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info/help on designing a good system for smaller garden in the Gambia/west africa  RSS feed

 
Katja Jassey
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We have a small land (70x70m) that we would like to design in a good way- next to the land is our compound where we have many chickens, goats and a donkey, we also have a borehole there run by solar, but as water is a limited resource for most people we would not like to rely too much on that water. The location is close to the sea and currently there are many bush trees and palm trees (don't know the english names for them) and we have grown ground nuts there during the rainy season, fencing is also a problem as the the cows come for grazing and pigs too sometimes, plus our own goats...
As there is a lot of not very sustainable agriculture going on in the area plus great problems with environmental pollution we really would like to also use the place as a way to motivate others to possibly change
Any advise on where we can find inspiration, advice and help would be greatly appreciated!
 
John Elliott
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Welcome to Permies, Katja!

The combination of pigs and goats can remove almost anything you try to grow, so before you do anything else, work on fencing the garden off. Until you can make sure that plants can remain unmolested until you are ready to cut or harvest them, all work is a wasted effort.

I have this hypothesis that Africa looked a lot different before tribes of goat herders grazed it into barren desert. If you read ancient Egyptian history, there was much less denuded desert and much more savannah type grassland that supported large herbivores. We really don't know how the desertification of the Sahara progressed, but I think that rather than low rainfall leading to less vegetation leading to less forage, it was the other way around: too much grazing led to to little vegetation which led to diminished rainfall. So today it is difficult to grow things in the short rainy season of the Sahel, and forget about the Sahara.

When you look at the deserts of the southwestern U.S., there is much more plant diversity. There are trees like desert ironwood (Olneya tesota) that would do very well in your climate, but it is only found in the lower Sonoran desert, and I don't believe anyone has tried to introduce it elsewhere. It could be an important permaculture tree crop for Africa, along with palo verde and mesquite, which could round out the native acacias you have. These trees can provide sustainable animal fodder, but not when they are subject to attack by unrestrained ravenous goats.

Once you have your animal situation under control, you might want to try an intercrop of pigeon pea and millet. This combination is quite successful in the deserts of Western India.

If you would like to try starting some of the plants I have mentioned, I have seeds that I would be willing to share with you. Just send me a PM with your address. Another source of seed samples is the Desert Legume Program at the University of Arizona.
 
Katja Jassey
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Thank you - you reminded me that we actually have a very nice bean tree (have no idea what the english or latin name is) which grows very well and we should absolutely have more of that, groundnuts are also from the fabiae family so also good to keep on growing. in the rainy season all animals must be kept under control because then everybody cultivates the land which is why we can at least make some small use of the plot even today.

But yes, we must do something about the fencing, but I just thought that as we work on the fencing (which can be quite expensive) it would be good to start planning for a system and design that will work. I am thinking agroforestry and forest gardens are in many ways much more suitable to tropical climates than temperate but am not sure where to begin to look for information.

 
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