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

 
Posts: 120
Location: Zimbabwe
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Happy about our plants!!!

Monkeys are also appreciating things it seems, one ear was removed and checked. They were a lot of them and Nenyasha the child whose, at our plot was fascinated by the monkeys and kept on shouting "mum there are dogs in the field", she had never seen monkeys. So it is now a race between humans and monkeys and we have to beat them to harvesting, at least the monkeys do not eat at night. There are only two other fields, with maize that has ears, so far.

There are now so many earthworms in the vegetable gardens. We also found a new way of replanting our chomolia without waiting for suckers and we can still harvest leaves from the plants (shown in the images below). A neighbor offered us more mulch, some grass which they wanted to burn. One of the neighbors who gave us the most mulching material, this farming season, now has his own composting area.
 
Posts: 137
Location: Maritimes , Eastern Canada
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Great to hear of positive developments !  

Hopefully the monkeys will move on .  I thought for some reason your plot was fenced, but maybe not all the way around?

It seems you are setting a good example if neighbours are also composting now too. Hopefully this will not impact  your own access to composting material.

Interesting with your new methods with the greens, but the photos are not attached.  Failed upload maybe?

Propagation of plants is a great " enabler "  .

Hope you have good production and sales !
 
Rufaro Makamure
Posts: 120
Location: Zimbabwe
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We do have a fence, but monkeys are what I call natural acrobats, they are very good climbers and they do it with such ease. The sales are amazing, our tomatoes are actually being bought green because they are still affordable and our customers fear if they wait for them to ripen others will get them before them. Tomatoes are now $1 for  only 4, my cousin got groceries for school and his $50 shopping had a packet of biscuits, 1 bar of soap, 4l of drink and 400ml floor polish. Things have gone way out of hand, where the general monthly salary for the lucky employed ones is around $400-$500.

I can never be grateful enough for knowing about sustainability, it has made things a lot easier for us as a family and it does bring a lot of hope, that with the right number of people who have real influence, we can develop really fast and fix things. I would be concerned, because from the media, they would say, what we needed for my country to stabilize, economically and to an extent politically, was good foreign investment.  But the catch is, for investors to want to invest they need a stable environment, in other words it is a catch 22 situation.  

Using resources readily available, and managing to reduce costs of production (at a family level) even when there is very high inflation, proves we can stabilize at least enough to allow for investments in other complicated fields that require huge capital. My mum's friend who has been seeing progress at our plot wants me to work with her on her place also so that we can make it productive. Currently she sends money from her salary to pay the people who watch over her place, and with her place, we are talking about hectares of land! Maybe working on one or two places, will lure even more people and it might result in the need for a proper consulting company or something. I think working with my mum's friend is something I need to be very cautious about, as this is one of the most important steps in sending a message and marketing regenerative agriculture (Her place is out of Gweru).  

This is Rufaro, I will just be mixing my mum's posts and mine until she is ready to have her own thread.
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One tree survived
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Sandy part
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Best portion
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Sun beginning to wilt some crops. Neighbor's field
 
Posts: 65
Location: Cape Town
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Dear Rufaro and mom, I am so happy to hear things are going well for you! Welcome to the life of the farmer, where you work so hard for a good crop and then you have to work even harder to protect it from everybody who wants a share without doing the work!Jealousy can be a terrible thing.
The only way I know with monkeys is to keep a man with airgun (or a catapult) on duty in the very early morning. Hit one or two monkeys (not fatally of course) and the rest tend to stay away. I used to have the same problem with crows on my almonds but animals learn quickly and go seek easier pastures.
In a way it is such a pity that your neighbours are discovering the virtues of mulch, but in another way it shows that your methods work. Congratulations! It is also bound to assist you in the long run, since your ecosystem will benefit from a healthy ecosystem next door. Here where I live we are smallholders (one hectare each) but my neighbours when they saw how well my olive trees were doing they decided to plant olives too. So now i am surrounded by groves to the south and west, in different guilds of course, but I can see how as an area we are managing to reforest and hopefully dong our bit to attract rain.
I had the same problem with horse manure, when the stable owners realized how well I was doing off their manure (which previously they had to pay to cart to the dump) they almost always thought they could start planting vegetables themselves. By the grace of Godde horse people tend not to be gardeners and so after a few months I would go back and start  hauling free manure again :) So be patient and think of the ways in which your ecosystem will benefit from permaculture neighbours.
It does raise the matter that you need to think of cover crops for winter, which you can cut at flower (leaving a tiny patch for next year's seed) and leave to rot in the field. Basically what you are doing is that you are using plants to harvest solar energy which you can store for summer.  I am very fortunate in the western Cape where winter is our rainy season so all my summer beds get planted up to duff peas or fava beans and I do no more to that plot until cutting time. What I am saying is that there be may be a month or two in late winter or early spring where you can squeeze in a cover crop. But also in the spirit of making  the most of global warming i am trying to plant summer crops earlier and earlier so that they can catch the last of the winter rains.   It does mean that my cover crops have to be cut earlier, and I make up for that by planting in a guild.  Pumpkin is a big help as it covers the soil between the mealies and if there is a drought the pumpkin will die off first and its leaves will provide a mulch when it is most needed. Since winter is rainy season my soil collects its nitrogen from the air then, that is, the cover crops will be of peas and bean species, but if I were growing in summer rainfall I would try cow pea or marama bean between the rows. This last one (Tylosemma esculenta) is a great one which grows wild on the family farm in the Namibian semi-desert and forms a central part of my heritage. It is being trialed for agriculture in both Botswana and Texas and really deserves to be planted more because you can eat every part of the plant. The seeds and roots make great human food and you can feed the leaves to your chickens: https://www.daff.gov.za/daffweb3/Portals/0/Brochures%20and%20Production%20guidelines/marama%20bean%20production%20guideline.pdf    

This system is called the Three Sister system and was invented by native Americans where the mealie and the pumpkin we eat today came from. It only works with traditional varieties, though, the modern hybrid green mealies  have large leaves which tend to take up to much space and sunlight. Your field looks so wonderful that i am sure you are planting a very robust variety.

There may be other local species of bean that I don't know about, but I am sure Rufaro's mom can think of plants that used to be grown when she was young that are not grown any more. The thing you have to remember when considering this is that intercropping is a great way to get more harvest from the same area but it does mean a drastic change to the way you grow. Principally it means more work, it is hard to hoe the mealies with plants growing between them and you will find yourself doing much more hand weeding. On the other hand by mid-season everything is up and running and you will find your crop needing less water because the ground is shaded. Plus you harvest more food per square metre, what you don't eat is for the chickens.

Also what I do is save all my ashes from the kitchen fire and spread that on the ground of my guilds, squeezing in more plants in the same area does require that you keep your fertility in tiptop shape.  If it is in small quantities it won't hurt the plants and water well afterwards. But perhaps you are doing that already?

I am so impressed by your tree! Well done! Ultimately trees are your solution in terms of cooling the air, attracting rain, shading the ground, and providing biomass for mulch, so each one is a victory. It will get easier as  you go along.

With the consulting of course charge! Your knowledge is something you have worked hard for and taken all the risks by being a leader and showing how things must be done. It is worth money. I get at least one inquiry a week, especially now that black people are getting more land and starting to become smallholders. So I charge, it has taken me many years to get to where I am and should i hit a life crisis or a bad harvest it is  good to have a safety net. If the people who want to work with you don't have a lot of money then suggest taking a portion of your fees in a share of the crop for the first couple of harvests, that shows that you are confident of your abilities to grow more and better. I make a sharp distinction between business and philantropy, I make sure the business end pays and then end of the month and end of the year I decide how much I can afford to give away to people who are working hard and just need a leg up. Confusing the two is bound to get you into trouble. So rather charge people what you are worth and then decide on a person or NGO who can get a free course, as you are able.

Well, those are my local approaches. I have no idea how these would translate in Zimbabwe but am sharing the general principle in the hope that you will find a local solution. I look forward to hearing how it goes.
 
Mark Deichmann
Posts: 137
Location: Maritimes , Eastern Canada
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Thanks for sharing the photos , the health of those plants tells all !.  

I was thinking to myself, fences are probably not much of a challenge to a monkey anyway. Hopefully you don't have elephants coming through, I was watching a program on TV about them totally destroying some fields where people are moving into their traditional grounds.

Natasha is right about charging something for consulting. No matter what all people try to get info for free. That is afterall what the internet is based on , but we have to watch out for being left with next to nothing for all our efforts.

How to match that with what sounds like spiralling inflation  in your country now.

The government may hope for foreign investment but they might want to start with themselves and not burden the economy with bad economic decisions .

The prices you talk about for eggs and produce are actually higher than here in Canada where the average salary is much higher but we do have a high level of competition at the retail level and industrial style production of food which is probably not that great in other ways..

Very serious matter this business of prices going through the roof and incomes not keeping up. We all deserve stable , safe conditions to live under , hopefully things will improve soon !





 
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Hi Rufaro,

thanks so much for your posts, I might have read all of them in this thread. It is very vital to get real informations beside the lies MSM (main stream media) is telling us. In addition foreign investors are not good for you nor for your country. They just come to fill their pockets, destroy nature and so on. Just as you can develop your farm, your whole country can develop on its own. Maybe you should be the next Zimbabwe president, you sound much more intelligent then most (western) politicians!

Now your monkey problem seems to call for guardian dogs, LGD dogs. Sure you need to calculate how much at least 2 of those dogs would cost you in terms of buying* them and monthly feeding costs. I feed ours from scraps I get for free at local butcheries. Though dunno if this would work out for you, to minimize the costs?

But I guess some monkeys wouldn't have much fun getting closer here and we do not have much if any fences. Dunno how close to neighbours you are, as those dogs tend to bark especially at night, never without a reason, they can sense predators on quite some distance. There primary goal is to drive them away by simply barking. There are very rare cases, once every few years were mostly due to being wounded or so a predator doesn't get away..

Anyway, there is some South African known not so large LGD (Rhodesian whatsoever?) which might be useful, perhaps someone here in the forum from the region could help out? But perhaps you can get some decent guardian dogs local easier?

*In reality one can not buy or sell a real good dog, you can just become it donated or donate it to someone.

As for the help to others/charging. What about they come to your farm, do some work and pick up some skills while working (for free), this way you might save some worker for one or another day and they can learn(ing) by doing?
 
Rufaro Makamure
Posts: 120
Location: Zimbabwe
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Happy day today...!!! We have started harvesting our beans!
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Rufaro Makamure
Posts: 120
Location: Zimbabwe
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Drought relief has started in my province, for families in the rural areas who rely solely on field harvest, we are one of the lucky ones to have a crop still looking good. I took pictures of different fields along the sides of roads.
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Where we used to rent 2acres of field
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Rufaro Makamure
Posts: 120
Location: Zimbabwe
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This season we spotted a weed which is actually a traditional vegetable, Nyovhi in Shona and spider flower in English, it's species is Cleome gynandra. I would like to think this weed grew always in our field but we were just too preoccupied to notice. I remember my parents would occasionally buy it from some old lady, who used to move door to door selling traditional vegetables back in the 90s. I had never seen the plant and traditional vegetables were uncommon (they still are) as they were associated with a poor rural lifestyle. I'm glad we discovered it because it tastes so good.

We have decided to have one customer whom we sell our products at spefic times a week. Starting with one day a week without failure. This will further push us to become more reliable. We will continue to serve our random customers as well. The guy we chose is very hard working and the image shows him at his stall. He sells everything he can get a hold of.
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Nyovi
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Selling to a customer
 
Posts: 194
Location: Boudamasa, Chad
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Hey Rafuro, that gets me excited to see you re-discovering local, wild vegetables and marketing them. That is where sustainability really kicks into high gear! Here in Chad people still eat a lot of traditional vegetables in their sauce, mostly mulukhiya and Sesamum angustifolium.

Which makes me wonder: is sesame seed or sesame oil a desired commodity in your area? It is a great Africa crop and potentially can be quite lucrative. I did a small field this year of black sesame and I'm putting it in all my sauces!
 
Rufaro Makamure
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Location: Zimbabwe
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Sesame is not common, though my mum talks about it sometimes. The oil we use for cooking is sunflower oil and recently it has been overshadowed by soya bean oil.

It is true that embracing traditional plants as part of our normal meals marks the start of true sustainability. The 'Nyovi' we got was just enough for family consumption for a few dinners. The things we are selling include tomatoes, eggs, chomolia, okra...

Below is a comment to a link on an article on this year's drought by a UN personnel.

http://www.msn.com/en-xl/africa/africa-top-stories/un-seeks-dollar234-million-in-aid-for-drought-hit-zimbabwe/ar-BBUh832?ocid=spartanntp

One lady came to our house and saw us drying our beans, also noticed the tomatoes we have for our own consumption. She then said to my mum "You are a different elderly lady, we are used to those that go and wait by Mukuru (similar to Western union) for money from their children, and they have to wake up really early to bit the queues,  you actually get things from your field that can feed you properly."

This to me is very positive feedback.
 
Natasha Abrahams
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Location: Cape Town
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Lol, Rufaro, with the whole world drinking Rooibos tea we have learnt to be proud of our indigenous foods here. There are some people working at spreading the knowledge of how to grow them and cook them - not me although I do make the traditional black soft soap from olives. Hopefully a movement will grow around your feet too, it is easier to do these things when many are helping.

It is wonderful to see you thriving so well in the midst of the drought.  I am sure people are looking and will strive to emulate you next year.
 
Mark Deichmann
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Location: Maritimes , Eastern Canada
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Indeed beans make people happy !

Nice to see the results of so much loving labour.  

Thanks for posting photos of different fields around your area.  It was such a good plan that you put in the drip irrigation , that will give a huge payback in the coming weeks, hopefully mother nature will also provide some rain !

Good point about the native greens. There are so many such plants in most countries. In our area we have several but the most tasty is the Evening Primrose, the leaves are excellent even uncooked in a salad.

THe young man with the stand will surely be a good partner for you . Strengthening the local economy .

You are such an inspiration Rufaro !
 
Rufaro Makamure
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It was officially stated that our rainy season is over.

 
Posts: 137
Location: Utah
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The battle doesn't always go to the stronger, but to the one who doesn't stop fighting.

What you're trying to do is necessary, and you've made huge steps forward. Think of your mother's garden, say, ten years ago, then measure it against your crops today. Look at the neighbors who are slowly beginning to see the benefits of your "new" ways of doing things. As long as there is progress, you aren't losing.

What if you had started this project today, instead of however many years ago? You are ahead of the trend, poised to survive in the face of the unexpected. Yes, there will be adaptation needed. Yes, new challenges will require new solutions. But you will not lose.
 
Rufaro Makamure
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Thank you Lauren. Can't tell you how many times I read your message and today it sank.

It is so easy to magnify the obstacles, drown into self pity... Maybe it is not my job to fix the world but to just live life the best way I believe in, with positive results or not.

I have been listing positive things that have been happening to help boost morale.

I have been trying to grow seedlings for the kitchen garden all this while and just this year some results are showing so maybe in about two months I will be able to post images of a good looking kitchen garden.

I got images from my uncle in Hurungwe (I mentioned him in earlier posts) though we still are working on all his elements and to figure out exactly what he envisions in his mind. I am still working with him to get images that I can post. We got $75, $50 from a friend Sarah and $25 will be topped by our cousins, the Kapere family to help fence the garden. It seemed like the first thing to tackle, because cows have been destroying plants in the garden in the past years. A lot is still out of our control in order for us to just fence the garden but at least we have started.

 
Rufaro Makamure
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I had forgotten, my facial skin has improved so much. It is smoother. I have been religiously washing it in the morning and evening then applying olive oil and tumeric. It is my second month now. I guess in the long run, I will not only have a full stomach, but will be looking pretty too!
 
Natasha Abrahams
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Dear Rufaro, I am so sorry the rains are ended. But indeed it would have been much, much worse if you had not done all those preparations years ago. And you will find it gets easier as time goes on, as your soil gets full of humus and your trees get big. My first ten years were the hardest and although it never gets easy the garden is standing up to the challenges of the changing climate.

You should think about making large batches of that incredible lotion and selling it. That is how I make a cash income for myself, by selling soap and beauty products. You might think it is simple to make but it is surprising how happy women are to pay somebody else to do the work :)
 
Rufaro Makamure
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We replanted chomolia suckers we have been nursing at our newly discovered nursing area. We realised we can use some space under the lemon and guava trees for our seedlings. There is an area with complete shade and another portion allows a little sunlight, which is perfect for suckers.

The seedlings seem to be liking it under the trees,  I am not moving them this time,  the last time I tried exposing them to the sun, they turned into toast.

I planted a few plants in the kitchen garden and they look good, even the potato plants we started right from the skin now have leaves.

This year on our flowers, we have put bottles filled with water. We sunk them upside down without any caps on, and we hope to have water dripping slowly on the flowers. We will see if we win with the flowers this year.
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cabbage
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pepper
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potato
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bottles filled with water
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nursery in the making
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Carrots
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Carrots
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Beetroots and eggplants
 
Rufaro Makamure
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Today was an amazing Sunday. I spent it with mum and her best friend and we were at the plot. When we started off, there was nothing positive to talk about, as so many things which are outside our circle of influence are really going bad.

We were sharing images and videos from social media of terrible things happening around us. Then there was a moment when we were just quiet staring into the field. We realized this is it. We had this time together and yes so many things are not right, but we were together, today and now. We suddenly started appreciating the things we were taking for granted and they are so many.

We ended up reading a book together and I took them pictures as they were pruning the vegetable beds.
 
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