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permaculture advocate in Zimbabwe - too little/too much rain

 
Posts: 71
Location: Cape Town
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Dear Rufaro you are, as ever, an inspiration!
 
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Why in such a dry climate is your uncle using raised beds? If it is for flooding, having more roots in the ground will increase drainage and give more life to the soil
 
Posts: 35
Location: Tecate, Baja California
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Hi Rufaro! I read the whole thing just now and I'm impressed with what you've managed to do; I love seeing your photos and your progress is tangible! I'm glad to hear that others are taking notice also, I'm sure that if many people throughout the world follow a similar path then we can truly have better resilience against climate change. I have a few random thoughts that may help, we've been working mainly on establishing trees / fruit trees in the chaparral desert, our conditions are sandy soil with good infiltration, 250 mm of rain a year concentrated in only 4 months of the year and 35 C heat in the summer with frequent, heavy wind gusts.

I think productive trees in the outer areas will be a good strategy to help create a microclimate, shade the soil, protect from the wind and to increase biodiversity in your case; that's pretty much agroforestry. Also, if planting trees, why not add some nitrogen fixing trees or shrubs that will help enrich your soil? I think someone mentioned pigeon pea, that's a good one that provides beans or if you have some of those native trees that can do the same thing and provide other benefits at the same time. For example, we're using mesquite - Prosopis glandulosa, Leucaena Leucocephala, and Tamarind - Tamarindus indica (this one is native to tropical Africa). Mesquite offers firewood, tasty mesquite pods and leaves that can be used for cattle feed; you can do the same with leucaenas, they grow VERY quickly and provide a lot of biomass for fodder; tamarind is used traditionally in Mexico for making candies, beverages and has other medicinal uses as well, it's a very productive tree with delicious fruit!

We've been using wick irrigation to get some trees established with very little water. I started up some shade trees to "test the waters" and we were able to keep some trees alive under 35C heat and drought administering only around 1 or 2 liters of water a week or so. Here's where we got the idea:

Wick irrgation from agroforestry website

Here's a picture of one we made using an oral electrolite botte, a straw and some nylon rope; its partially buried to keep it in place and to protect it from the wind:



You mentioned something very important: you have to grow soil. That's why it's so important to have roots in the ground to keep the soil microbiology intact and to retain humidity as well. The trees all around should help a lot with that. If anything else comes to mind ill post it here, good luck and keep us updated!
 
Posts: 136
Location: Zimbabwe
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greening the desert
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I did not know that raised beds were for flooding areas only, I thought they were just a different method of managing a garden bed. I will find out from my uncle why he chose that approach. I was so impressed by how his garden looked considering where he is and I forgot we need to focus on how we can make all the elements work for the benefit of the garden. I have drafted some questions for my uncle, to find out more about the "why" to his decisions in his garden. I am so eager to find out where he got the concept of raised beds, unlike me he is in the rural areas and his exposure is very very limited, I doubt if he even knows he has made raised beds. I have not been to his place since I was a small child, his place is about 412.9km away from where I stay, I am hoping I will visit him soon. I will also ask him to send images of his surroundings as well as other gardens. Following is the list of questions,

  • what do you call the beds you made in your garden
  • why did you choose that approach
  • apart from mulching is there any water conservation method, you use in your garden

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    Posts: 431
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    Rufaro,

    First of all,  YOU ARE DOING AWESOMELY!!!

    I had a thought about the  Nyovhi (traditional vegetable).  I was surprised to learn a while back that many of the field weeds in my area (Ohio valley in the United States) were originally domesticated local plants (hundreds of years ago).  I knew that when the european settlers arrived, the native americans were growing their own crops, with corn, squash and beans as the trinity that supported them.  The new settlers adopted the corn, squash and beans and ignored some of the others.  What I hadn't realized before was that before corn, squash and beans were introduced into the area from the south, the local native americans had a whole different set of crops, like dock, and had bred them for larger seeds, etc.  Many of these abandoned species are now major field weeds, although the seed size, etc has reverted.  It's an interesting idea, but 500 years ago, your people were probablly growing some completely different crops, and it may have been long enough for them may have passed out of living memory.  (most of the ones you've mentioned are either european or western hemisphere).  It might be interesting to find out what 'survival' wild food species there are in your area.  


     
    Rufaro Makamure
    Posts: 136
    Location: Zimbabwe
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    For us it is not too long ago when people relied on what nature provided. In my mum's early ages, she talks of a completely different menu, sadza (thick corn porridge was not a daily meal), even meat was not eaten as often. They did not know beetroots or other exotic vegetables. They had different food stuffs depending on seasons and we are lucky in that we can tap a lot of knowledge out of her generation.

    My nyovhi seedlings are actually ready for planting. I deliberately planted vegetables that are associated with the well to do families and then in the mix, I will put nyovhi. Otherwise a vegetable bed in most households should rightfully be called a chomolia bed, since this is all that is grown. The main aim is to put a point across that, such a plant is not a choice only when one has run out of options and class has nothing to do with such plants, but it can stand as a healthy and nutritious option which adapts pretty well to our climate. I hope to keep on adding an indigenous/ wild  plant  to the common domesticated plants, one plant at a time.
     
    Rufaro Makamure
    Posts: 136
    Location: Zimbabwe
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    A continuation on benefits of the work we have done so far at the plot:

    As we tried to keep working on improving the effectiveness of our efforts in the field, it was difficult to ignore the other areas intertwined with the progress in the field. These include home management, as well as a deeper understanding of money, time and energy as resources that we can manipulate.

    We managed to reduce the time we spend doing household chores. There are some tasks that are repetitive that we do not always need to concentrate on and we have put them in a fixed daily routine which  further reduced time spent on activity planning.  Instead of having everyone do one thing, we have divided tasks among each other and this has helped in getting more done. It is as if we have managed to stretch our day.

    We have increased time to read and this is coming in handy as it is helping in developing common goals, and this makes decisions easier, since we are building on similar values.

    As we continue reflecting on the last couple of years we cannot help but notice that we might not have so many things, but of the things that we already have, we have not yet acquired the best skills to utilise the resources to the fullest and we might be under utilising what we have and living a quality of life less than what we potentially could be living.

    I have included an image of a piece of wood with nails hammered into it which I am now using to help with the shelling. It was of zero cost as I got everything from home, but it has made a huge difference, the shelling is faster and this time I have shelled two full 50kg bags by myself and I got help on the third bag. This is an example of how we keep on improving, using what we already have. The bundle of chomolia is what I bought from the shops and less than 10 leaves are going for 50 cents.  A kg of carrots is going for over $8, 4 medium sized onions, and also medium sized pepper is over $3. Items like these which seemingly are unimportant are what we have managed to keep fairly constant cost wise in our kitchen, as we no longer buy them, we get from the garden.  

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    shelling assistant
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    50 cents bundle
     
    pollinator
    Posts: 177
    Location: Utah
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    Tiny improvements make an enormous change over time. I love watching your progress.

    Raised beds are used for a number of different reasons, but one of their main drawbacks is that they lose water more quickly than in-ground gardens. Water evaporates from the sides as well as the top. The sides tend to hold heat so they can be excellent in cooler areas. They can be fabulous for absorbing excess water if the soil goes down to the ground, so flood mitigation is one advantage. They are easier to plant, tend and harvest because they're higher, but also more difficult to maintain the shape without external supports.
     
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