda. Yet many communities, especially in rural areas, are still held back from participating in the economy by really mundane and trivial things. The lack of small bits of information, tiny amounts of funds for school fees, uniforms, basic resources, slow down progress and causes unnecessary suffering and frustration.
Just like in the UK, the expanding and vibrant parts of the economy in Uganda fail to touch the remoter areas and more socially-excluded people. Political ambitions are more along the lines of huge industrial farms to grow commodity crops like sugar cane for export, rather than to invest in the organic, small-scale patchwork of farms that exists there and is a model for sustainable food production the world over.
My lasting impression is of a country with a bright future, with ample resources and a fantastic, lively population, yet still facing the same global issues as every other nation. The main challenges include the lack of the right kind of investment into the social and environmental parts of the economy, the ever- present threat of climate change, and being at the mercy of globalised markets for the commodities like coffee that they grow so well. Uganda leads the western world in low-carbon lifestyles, in a localised and largely sustainable food economy, and in the ingenuity of its people.
For all its vibrancy, the importance of its links via projects like Dolen Ffermio are hard to overestimate. Uganda needs to be able to play an active part in our globalised and interconnected community – they have so much to offer the rest of the world and it is certainly time we in the West shifted our perspective on Africa as whole. It is a continent with a huge future and one we can engage with for mutual benefit, allowing us all the opportunity to overcome the baggage of our pasts.
Dolen Ffermio is a Llanfyllin based charity and have been working in partnership with a range of projects in eastern Uganda over the last 20 years.
Steve Jones is the founder of Sector39, an independent company teaching about environment, sustainability and permaculture design.