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permaculture advocate in Zimbabwe - too little/too much rain  RSS feed

 
Posts: 136
Location: Zimbabwe
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We are finished with the shelling.
We got 10 bags, which is 4 bags short from last year's yield and I am really happy especially considering this past season was close to opposite that of the season prior to it. This season's harvest is going to be potentially our minimum yield, in the years to come. Of course this depends on how the skill of planning, even on things that might seem out of our control, is going to be adopted by my family. Judging from the yield, it is going to make it more and more easier to talk about the importance of planning and implement it, as we work on our field.
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left the maize to properly dry
 
Posts: 137
Location: Maritimes , Eastern Canada
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Well done Rufaro !! That's many meals secured ! Just rewards for good planning , implementation and completion.
 
pollinator
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Location: Longbranch, WA
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Melissa Bracy wrote:I am in a too little/ too much rain area also. I am working on a greywater system to water my tree in a mulch pit - almost done digging! On the post above by gustavo alcantar (page one of thread), he shows putting a cardboard barrier down before multch. I have not seen this before. Why is the cardboard used?



With hot intensive sun and dry conditions it may be best to put the cardboard on top of other mulch material and weight or pin it down so the wind does not bow it away. Loose material will tend to dry out and not break down into soil. Having the mulch that you want incorporated by soil organisms into the ground to become soil is best accomplished during the dry season by having it covered. Old tarps and carpet also work well for this purpose.


























w
 
Posts: 44
Location: outside Brisbane, Australia
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Yes, in my subtropical climate, the sun is so intense that it just dries everything out. The soil turns to dust a few weeks after rain, and you can see all the life being fried out of existence. This includes mulch, which just sits there as desiccated shreds the do no decompose.

I put cardboard around my plants to protect soil organisms, and to try to retain moisture. It still means that the soil underneath turns to dust, but not as quickly, and I hope that it protects the soil life so that it can spring back more quickly once rain comes. Once I came up with the idea (I'd only really heard of it for lasagna gardens before), my young trees actually started growing faster.
 
Rufaro Makamure
Posts: 136
Location: Zimbabwe
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So it is now 10 months since the zai pits preparation from last year. We have decided to take advantage of the winter wet periods in the preparation of this year's pits. We have dry winters generally and we receive rain a few days during the winter period. We missed the rain from last week, but we got lucky yesterday we received rain, enough to soften the ground a little and we are taking advantage of this.

Today I got a chance to do a break down of the expenses from the last growing season and it is as follows ( I still need to improve on documentation for accountability purposes, for now there are a lot of estimations on the amounts we ended up using):
  • Digging holes-$60 done by two people for about two weeks
  • mulching- $150 approximatly and some of the ground is still mulched meaning this expense is going to cover part of this year also
  • composting material- $30
  • maize seed- $28
  • watering- $30

  • Making an approximate total of $298 on half an acre.

    We got 10 bags and the maximum a bag has fetched is $24 meaning the yield has a financial value of a maximum of $240.

    Monetary wise, we are still running at a loss of around $58 excluding things like transport and other expenses not directly affecting the growing of the maize.

    What we are benefiting though is a learning platform. Learning how to plan and compare our efforts vs yields, which will make it easier to chose right crops for the right climate, and also enable the development of a stable environment with progressive growth if these intangible skills are acquired.

    For example, before last year there was an additional 2 acre rented area, which has no water access that we used to grow maize, meaning we could have planted on this area too. It has no zai pits, as we were using a conventional method and there is no mulching, also we used artificial fertiliser. With the water strain we had, for sometime during the farming season I suspect the yield would have been a lot less than on the 1/2 acre area. Meaning the overall loss would have been far much greater than the estimated  negative $58 we ended up with. So inasmuch as there is no profit I would say we are moving towards a positive direction as we have managed to reduce the intensity of the loss.

    One step I am grateful for this year is the purchasing of some indigenous trees which we have planted in the field (something I thought would take ages to witness) and the reason why I am so appreciative of, is that the idea did not even come from me but from my mother. I would think about having trees in the field but I was not sure of how it would be accepted, since most of the fields I have seen in my area have no trees.

    Below are images of the trees and the wet ground from yesterday.
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    bird-plum: pink or brown ivory; 'Munyii' in my language
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    snot apple: 'Mutohwe'
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    nature helping us
     
    pollinator
    Posts: 299
    Location: Boudamasa, Chad
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    Hey Rufaro
    I've been following your project but haven't posted anything yet. Good work! I mean on keeping track of your expenses to know where you are at. Also cool to see you have planted some trees. I'm not familiar with the snot apple. Is it for food or mulch?

    According to your calculations, mulch is your biggest expense. Have you considered growing your mulch?  I realize you only have half an acre, but it could certainly help. I would suggest pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan). Perhaps you know it? It is a bush native to East Africa that grows really fast and produces delicious beans/peas. I  plant it around the edges of my plots and in rows in between my crops. They're super hardy and drought tolerant. If planted in the rainy season they will survive the whole dry season without water. You could chop most of them for mulch and leave some for food.

    Nathanael
     
    Rufaro Makamure
    Posts: 136
    Location: Zimbabwe
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    The drip system is now in place as of yesterday, and it is just on time.

    Just having those pipes in place, has been one of the biggest tests I have faced since I decided to do permaculture, full throttle. It involved mostly social skills and I am still working on this set of skills. Something as simple as being able to communicate to suppliers during procurement process what it is exactly I want can stand between a dream becoming a reality or not. Passion and finances are important, I also realized that self confidence is equally important. I do not remember seeing a drip system close up, and I did not know how to ask the companies I would go to, to go with me and show me in detail how the system actually worked. I relied mostly on the videos from the internet and  there were all sorts, from complete PVC to polyethylene, those with in-line emitters and those with on-line emitters. Initially I wanted the on-line emitters to allow me to suit the system to the holes already in the field but it was difficult to even communicate what it was exactly I wanted to suppliers, also lack of confident with the set up I had come up with, from things I had gathered from the internet. As I was trying to build on the system I raised enough money to buy the online emitter system and looking at where the time was in relation to the growing season, I had to reach a compromise,between on-line and in-line emitters, in order to meet the target of having a drip system set up this year. So I ended up having drip lines with in-line emitters. From time of initial payment up to complete installation, prices started going up and I had an increment of 10% on the initial quote. Between Monday the first of October and today some of the things have doubled in price, I heard of one guy who had a quotation of $2000 for some work on his bore-hole drilling process who is now paying $4000, because of inflation. The thought of this almost happening to me is shaking, it would have meant a halt to this wonderful dream, which is now a reality.

    The importance of people could never have been fully explained to me. To be able to believe that the drip can be more than just a dream was initiated by a lady I met randomly for less than half a day, end of 2016 beginning of 2017. I think I shared an encounter with her in past posts in this thread. Then the strength and moral support to keep pushing until I bought the system was from a person I have never met but we would communicate on-line. I would have really big obstacles created in my head, most of the times I would come back from looking for drip equipment, but through communicating, I would be able to get out of my head and truly see, what it is, that was on the ground and what steps I needed to take to go to the next phase. My family has always been my backbone, although I have to be selective on challenges share with them for now, since I am still selling the idea (I think the drip system set up will seal the deal with my family, as results of increased resilience and, a stable and improved yield will prove worthwhile). As soon as I am able to send the pictures of this great achievement, I will share.

    One uncle who has always been into gardening has shown great interest in sharing his experiences through my thread. As we talked it seems like he has been inclined towards permanent agriculture in his practices. He is of great interest because he is in the rural areas and he has been working on his homestead since the early or late 90s (more details will be from him). I also wish to start writing the progress at my mum's place through her planning and efforts, and smoothly allow a transition from my dream to hers, at her plot, and work on starting my own place.  



    I'm not familiar with the snot apple. Is it for food or mulch?  



    A snot apple is a fruit from an indigenous tree. I hear it can also be added to animal feed. It is also named the 'african chewing gum'



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    snot apple
     
    Rufaro Makamure
    Posts: 136
    Location: Zimbabwe
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    My uncle who is based in Hurungwe rural area (the one I was talking about) is with me and we had the opportunity to see all the ideas that were sent from different people advising on how best to work around dry areas. I will write what his comments are,

    "I appreciate the methods of moisture conservation and impressed at how the world is interconnected and so similar and how people can share ideas. I am eager to send my project also and share ideas with the global world and help regenerate our environment. I was interested in stones being used for mulching and I want to try that together with swales in growing fruit trees at my homestead. Some of the trees at my house that were not doing too good because of lack of moisture are orange tree, mango tree lemon tree to mention just a few, I will see how they will do after implementing some of the ideas I picked, when I get a chance I will send pictures to show progress.
     
    Rufaro Makamure
    Posts: 136
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    Drip system installation images.
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    trench for burying the pvc mainline
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    man at work
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    Drip lines coming from the buried pvc
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    water drops from the emitters
     
    Rufaro Makamure
    Posts: 136
    Location: Zimbabwe
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    The compost has been a lot easier to make this year, with all the materials from within our plot. The green matter was from the banana plant that we have reserved specifically for this purpose, since we cannot let it grow till it produces fruit, because of its location, also we got some from the chomolia plants (kale) which we were pruning. In August we made another compost heap using mainly maize stalks for dry matter, so we were using material from this compost as our dry matter, together with the bedding from our chickens, which also formed the animal manure layer for the thermal compost. We made the compost ourselves, so we did not need to use any money in making it. The compost is not yet ready, but it is producing good heat. When we were turning it we realised that it had a lot of dry areas and we did our best to water it afterwards. We are preparing to plant in the field.
    IMG-20181019-WA0023.jpg
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    we did not outsource anything
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    finished compost pile
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    turning of the compost
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    watered it after turning
     
    Rufaro Makamure
    Posts: 136
    Location: Zimbabwe
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    We have put the maize seed in the ground and we are now waiting for the rain. We managed to mulch a quarter of the field this year, we will use pumpkin as live mulch and in the coming years we will be using mulch from within the plot. This year, mulching cost us $25 and a bucket of maize, which is a lot better than last year. We have harvested the first batch of russian comfrey leaves for making comfrey tea and the other leaves have grown big already so we will have enough fertilizer throughout the season. Below are pictures showing the amount of organic matter from last year, the mulched area, and the space covered with living plants, which has increased. A lot still has to be worked on, on the plant types to be planted at a given period and what we benefit from it, also things like crop rotation etc... For now I am just celebrating the increased area covered by plants before receiving the rains.

    One concept that was beneficial this year is of getting away from mono-cropping. Onions were added to chomolia beds and with the same resources and space, there has been more harvest. It is going to be one small step at a time and the great thing is we seem to be moving forward.
    IMG-20181106-WA0004.jpg
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    Mulching from last year
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    This year's mulched portion
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    Mum and her friend harvesting onions
     
    Rufaro Makamure
    Posts: 136
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    THE RAIN IS HERE!!! The other good news is we can finally afford a small booster pump. We intend to pump most of the overflow from the rainwater harvest tanks to the drip system storage tank to increase the volume of water available to the maize plants.
     
    Rufaro Makamure
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    Location: Zimbabwe
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    We received rain only for a day since I last posted. This is unusual. Rain usually rains properly enough for crops to emerge by mid October. From the forecast it will not rain much and there are predictions the rain will have too much wind and likely to damage things. This is how the climate has changed from my side of the globe. I know some places in different areas globally can witness to the changes that are occurring. I always wonder where we will be in 30 years to come if things continue this way
     
    Rufaro Makamure
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    We are receiving showers again today since. I am hoping this time it will rain properly. We have been busy though and thanks to the drip which came right on time. Most of the fields only have prepared land, but few have any plants as the rain we have received so far, was not enough to get maize through emergence and the first few weeks of maize growth. I have seen only two other families who have healthy looking maize in their fields and they both have water sources other than the rain.
    There is more time this year to focus on other projects apart from the maize.
    No money is being lost through maize farming now (assuming we survive through this drought period). This means without changing diet, my mum will have enough of our staple food to last her the whole year, without depending on external help if she adopts the regenerative approach we have started, which is going to be good for her retirement period. I am now focusing on her chomolia beds, which will serve as an income generating project, (the intention is to have her get as much from it, to cover expenses for running her plot). We have been growing chomolia, without paying attention to how we can assure survival of suckers, or minimizing use of water in other ways just creating optimum conditions, without compromising our environment.  

    I have started looking at how best we can improve things, starting with the best way to grow suckers, especially in the scorching heat. We attempted mulching the suckers, watering intensively, but the suckers still not survive. About a week ago, we tried planting the suckers in the shade and the results were astounding. Now we are increasing the mulch in the main beds, so as to reduce evaporation, we did have mulch , but it was not thick enough, we discovered the mulch has to be thick and this is what I am working on. Then the input/ output accounting will also be included. The following images will show the major activities in the past weeks.  
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    The night before the expected rain, maize looks really good after the sun sets
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    cleaning tank for the drip
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    still have to demonstrate the advantages of mulch
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    chomolia suckers grown in the shade
     
    Rufaro Makamure
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    The ground is still wet from the rain we got two days ago, the sky is overcast and there are some tiny droplets of water now and again. This is really good for our field as it helps us manage the strain on the pump, which was getting out of hand. The vegetable beds were drying up and I could tell that it was going to be difficult to sustain the maize with the available pump output. I never thought the resilience of our system would be tested this soon, but I am proud of what we have so far, healthy maize and some time to focus on other projects. Some portion of the sandy soil was turning slightly yellow and I was lucky to find, a fairly new termite mount forming on a small heap of maize stalks we left two seasons ago,  as I was piling up all the dry matter that we have (housekeeping). Hopefully this will work, otherwise we will put chicken soup when we are certain it will not be washed away instantly, which is almost after 1 to 2 weeks from now. I will not lie that I am relaxed, its three years' work being put to test (I think this season is a serious drought, not yet official). The question to be answered is, "Are we going to maintain the targeted 10 bags this year under such conditions"
     
    Rufaro Makamure
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    We added chicken soup on the maize that was turning yellow. I think the termite mount is working also, because it is already getting healthier slowly.  The left side of the image is the sandy soil and the maize looks really good this year. We are putting manure on areas that look a little strained this season as opposed to just putting manure in the whole field because of limited time and the manure itself. We did not see a need to outsource compost making material this time because our soil is looking rich and most areas are proving us right. We did make another compost as well as Russian comfrey fertiliser, which we will apply as soon after maturity.

    I found an article online commenting on this year's rain and it is not good. They are actually advising cloud seeding I took an extract from the document.

    "“We expected a drought, but didn’t think it would be this serious, this early,” said Wonder Chabikwa, the president of the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union. While it’s too early to estimate the effects on harvests, the government should start cloud seeding to “save the situation,” he said."

    the link is:

    http://www.msn.com/en-xl/middleeast/middleeast-top-stories/zimbabwes-farmers-urge-cloud-seeding-as-drought-withers-crops/ar-BBS0261?ocid=spartandhp
    IMG-20190108-WA0002.jpg
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    The maize that was turning yellow slowly getting greener
     
    pollinator
    Posts: 1369
    Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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    It has been very interesting following your story. Thank you posting this.
     
    Rufaro Makamure
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    We received a good amount of rain. The field had no runoff water which means most of it percolated. Water would collect on top of the soil like in the other image and most of it would just flow out of the field, now even with the slight slope, as much water sinks.  
    IMG-20190110-WA0001.jpg
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    ipmroved percolation
    IMG-20190110-WA0004.jpg
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    runoff
     
    Rufaro Makamure
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    So, our filter has not been opening, for cleaning, in the past weeks, since after Christmas. We are supposed to clean it weekly and about a week and a half ago we could barely pass water through it because it was clogged. I was worried about the emitters, and the fact that we could  not use the drip. All people around, that I thought were strong tried opening the filter, but failed and there was no big enough tool we could use to assist. We had asked a man who helped with the pipe work to come and help, and he came yesterday. He opened with his bare hands in less than five minutes. It still puzzles me because we literally got the strongest men and they failed to open it. We are no longer closing the filter tightly.
    Now we can plan properly the pump use. Since it rained, the vegetables are not being watered. This means that the pump is completely available for the maize. The field is divided into three sections and we can safely water all the three sections alternately without damaging the pump. That way we can maintain the soil moisture at a high level since our job now is to replace the evaporated water. We are also able to utilize the harvested water and avoid any overflow (by the way we have not had any overflow from the water harvesting tanks this year, one, because of the low rainfall so far and secondly, we would pump the water to the drip system tank, and water even if it rained, so as to channel all excess water to the field).  When the rain goes, we can then share the pump between the vegetable beds and the maize field, without worrying too much about the inadequacy of water available for the maize.
     
    Rufaro Makamure
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    Fine looking field so far. I put Russian comfrey liquid on some of the plants on the sandy part and we treated the maize, from a worm. This is the first year we have had to spray our maize, the spray also seems to have gotten rid of some insects that were eating the bean leaves.  
    20190120_154717-1-.jpg
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    less work great results
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    This year the sandy portion is cooperating
    20190117_170630-1-.jpg
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    dealing with pests
     
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    Thanks for your updates.
    What did you spray?
    In West Africa I met people who sprayed papaya leaves and neem against insect pests. They were mashing the leaves and let them soak overnight in water before straining and spraying them. Some added a few drops of dish washing liquid.
    It is way cheaper and safer than commercial pesticides.

    Do you know of the push-pull method?
    Here is a link to a newspaper article.
    http://www.push-pull.net/nation_media_2018.pdf
    Wikipedia also has quite a complete article about it.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Push%E2%80%93pull_agricultural_pest_management

    If you cannot open the link and have a question do not hesitate to ask.

     
    Rufaro Makamure
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    Regrettably I have had to use the conventional chemicals. I used some chemical which I found from our stored items. I can say I was "fortunate" as pest control was way out of my budget this season, even the natural way of going about it. I have no clue as to how to manage crop pests the natural way. Hopefully I will be in a position to work on this in the coming season.
     
    Nathanael Szobody
    pollinator
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    Hi Rufaro,

    One of the first ways to control pests is to rotate crops. If you've been growing corn on the same plot for a few years then it's no surprise you have to treat for pests.

    Try something different next year: beans, watermelon, okra, roselle, cucumbers and egusi melon, sesame seeds and bambura nuts or peanuts are all great African crops you could put in there instead of corn. I would stay away from corn for a few years now that you have a pest infestation.

    Peace, Nathanael
     
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    Also diversity helps a lot. If you grow many different things, it protects you in a few ways, and makes it easier to go forward without poisons or conventional chemicals.

    1) In a diverse planted area, pests don't find a monocrop to multiply on. Monocrops are much more vulnerable to pest infestations.

    2) If you are growing many different things, you can accept damage to one crop this year, because next year that crop might do well, and a different crop may have trouble. But you'll always have plenty of things to harvest. Leaving the pests on the damaged plant seems like it could cause MORE of that pest the next year, and in some cases it does, but in many cases the ecosystem seems to balance out. Maybe predators rise to eat that pest, and the next year that particular pest drops back to its normal low levels. Pesticides (including some natural or organic ones) risk killing the predators along with the pests, so the ecosystem can't deal with it. In my experience, many years I have seen a new and unique pest causing a problem on just one or two types of plants, but the next year it recedes to the background.

    3) I think I remember from your previous posts, that you discovered that the monocropped maize was actually costing your family money to produce. It was being sold for less than the cost of production. Instead of growing a lot of maize for sale, a diverse variety of crops could replace more of your family's food purchases, not only cheaper but healthier because you know how you produced it. You might even be able to grow some items that someone in your family loves but finds too expensive to buy often.
     
    Rufaro Makamure
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    We have been talking about my mum joining the conversation on this forum, which will help in the continual adoption of permaculture even without my presence. I think this is the best opportunity for her as she is the one who has the final say as to what is to be planted, and through this forum she might get exposure that she wouldn't get anywhere else.  It will also help me as I can learn more about our progress, from discussions of her and other people who are interested in permaculture principles.

    I am crossing my fingers this works and she will enjoy sharing ideas.
     
    Rufaro Makamure
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    I got to experience some of my wishes, sooner than I thought I would. Last night I smiled to myself as I watched my mother put nail polish on her hands. Who would have ever thought this would ever happen in this lifetime. I saw beyond nail polish application. Here was my mother, with enough time and peace of mind, to do something not because it is a necessity, but for the fun of it.
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    Rufaro Makamure
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    Hi everyone, I am now doing secretarial work, but the words are my mother's  in response to the crop rotation and diversity:

    I am familiar with crop rotation and practiced it in my younger days (I grew up in a rural set up). Maize is a staple grain and I feel I have to grow maize for our consumption and my father in law's who still stays in the rural area who does not have the capacity to grow enough of his own food.

    I have added beans and some pumpkins within the field this year. With the limited land I am planning on growing different plants after the rainy season ( thanks to the drip system), for example putting onions soon after harvesting maize and if there is still time I will grow beans after the onions, which will take us right into the next farming season and we will grow maize again.

    I do not see how I can avoid the loss in growing maize, as I need the maize especially now that we have a large number of chickens. Also maize is a crop that we are used to growing.

    I do intend to try buying maize when it is still cheaper and assess the feasibility of growing something else apart from maize.
     
    Nathanael Szobody
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    Sounds like a plan Rufaro; progress is in baby steps.
     
    Rebecca Norman
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    Hi Rufaro's Mum!
    Welcome to Permies!
    That sounds like good plans. Please keep us updated on how your project is going. It's so interesting to hear about a completely different climate, but some related issues, problems and solutions. And Rufaro writes about it so well, I am enjoying reading about it.
    Best regards,
    Rebecca
     
    Mark Deichmann
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    Well done Rufaro and Co. !

    Very tense with the drought threatening your project and saved by the new drip system and rains !

    I  have to say that it is very impressive how you set goals and work and work and then achieve them !  Your crops look great and you are a great example to people everywhere who have the ideas but don't seem able to make them happen. Also how you are setting things up so that your family and others will learn and prosper from your project.

    What really sets you and your project apart is that you go right to it and DO IT !  

    This is even more impressive when taken into consideration that you are operating in a very challenging economic and political climate as well !

    Many of us in the first world can learn a great deal from you and your example !  

    Hats off , and thank you for sharing and teaching !

     
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    Welcome Rufaro's mum! It is a pleasure to welcome you to this site!
    I fully understand the pressures you are under in the village, indeed you are right that change happens slowly.  We will send ideas from our ecosystems but ultimately it has to work in your ecosystem, so try those ideas you find useful and do not worry too much. I understand that the margins for error are slim and ultimately you are the expert on what is going to work. You are fortunate to have such a committed daughter who learns fast and is working to cover expenses while you make the change over. I found my biggest expense as a farmer - even though my mother was a farmer and her mother before her - was making mistakes and learning from them. It is paying off now but it was touch and go at times :)
    Yes, unfortunately it looks like drought this year. You will be better off with the drip irrigation and the mulch than many of your neighbours, but the outlook looks bad for the whole of southern Africa. At least the upside to this is that any maize you can bring to harvest will get good prices. Keep on doing what you are doing, no one can predict what climate change will do. The bottom line is that we are likely to have more droughts more frequently so keep on building up organic matter in the field through mulches and compost heaps. Your soil is going to have to do more with less and the only way to do that is to nurse the soil.
    The pumpkin was a great idea. Other ideas for diversifying would be sunflowers (your chickens will eat them as well) and pigeon pea. You will find that as your soil organic matter increases you will be able to plant quite thickly around the edges of your field (especially where you have water run off) without affecting your main crop. In fact this will help the maize by protecting it from wind and evaporation.

    Climate change is affecting Africa the worst. The research for South Africa shows that we are warming about twice as fast as the average for the planet, that is, if nothing is done we will reach 3 degrees Celsius warming by 2070. It is small farmers like us who are going to make the difference by storing more carbon in the soil. In the meantime create as much shade as you can! It is wonderful that you are planting tree in your fields, it has the advantage that as you grow your crop you nurse them well.
    I wonder if you have heard of Faidherbia Albida? It is a wonder tree that draws nitrogen to the soil and loses its leaves in summer when your crops need sun. It has made all the difference in north-western Africa's arid regions and should be tried in Southern Africa's summer rainfall areas. I am about to get seed for the family farm in Namibia, and will keep you posted on developments.

    The maize stem borer is increasing in Limpopo, it is a consequence of warming temperatures apparently. If it is not too late, try planting chillies in your vegetable patch. On harvest you can soak them in oil, mix the oil with water and a drop of soap, and use as a pest spray which you don't have to pay for. You may also have local plants which work, we have a form of garlic here which is much stronger than the European species, I plant it around all my vegetable beds and am never troubled with pests. We also burn impephu for the mosquitoes, perhaps there is a Zimbabwean cousin which people use? In general, any plant with strong smelling leaves will help to confuse the pests so gradually using your edges for such plantings is a win-win-win.
    Best wishes for your work. Your work is building a future for your children and they will be grateful one day.
     
    Natasha Abrahams
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    Rufaro Makamure
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    Thank you all for the encouraging words. I find it hard to believe that I am actually talking to people all over the world.
    It has always been my late husband’s, as well as my dream to make things easier for our children as well as extended family the best way we can and I hope to make that dream happen. I greatly appreciate the encouraging words.


    A lot has changed between now and the time I grew up, and I can say, permaculture from what I am learning has so many similarities with some of the, hey day practices. The changes back and forth makes some of the things a little confusing, but as was mentioned it is one step at a time.

    I am keen on knowing natural pest control measures and it is nice to know about chilli as an ingredient for pest control spray. It will be interesting to not use harmful chemicals in our field. I once tried tomato leaves, but it did not work well, I suspect we might not have prepared it properly. The tomato plants are also usually attacked by red spider-mite and it is a huge problem. Growing chilli is an added item on my to do list, I do have the seeds already.

    I have greatly appreciated moisture retention through mulching for it has very visible results. We were fortunate to have a neighbor who has grass, so we will take as much as permissible.

    Apart from the maize field and the vegetable, I have chickens and ducks and these are the main projects I am running. The chickens seem to be doing good.
    An area I am working to improve is where the chickens lay eggs. My chickens and ducks, have grown in number, it is becoming more and more difficult to manage the eggs and I have lost a lot aready. What I am satisfied with though is the housing and the free range area for the birds. My goal is never to lose an egg, if I can help it, as a result of inadequate laying and breeding points.
     
    Rufaro Makamure
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    Ears have started coming out on some stalks, the rain came right on time. The temperatures have been around 30 degrees in the past weeks. I really think this year I have appreciated water so much more. The sound of the droplets on the roof is so good. It is showering for a long time which is giving it enough time to soak right into the ground.

    We have started monitoring our sales for vegetables (chomolia) and our target is to at least raise enough money to pay the guy who helps out. Eventually we want all the expenses for the plot to be taken care of, by the produce from the plot.
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    surving in the sun
     
    Rufaro Makamure
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    This week, we have had good sales of some of the products we are producing, (chomolia, tomatoes and eggs). Things have been rising in prices and we had a discussion with my daughter on how we should price our things, while we figure out the accounting side of the running of our homestead, in order to cost everything properly and sell our commodities at a profit. The first thing is, we want the plot to pay for the help we get in terms of labor, so everything we sell has to give us an amount above that which we use for getting assistance. Currently I have been adding some of my money onto what we would make from the plot. If we manage this, we can then look into the next expense until everything can be sustained by plot produce.

    We feel that  prices of all things are going up to beyond ethical levels, so we want to have slightly lower prices, until we can justify each product's selling figure. An example is chomolia, which used to have bundles starting from as low as 50c but now a bundle that can barely feed 1 family of 6 is going for 75c. Eggs, used to be $1 for 6 eggs and now they have gone up and a dollar can buy only 3 eggs.  We will continue to improve the efficiency in producing of all items and just maybe, we can manage to maintain a stable price even when things around are unstable. The image below shows the common most affordable dish that is prepared daily in most homes, where maize and chomolia are used.

    ]  
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    pollinator
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    You may have already heard of this method, but here is a link to a thread(with other links to the original article) about storing fresh tomatoes in wood ash, so they can be sold out-of-season:

    Storing Tomatoes in Ash for Months

    Maybe this could help you lengthen your timeframe to sell tomatoes, if you have excess when prices are too low?

     
    Rufaro Makamure
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    Our sales so far, have been consistent for the month of February, with a target of at least $10 from daily sales. With this target we can cover our helper’s salary and cover other needs (electricity bills and stock feeds). Selling our vegetables at a price slightly lower than the market prices has also helped gain more clients and a sense of satisfaction. We started selling some of the cocks from the chicken project to leave the recommended ratio of cocks to hens. We have not found a market for ducks yet. My aim of self-sustenance by retirement might be turning into reality.
     
    Rufaro Makamure
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    We were fortunate to receive a substantial amount of rain during the weekend. It has brought so much life to our field as well as those around.

    Dishonesty is increasing of late, and people are taking advantage of every opportunity, to make money. I see a lot of things that were a taboo in my youthful days, people used to have so much respect for each other and any property that belonged to the other. There was no need for tight security and there were very rare cases of stealing.
    I remember when one would get hungry whilst they were on a journey and far from home, they would eat from any nearby field without any guilt and the owners would not be bothered. One would eat just enough to fill up and continue, they would leave evidence in the field to show that someone passed through, for example, the outside part of a water melon, if they ate one.  There is a lot of convenience that has come with the modern life, but I greatly miss the warmth that filled the hearts of people in our community then.

    We are working on the best way to work hand in hand with our helper in order to reduce loopholes. Like reducing items to be sold at the plot, we have started looking around for a market away from the plot, now recording daily produce that can be accounted for consistently.

    I have had a number of challenges with various helpers whom I have worked with at the plot. The problems include missing of items, incompetence and handing over part of the sales money and not all of it.
    Recently, a number of poles (droppers) which support the fence were pulled out. I am in the process of replacing them and it is an unnecessary drawback.
    We gave money to a guy who stays close by for a puppy, which we never got as he had sold it to multiple people, as a result we lost the money and the puppy.
     
    Mark Deichmann
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    Frustrating to suffer losses and set backs due to the dishonesty of others.

    This is an issue all over the world.

    It is wise to have sales done away from the plot , and not be handled by the field workers.

    Customers are always looking for a better deal right from the source.

    Another hard lesson is not to pay anyone in advance for anything. If they are serious they will bring the item and then get paid .

    We have to watch our investments but also remember the problem is with the attitude of others that they feel "entitled" to get something from someone who has more than them, but they are overlooking the fact that the other person has worked hard for those things !

    I hope this situation gets under control so that you can reap the rewards of all your hard work without it being carried away.

    Its a shame , as you point out, that one needs to spend energy on safeguarding things/products but that's just reality.

    I deal in stone. Most people think stone has no value . For that reason they think they can just help themselves to my stone piles.  I have had to keep them out of sight as the stone is my livelihood and others would quickly take it all if given the chance.

    Human nature.

    Good fences make good neighbours !
     
    pollinator
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    I read through this post and a few things occurred to me. First, could you use a post hole digger for the zai pits? A post hole digger has two blades that are used to dig and lift soil out. With a design you might be able to get someone to make one for you.

    The attached picture is similar to the one I have, just so you have an idea. You pound the two blades down into the soil with the handles together, then pull the two handles apart to put the blades together to lift the soil out of the hole.

    The next ting I noticed was the amount of water being lost as your tanks filled. Perhaps that water could be directed to your orchard area, or to a sunken swale where you can plant trees whose fruit will be either another crop or will feed your chickens.

    I'm not sure from your descriptions whether your neighbors are using their planting debris at all, or if it's just being burned to clear the land for the next crop. If they're just burning it, ask them to dump it near your fields. More mulch you don't have to buy.

    And the last is that I use a combination of hot peppers, garlic and onion in vinegar as a pest deterrent. It doesn't have to be the good onions or garlic--if you have part of your crop that you can neither use nor sell, grind it up and make a slurry. Let it sit for a few days in water, then strain off the water and use that as your spray. Something to try, anyway.
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