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Elementary school and eco village in Africa, and I'll take all the suggestions I can get!

 
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Nathanael Szobody wrote:Hi Lito,

Thanks for the input! I will definitely value your insights. The trees in question are mainly African Mahogany (Khaya senegalensis), and some local people say they harbor bad spirits. The people who are breaking them are actually not the native population; they are immigrants who have moved up in the past generation. And you are right: I should just walk over and ask their chief if he understands what they are doing. Eventually we will have a fence around the place, but it would be good to understand their thinking a little better.




My pleasure Nathanael. A further encouragement if the Chad culture is typically African (which I understand it probably is, with an added French flair): if you are able to gain favour or at least a respected position of understanding with the Elders/ local Chief/ local King then your issue with the broken saplings will be dealt with swiftly. You're probably well aware of the Animistic religions and superstitions there, and yet all of that can be dealt with the local chief Witchdoctor (talk to him about Christ if you like) as well.

The answer doesnt lie in the perpetrator because even the new comers will be subject to the local lore and more importantly so because you will have an older generation who were raised by the generation that raised the Elders.

This is not inciting violence on any level, though it may require some to set an example (not your problem, the Chiefs will see to that). I understand your project to be helping the people and that is the correct mindset to take with you in educating the Chief/Elder/King when you go speak to him.

A gift to the Chief will always help your cause. I dont suggest money because that will set a terrible precedent for you going forward.


Looking forward to your feedback once you make your choices. Forgive me if any of this seems patently obvious to you. The Western ways will not work in rural Africa.
 
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Nathanael Szobody wrote:It looks like a dessert in the pictures because we're in the seventh month of dry season! Give it three months and those same locations will look like a rain forest ecology. Right now everything is dormant. But that dirt is loaded with seeds, and all the organic material has been eaten by livestock or termites. In the case of termites, the material has been digested and integrated with the soil so that as soon as the rains hit there is an explosion of fertile greenery. Even though it looks like a desert, there are about 13 inches of topsoil there. It's just sandy topsoil.

There are actually loads of trees there too, but people cut them to the ground for planting. Once I let them go they'll spring back up in the rainy season from the dormant root stock.



I learn so much in these discussions. The termites seem like they are an adaption to protecting the soil during your extremely long drought periods. What other interactions between the insects, the soil, and the plants have you observed? Can you organize your school to encourage your students to become "apprentice scientists"? What sort of fibers or other farm-raised products can be developed to give the village more options for maintaining good year-around sources for foods? Do they now save seeds, or must they buy seeds from globalized seed sellers? I'm afraid my own "privileged status as a person living in the USA is filtering my questions, and in many cases, I don't even understand what questions I should be asking.

I wonder if some of your tree species can be coppiced to be used to build living windbreaks, instead of cutting them down for planting? Maybe establish a test grove for the village to see if it works? From what I've seen, the traditional agriculture uses some sort of plowing and hand watering? How deep is the water table, and how much does it drop during the dry season, compared to where it is during the rainy season?

As you will see from the videos, the pasture-based agriculture actually incorporates the use of livestock to perform necessary mowing services prior to the planting of annual plants used for food and forage yields, but some ground cover is always maintained to armor the soil against the killing heat of the sun. This may actually work to your advantage if you can get the nomadic livestock herders to come at the "right"time. Perhaps by reserving certain pastures for their exclusive use? Lots of social planning and agreement works must happen to make such a big change, I'm sure!

I suspect that talking to the village elders to get them to do a "modern experiment" might be a possible strategy there. Is it possible to use the Permaculture principles of diversity and stacking of functions to intensify the yields in a very small protected area, close to or "inside" the village to demonstrate how these new methods could increase the available resources for the entire village? Start with one tiny food-forest plant guild to act as a demonstration garden, and to teach the principles of Permaculture to your students. When you can, take a look at the Permies.com forum regarding new book, "The School Garden Curriculum" by Kaci Rae Christopher.This book may be adapted to your situation to teach the Permaculture Design Process to your students, and to their parents, and perhaps more importantly to the village elders.

The first principle, observe how the natural world works, is a really good place to start. It is how to involve the people of the village in the process of understanding what their activities are doing to affect the climate and the ecology they live in. Since they live so close to nature already, they probably already have a pretty good idea of how the cycles of nature happen around them, and by encouraging them to use what they already have observed, using the Socratic method of self-questioning, ask them to observe the consequences of their own activities in the same way.

The problem seems to be mostly a social one, not a technological one. In your case, it seems that some of your most difficult vectors are human ones, in terms of how the various groups interact in determining how the land and it's soil is used.

You mentioned digging swales.  I assume they are to be used to slow, spread, and sink the 80cm of rains that you get. It looks like the area is mostly very flat. One thing your students can do is calculate how much area is really needed to collect and store underground (in the roots of the trees or the forage-able plants and grasses) the water needed to support one food crop (or fodder crop for a group of nomadic herders) through the dry season.

The students may also be able to make calculations to determine exactly the number of livestock that any one field can support now, and how many more that the same field could support with a system of coordinated grazing of the commons areas. This may be the hardest idea to sell, but it may be necessary to convince each herder to reduce each of their herd sizes to the minimum needed for survival, for a season or two, until the permanent pasture system can be developed that could then support larger herds for everyone involved. With the coming climate changes, survival is going to have to be a cooperative strategy, of all will starve. In exchange for agreeing to smaller individual herd sizes, perhaps the farmers can agree to share more of their food crops with the nomadic tribes to see them through the lean years.

Is it possible to construct them in such a way that they will concentrate water for permanent hedgerows of edible forest trees? or for other renewable resources of food, fiber, fodder or building materials that could be used by all of the stakeholders of the commons? Can you work to develop a network of villages in the area to reserve such "oasis-areas" so that the nomadic herders could rely upon to help them to get through the long dry spells. This would require a lot of coordination between groups of people who may be traditionally antagonistic towards one another, but such cooperative ventures might be the key to solving the problems of managing the commons effectively. I would look to develop connections with your village elders and those of the nomadic tribes to work towards developing a web-of-life among them. Ideally, the elders would be the ones to make the actual connections.

In all of this brainstorming, please forgive my ignorance. However from such ignorant questions, perhaps a spark for change may be found.
 
Lito George
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Nathanael: are you aware of Geoff Lawtons permaculture work in the Middle East? Seems to be similarities in the scope of work and environmental conditions. He has reached terrific success there.
 
Mark Kissinger
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Lito George wrote:Nathanael: are you aware of Geoff Lawtons permaculture work in the Middle East? Seems to be similarities in the scope of work and environmental conditions. He has reached terrific success there.



A great suggestion, Lito!

Here is Geoff Lawton's website, about his efforts are organized:

https://www.geofflawtononline.com/
There is a four-part documentary linked to this page.

This is the sub-page about jobs and internships:
https://www.geofflawtononline.com/jobs/

Here is the sub-page that describes Geoff's consulting services:
https://www.geofflawtononline.com/consult/

Here is the sub page for finding resources:
https://www.geofflawtononline.com/resources/

and here is a global Permaculture resource that also might be helpful:
https://www.permacultureglobal.org


Lots and lots of human resources to be accessed here!

Here is Geoff Lawton's YouTube page:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCL_r1ELEvAuN0peKUxI0Umw

Looks like you'll have plenty to keep you busy when you go back to the city, Nathanael!

I have copied these to my own notebook to further my own studies.

Here's a link to Geoff's 2019 Online Permaculture Design Class:
https://www.discoverpermaculture.com/pdc-2019


 
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I posted this earlier, but the photo didn't show up. Here's Suleiman, a first grade student, showing off the moringa tree he planted at home and donated to the school.

   


Mark Kissinger wrote:
The problem seems to be mostly a social one, not a technological one. In your case, it seems that some of your most difficult vectors are human ones, in terms of how the various groups interact in determining how the land and it's soil is used.



Isn't this the case everywhere! But I feel that it's important to make sure I'm fitting in my appropriate place in the ecosystem as well. I mean the society in terms of social permaculture. I'm not here to tell people what to do. Firstly, I'm going to have loads of fun growing a food forest. And secondly, I have been priviledged to be entrusted with the education of the local children. So by all means, I'm raising up permaculterers. As the above photo demonstrates, the kids just eat this stuff up. It's really almost effortless to transmit to them the natural logic of a healthy ecosystem.

I teach them Saturday class when we do nature study. In addition to making compost and planting trees they have learned their first  sentence in French: "A tree eats, a tree drinks, a tree breaths!" Along with full body motions.

My goal is nothing short of boundless permaculture in all of its aspects, social and ecological. These kids have already bought into it!

Mark Kissinger wrote:You mentioned digging swales. I assume they are to be used to slow, spread, and sink the 80cm of rains that you get. It looks like the area is mostly very flat. One thing your students can do is calculate how much area is really needed to collect and store underground (in the roots of the trees or the forage-able plants and grasses) the water needed to support one food crop (or fodder crop for a group of nomadic herders) through the dry season.



Actually, I stated above that the swales are more for mulch collection and irrigation retention. We have plenty of sun here, so I'm happy to let all that water go to the ground water table and we bring it back up, all purified and mineralized by nature with solar power. It's real sandy soil, so absorption is not an issue. For reference you can see the design I posted earlier.

Lito George wrote:Nathanael: are you aware of Geoff Lawtons permaculture work in the Middle East? Seems to be similarities in the scope of work and environmental conditions. He has reached terrific success there.



Yes, I cut my permaculture teeth on his videos. Fundamentally, his greening the desert is a project that grows bunches of stuff on drip irrigation. Sure, he employs solid techniques like mulch, swales and guilds, but it all runs on drip irrigation. I could do that here as well, but then none of the locals could afford to copy my methods. I prefer something more indigenous. And Bill Molleson's adage is particularly relevant for the African context: "Permaculture replaced petroleum with people."

Additionally, my climate is only dry for two thirds of the year. The other third is more of a rain forest climate. It is the integration of these two seasons that presents a unique challenge--the wet/dry tropics.
 
Mark Kissinger
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Nathanael Szobody wrote:

Mark Kissinger wrote:
The problem seems to be mostly a social one, not a technological one. In your case, it seems that some of your most difficult vectors are human ones, in terms of how the various groups interact in determining how the land and it's soil is used.



Isn't this the case everywhere!

...

My goal is nothing short of boundless permaculture in all of its aspects, social and ecological. These kids have already bought into it!

Mark Kissinger wrote:You mentioned digging swales. I assume they are to be used to slow, spread, and sink the 80cm of rains that you get. It looks like the area is mostly very flat. One thing your students can do is calculate how much area is really needed to collect and store underground (in the roots of the trees or the forage-able plants and grasses) the water needed to support one food crop (or fodder crop for a group of nomadic herders) through the dry season.



Actually, I stated above that the swales are more for mulch collection and irrigation retention. We have plenty of sun here, so I'm happy to let all that water go to the ground water table and we bring it back up, all purified and mineralized by nature with solar power. It's real sandy soil, so absorption is not an issue. For reference you can see the design I posted earlier.

Lito George wrote:Nathanael: are you aware of Geoff Lawtons permaculture work in the Middle East? Seems to be similarities in the scope of work and environmental conditions. He has reached terrific success there.



Yes, I cut my permaculture teeth on his videos. Fundamentally, his greening the desert is a project that grows bunches of stuff on drip irrigation. Sure, he employs solid techniques like mulch, swales and guilds, but it all runs on drip irrigation. I could do that here as well, but then none of the locals could afford to copy my methods. I prefer something more indigenous. And Bill Molleson's adage is particularly relevant for the African context: "Permaculture replaced petroleum with people."

Additionally, my climate is only dry for two thirds of the year. The other third is more of a rain forest climate. It is the integration of these two seasons that presents a unique challenge--the wet/dry tropics.



Thank you so much for your responses! I am learning very much from these exchanges! You hit on one very important point for my own social education: We are NOT  there to TELL anyone anything, but to fit ourselves into the local social ecology. Something I must remember as I work on my own Permaculture practice here in Arizona. You do have a unique wet and dry ecological challenge where you are! So much from my mostly dry climate, with only a few occasionally intense rainfall events.

I really enjoyed seeing the joy on your first grader's face and the pride he has in donating his tree to the effort.
 
Nathanael Szobody
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Mark,

I used to live in Arizona, and retain a deep love of the Sonoran desert. So diverse, vibrant and austere all at the same time. Ironically, my brother and I ran a lawn business! That was before permaculture :)
 
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Nathanael Szobody wrote:Mark,

I used to live in Arizona, and retain a deep love of the Sonoran desert. So diverse, vibrant and austere all at the same time. Ironically, my brother and I ran a lawn business! That was before permaculture :)



It IS a small world. i lived in Tucson in the young 1970s...
 
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How is the water situation?
Do you know the banana circle? Could be used around wells, so that the wasted water is channelled to a pit, with bananas on the mound. Or something similar with the grey water, directed to the center of the banana circle if you have tap water.
 
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I will share my observations though my cycle is not as extreme in the Seattle Washington area where we have 8 months of rain and 4 months of dry. I have a farm that no longer has livestock on it so I manage what used to be done by rotational paddocks and corral collection of the manure is done with my scythes.
During the rapid growing seasons [spring and fall] I cut and accumulate in my production area. I concentrate on harvesting undesirable vegetation like field daises before thy produce seed. I cover my collected material, which is about 12 to 16 inches spread over the garden, with discarded carpet to protect it  from the sun and wind and provide for my miniature livestock. [worms, insects. slugs. snakes to eat the slugs] You don't have the carpet but you do have the swales filled with the material and many helping hands to cover the collected material with dirt from the top of the mound. Pumpkins do exceptionally well during the dry season when their roots have access to this organic sponge. In my case they cover an 8 foot circle of carpet. I use the ones without hulls on the seeds which I have selected for the most orange flesh. I dry and store the seeds and dry the flesh and make it into flour when I am grinding my seeds.
At the end of the dry season some areas have mounds of desirable plants such as vetch, alfalfa and wiled flax which I cut and cover the poor areas of my field until the seed drops than I move it to my planting area and cover it with the carpet for 2 months of winter.
 
Nathanael Szobody
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hans muster wrote:How is the water situation?
Do you know the banana circle? Could be used around wells, so that the wasted water is channelled to a pit, with bananas on the mound. Or something similar with the grey water, directed to the center of the banana circle if you have tap water.



Good call Hans! All of our grey water and runoff from outdoor faucets goes into banana, papaya and mango trees.
 
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Wow! Such unique challenges and solutions awaiting.
Are you familiar with Greening the desert? One of the first things planted was a row of shade trees. Maybe an Acacia or Mesquite would be good? Certain Mesquite pods can be ground into flour. Mesquite pancakes are delish!

I've photos of peoples protecting their crops with piles of sticks. Perhaps this would be helpful to keep the nomadic herds away?

Much blessings
~Sena
 
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Hans Quistorff wrote:I will share my observations though my cycle is not as extreme in the Seattle Washington area where we have 8 months of rain and 4 months of dry. I have a farm that no longer has livestock on it so I manage what used to be done by rotational paddocks and corral collection of the manure is done with my scythes.
During the rapid growing seasons [spring and fall] I cut and accumulate in my production area. I concentrate on harvesting undesirable vegetation like field daises before thy produce seed. I cover my collected material, which is about 12 to 16 inches spread over the garden, with discarded carpet to protect it  from the sun and wind and provide for my miniature livestock. [worms, insects. slugs. snakes to eat the slugs] You don't have the carpet but you do have the swales filled with the material and many helping hands to cover the collected material with dirt from the top of the mound. Pumpkins do exceptionally well during the dry season when their roots have access to this organic sponge. In my case they cover an 8 foot circle of carpet. I use the ones without hulls on the seeds which I have selected for the most orange flesh. I dry and store the seeds and dry the flesh and make it into flour when I am grinding my seeds.
At the end of the dry season some areas have mounds of desirable plants such as vetch, alfalfa and wiled flax which I cut and cover the poor areas of my field until the seed drops than I move it to my planting area and cover it with the carpet for 2 months of winter.



Sounds like a really solid system--even idyllic. I once told me friends that I weed my garden with a sickle. They laughed and shook their heads in disbelief. I can't wait to roam this plot with a scythe in rainy season!

Here we plant sweet potatoes in mounds of cut grass covered in dirt. They ripen long after the last rains.
 
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When I look at this picture it strikes my how barren the place looks. I'm going to have to take a picture from this spot every six months.
   

Near the center is the 'pit garden' with concentric swales being dug around it every 12 meters. Food forest will be IN swales, while berms will be spread for crop in between.
 
Mark Kissinger
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Nathanael Szobody wrote:When I look at this picture it strikes my how barren the place looks. I'm going to have to take a picture from this spot every six months.

Near the center is the 'pit garden' with concentric swales being dug around it every 12 meters. Food forest will be IN swales, while berms will be spread for crop in between.



What is the volume of the pit? In the swales?  
In the rainy season, will the pit and swales be able to handle the anticipated rainfall?
If the pit swales are filled with organic materials, what will happen if they tend to float on top of the anticipated rainwater?
Is there any plan to allow for the runoff of excessive rainwater collection?
Have you calculated your infiltration rate?

The circular pattern of the swales seems to be designed to prevent water from the surrounding areas from draining into the swales, and presumably into the pit.

What are your plans for the areas outside of the circular feature that you have constructed? Have you considered making linear swales that would concentrate volumes of water into lower areas, in which the composted mulch from your collected mulch would be distributed to encourage growth of your food forest plants?
 
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Mark Kissinger wrote:

What is the volume of the pit? In the swales?  
In the rainy season, will the pit and swales be able to handle the anticipated rainfall?
If the pit swales are filled with organic materials, what will happen if they tend to float on top of the anticipated rainwater?
Is there any plan to allow for the runoff of excessive rainwater collection?
Have you calculated your infiltration rate?

The circular pattern of the swales seems to be designed to prevent water from the surrounding areas from draining into the swales, and presumably into the pit.

What are your plans for the areas outside of the circular feature that you have constructed? Have you considered making linear swales that would concentrate volumes of water into lower areas, in which the composted mulch from your collected mulch would be distributed to encourage growth of your food forest plants?



Those are a lot of questions :) Let's see if I can cover them all.

Here's a picture of the pit when it was being dug. It has two more terraces in it now. The walls of the terraces will be built with brick.

   

And I will repost the property design here for your reference. I don't have a scanner in the bush, so a photo will have to do.
 

The volume is approx 183,000 liters. The semi-circular swales are not to keep water from the pit. The pit is surrounded by it own berm so that is not a concern.

The land is flat at a pancake. There is an imperceptible sloap to the East. Additionally, the ground is sandy. In fact our first borehole collapsed because the ground is sandy all 42 meters down. So infiltration is not a concern either. I have not calculated the infiltration rate, but I have observed it. At my house I have much smaller swales. While they do fill up nearly full in the rainy season they have not topped. If they do at the school, the sill is at the road to the south side.

Since the ground is flat it will soak around into the field to the West and the school yard to the East. This is no problem either because it would soak in during the following 24 hours. There is no low ground for water to drain to. It will sit and percolate. If it sits in the school yard it will help raise the water table for my ficus shade trees. But there is very little risk of that anyway. And conveniently, rainy season is summer vacation.

Some of the mulch will float when the swale fills, but it won't stay full for long--not long enough to create an anaerobic situation anyway, or waterlog the trees.

Why semi-circular swales? Well, we dug the pit garden in the center South of the property to be close to the well for irrigation. We originally dug it because we needed sub-soil to make compressed earth blocks to build with. In fact, all of my swales are being dug a meter deep so that we can excavate and use the 50 cm of sub-soil and then back-fill them half way with organic material--peanut shells, in our case. Once that pit was dug, it's berm immediately became the highest point in the property. So following the energy flow from that we continued with the swales going around it. It also creates a pleasant aesthetic.    

As you can see in the design, the circular swales every 12 meters will continue (4, I think) until they encounter our staff housing to the West and the school play yard to the East. It's basically a demonstration field agriculture zone in the center of the property that separates school from residential.

-Nathanael
 
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Nathanael Szobody wrote:
Those are a lot of questions :) Let's see if I can cover them all.

Here's a picture of the pit when it was being dug. It has two more terraces in it now. The walls of the terraces will be built with brick.

<snip>

And I will repost the property design here for your reference. I don't have a scanner in the bush, so a photo will have to do.
 

The volume is approx 183,000 liters. The semi-circular swales are not to keep water from the pit. The pit is surrounded by it own berm so that is not a concern.

The land is flat at a pancake. There is an imperceptible slope to the East. Additionally, the ground is sandy. In fact our first borehole collapsed because the ground is sandy all 42 meters down. So infiltration is not a concern either. I have not calculated the infiltration rate, but I have observed it. At my house I have much smaller swales. While they do fill up nearly full in the rainy season they have not topped. If they do at the school, the sill is at the road to the south side.

Since the ground is flat it will soak around into the field to the West and the school yard to the East. This is no problem either because it would soak in during the following 24 hours. There is no low ground for water to drain to. It will sit and percolate. If it sits in the school yard it will help raise the water table for my ficus shade trees. But there is very little risk of that anyway. And conveniently, rainy season is summer vacation.

Some of the mulch will float when the swale fills, but it won't stay full for long--not long enough to create an anaerobic situation anyway, or waterlog the trees.

Why semi-circular swales? Well, we dug the pit garden in the center South of the property to be close to the well for irrigation. We originally dug it because we needed sub-soil to make compressed earth blocks to build with. In fact, all of my swales are being dug a meter deep so that we can excavate and use the 50 cm of sub-soil and then back-fill them half way with organic material--peanut shells, in our case. Once that pit was dug, it's berm immediately became the highest point in the property. So following the energy flow from that we continued with the swales going around it. It also creates a pleasant aesthetic.    

As you can see in the design, the circular swales every 12 meters will continue (4, I think) until they encounter our staff housing to the West and the school play yard to the East. It's basically a demonstration field agriculture zone in the center of the property that separates school from residential.

-Nathanael



Thank you for the clarifications recounting your design process. It would seem that the capacity of each swale is sufficient, unless your get a much larger rainy season, but as you said, the excess water will end up flowing to another area where the water can be utilized.

As your mulch-accumulation areas fill and begin to compost, you are creating an engine for producing a much-needed soil amendment for your sandy soil. I think that over time, as the soil begins to incorporate this organic "sponge" material, that you will be able to plant a succession of pioneer species that will produce deep roots that will increase the sub-soil water retention throughout your food forest! I hope that eventually, your bit of ground will become a green oasis which will be the envy of your neighbors and an example that can prove valuable to your entire region! I would suggest that you experiment with planting plants, such as squash and gourds that have large soil-shading leaves, which will help to retain moisture for longer into the dry periods.

If these techniques are successful, perhaps they can be used to provide more reliable forage specifically for the nomadic herders, so maybe they won't be tempted to let their herds eat your garden. Anywhere that humans can cause more vegetation to grow longer into the dry season can be considered a win against the ravages of climate change.

You are embarking on a great thing here! I wish you all the best success in your work.
 
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Mark Kissinger wrote: I would suggest that you experiment with planting plants, such as squash and gourds that have large soil-shading leaves, which will help to retain moisture for longer into the dry periods.



Good suggestion. Happily, nature will do that for me here. Of course, if I want stuff to eat I'll plant them myself, but we have many varieties of native cucurbits and melons. For example, here's a picture of a dry season garden that the school teacher is growing at my place:

   

Half of the greenery is wild--just sprung up once we start watering it. Here's a close-up to show you what's going on:

   

The plant in the center is a Roselle that we planted, but the ground cover is a wild cucumber--not edible incidentally. It just popped up once the water hit, and grows REALLY fast. So you can see how this ecology transforms from desert to paradise in a few weeks of rain! The wild watermelons around here still haven't died off from last year--seven months without a drop off rain! You can't beat that for resiliency.



 
Nathanael Szobody
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Planted our second tree yesterday! The kids sure love this stuff. But first, our assignment:draw a tree:

   
 
For many of them, this is their first time seeing a baobab tree. They're not exactly native, but thrive here anyway:

   

 
One group waters it while the other brings bricks to protect it from goats... and people
The girls are always happy when it involves carrying something on their head as they excel in this unique skill:

   


 
When it's all done we form a circle and sing our tree song :-) Here's to a really huge baobab in our school yard some day!

   


 
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Hi Nathanael,

Below link is my interpretation of Korean Natural Farming practices and recipes. I am sure you can make some of those fertilizers with readily available ingredients around you. I hope it helps on your endeavors.

https://www.havatopraksu.org/blog/2018/06/18/asian-natural-farming/


 
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allan savory and silvo pasture or agro forestry are your best bet. all of the biomass in that climate is in the living plants the soil is terrible. wetlands chinampas and a few other things are the only things that hold nutrients via annuals and such. try to plant everywhere for biomass/mulch and gather all the critters into a herd with one 1-4 shepards branding might be a good idea if the village is too big. you may also want to look up the wim hof method as a medical type thing it works like the keto diet and carnovore diet and can help people a lot. if you do waru waru you would be able to create raised beds and sunken beds for if you get high rainfall or when you have little water. the sunken beds can also be cultivated with small fish that you can harvest before they dry up again... ill keep this tab open so i'd like to hear your thoughts on each of these. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=FL-3N86LoL6a1ncoFbk1kE4w these videos are my collection of useful stuff, many of these videos i can rewatch 10 times and still not understand them completely until i learn new things =D talk to you later
 
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Gurkan Yeniceri wrote:Hi Nathanael,

Below link is my interpretation of Korean Natural Farming practices and recipes. I am sure you can make some of those fertilizers with readily available ingredients around you. I hope it helps on your endeavors.

https://www.havatopraksu.org/blog/2018/06/18/asian-natural-farming/




Thank you! I will study these carefully. I've been curious about these methods for awhile, but not yet taken the time to educate myself. The kids will love this kind of stuff!
 
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connor burke wrote: if you do waru waru you would be able to create raised beds and sunken beds for if you get high rainfall or when you have little water. the sunken beds can also be cultivated with small fish that you can harvest before they dry up again...



I certainly do sunken beds, or pit gardens in dry season. They won't be retaining water though because the soil is so sandy.
 
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Nathanael Szobody wrote:

connor burke wrote: if you do waru waru you would be able to create raised beds and sunken beds for if you get high rainfall or when you have little water. the sunken beds can also be cultivated with small fish that you can harvest before they dry up again...



I certainly do sunken beds, or pit gardens in dry season. They won't be retaining water though because the soil is so sandy.



The "cure" for sandy soils is more organic matters, either living (in the form of deep, thick root masses or tuberous root, such as diakon radishes, even if they die off during the dry season, they will leave more carbon in the soil. Your pits are very much like the methods used by Sepp Holtzer's hugelkulture methods of burying organic materials and allowing them to slowly decompose, while planting directly into the mounds. The carbon in the organic material acts a a sponge to hold on to the moisture near to the surface, where the plant-mix can utilize it over the dry spells. As the carbon begins to become incorporated into the sand, the sand will turn darker, and will form aggregates and will support nitrogen nodules. You must be sure to make sure your nitrogen-fixing plants are inoculated with the correct bacterial inoculate for the type of legume plant you are using in your mix.

Do not expose your soil to any more tillage than is required to get the seeds (or seedlings) into the soil: the air from plowing or tillage actually activates a type of bacteria that destroys the soil biology by "eating" the nitrogen in the soil and disrupts the fungal micorizal "runners" that transports soil nutrients among the plant community that connects the web of life that develops in the healthy soil.

Developing a source of coppiced tree (Any clean, non-polluted organic materials that will do to be used for burying could be a long-term strategy, especially for areas where nomadic herders bring their herds in. Getting a wide variety of seed-mixes selected for deep roots. In the dry season, even dry, beaten-down or rolled material will help to keep the land from becoming bare.  Here are some more videos that discuss the pasture-based agriculture:

Ray Archuleta & David Brandt Videos
Soil & Diverse Cover Crops with Ray Archuleta & David Brandt Part 1
https://youtu.be/nNMdWnfjs8s

Soil & Diverse Cover Crops Part 2 The Five Functions of Soil
https://youtu.be/XLJohF5h2y4

Soil & Diverse Cover Crops Part 3 Ecology
https://youtu.be/1aE4nfC5cYE

Soil & Diverse Cover Crops Part 4 No-Till Systems
https://youtu.be/58UKUbRjrr8

Soil & Diverse Cover Crops Part 5 Implementation with Farmer David Brandt
https://youtu.be/ub2GjllSuHc

Soil & Diverse Cover Crops Part 6 Innovations
https://youtu.be/4w5uG62SjRM

Soil & Diverse Cover Crops Part 7 Seed Blends
https://youtu.be/KRmjpRTSjcM

Soil & Diverse Cover Crops Part 8 Introducing Covers
https://youtu.be/P3-tH2SV7o4

Soil & Diverse Cover Crops Part 9 Planting into Covers
https://youtu.be/UgQu2rjGZHc

Soil & Diverse Cover Crops Final Parts UNCUT
https://youtu.be/eWkDEL9jF5s

13th edition or above only! “The Nature and Properties of Soils”

Midwest Cover Crop Council (on web)

Spheres of Soil Ecocology

1. Top layer: Detritiussphere (plant litter)
2. Agratissphere
3. Pores-sphere
4. Conduit-sphere
5. Drillosphere (earthworms)

Dr David Gleesman “AgrigoEcology”

Janine Benyus Biomimicry (TED Talks) 2 presentations
Soil Health is Biomimicry or Ecomimicry

”A hierarchal approach to evaluating the significance of soil biodiversity to biochemical cycling”
M.H. Beare, D.C. Colman, D.A. Crossley Jr, R.E Hendrix, and E.P. (last name cut off on the slide) (1995)

I realize that you only have a relatively small area to work with, but perhaps you could arrange to show these videos to some of the local farmers and livestock managers, and they might try a few small experimental plots to select out what works the best. These ideas have been proven in every ecological niche in the world, and they have been proven to increase profits (yields), but they do require more intensive management of the plants and animals that what you have described as the traditional methods used in your area.

With the livestock, the "mobbing" technique takes some calculations and some solar-powered electric fences to make sure the pastures that are used for feeding livestock are not overgrazed, so the biggest problem will be to get enough acreage under management to accommodate the herd sizes that will be using the pastures, no matter who owns the herds. It will probably be a real "political" nightmare to make happen, but one with great advantages and rewards for a great number of people if it can be pulled off.

Here's wishing you the blessings of the silver-tongued devil for when you begin to explain all this to your community.

 
Nathanael Szobody
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Thanks Mark! The whole electric fence thing is the hitch. They're not available in this country. And if I ship them in, the project will only last as long as nothing needs repair in that system...

However, the school does own some cattle. We'll see what we can come up with.
 
connor burke
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Nathanael Szobody wrote:

connor burke wrote: if you do waru waru you would be able to create raised beds and sunken beds for if you get high rainfall or when you have little water. the sunken beds can also be cultivated with small fish that you can harvest before they dry up again...



I certainly do sunken beds, or pit gardens in dry season. They won't be retaining water though because the soil is so sandy.



try to catch all the water that falls on and above your property and also in the surrounding area the larger an area that gets vegetated the more water will be available for plants later in the season. a benefit of Campinas and waru waru is that they have a large storage capacity expesially if you create a "shade/water lens" focusing the water into deep recharge pits will help to conserve water. rocks can be used as mulch and as dew harvesting structures
 
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connor burke wrote:

try to catch all the water that falls on and above your property and also in the surrounding area the larger an area that gets vegetated the more water will be available for plants later in the season. a benefit of Campinas and waru waru is that they have a large storage capacity expesially if you create a "shade/water lens" focusing the water into deep recharge pits will help to conserve water. rocks can be used as mulch and as dew harvesting structures



We catch every drop that falls on the property--one of the benefits of sandy soil :-). We've also dug a huge pit garden to catch water and an appropriate number if swales. See the design further up on this page for reference.

But really, eight months with no rain and temperatures up to 110F/45C is pretty guaranteed to dry everything up pretty well. That's just the ecosystem we have here and it has its benefits.

Additionally, standing water is just not generally a good thing here as it breeds mosquitoes and increases malaria.

But check out the photos of the pit garden and let me know if that is kind of what you're talking about. We have yet to see how long water will stay in it during rainy season.
 
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When I lived in Cameroon, there was a proverb that people often used: "It takes a country stick to turn the country porridge."  (Country stick sabi turn country fufu).

Any contextually accepted solution to over-grazing will need to come from the people.  As outsiders we immediately want to suggest quick and seemingly viable solutions like fencing.  But coming into their context with our "solutions" will only create resentment.  "Keep YOUR goats off of MY land" --- what they hear is "I'm selfish, I come from a country with tremendous wealth, and I'm not even willing to share a little bit of free grass that I'm not even using with you and your hungry animals."

Education, community-based solutions, and building long-term trust and social equity take YEARS to develop.  But in the end, if the community owns those solutions (and enforces those solutions), they will be lasting solutions.  A country stick, if you will.  

So it always starts with conversations and long silences.  "Hey, I've been thinking -- do you think there might be a way for the community to take ownership of a specific tract of land and do an experiment next dry season?  We could all benefit from it."  It may take 5 years before that series of conversations reaches enough people that they'll attempt something new.
 
Marco Banks
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One potential technique you might try would be an outhouse on a skid so that it can easily be pulled from spot to spot.  Dig a shallow hole about 3 feet deep or so, and move your outhouse over the newly dug hole about once a week.  Poop for a week.  Move on.  In 52 weeks, you would have 52 poop-filled holes, each one perfect for planting a new tree.  10 years from now, thats 500 trees growing in that nitrogen rich soil.

How do you keep those baby trees from being grazed down to the ground before they get a viable start on life?  Maybe you could create a round fence around each one with the mud-blocks that you show in those pictures.  If there's one thing that is plentiful, it's dirt.  Sun-dried mud blocks are a simple technology, but can be stacked to create a semi-permeable wall with openings that goats can't reach their little heads through.  Not only would the block wall keep the growing trees from being grazed to death, but would also provide a micro-climate that's slightly cooler during the day (due to shade) and warm into the evening (due to the heat-sink effect of the blocks).  A simple urinal device with a garden hose attacked to funnel the pee toward the base of the tree could be hung on the side of the tree-circle-fence.  "When you've got to pee, you boys go pee over there into the tree urinal"
 
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Allow me to just repost Marco's entire comment in case anyone didn't take the time to read it. It would help you understand the context we work in--clearly he has a good grasp of it:

Marco Banks wrote:When I lived in Cameroon, there was a proverb that people often used: "It takes a country stick to turn the country porridge."  (Country stick sabi turn country fufu).

Any contextually accepted solution to over-grazing will need to come from the people.  As outsiders we immediately want to suggest quick and seemingly viable solutions like fencing.  But coming into their context with our "solutions" will only create resentment.  "Keep YOUR goats off of MY land" --- what they hear is "I'm selfish, I come from a country with tremendous wealth, and I'm not even willing to share a little bit of free grass that I'm not even using with you and your hungry animals."

Education, community-based solutions, and building long-term trust and social equity take YEARS to develop.  But in the end, if the community owns those solutions (and enforces those solutions), they will be lasting solutions.  A country stick, if you will.  

So it always starts with conversations and long silences.  "Hey, I've been thinking -- do you think there might be a way for the community to take ownership of a specific tract of land and do an experiment next dry season?  We could all benefit from it."  It may take 5 years before that series of conversations reaches enough people that they'll attempt something new.



Or put otherwise: white people come to Africa with lots of ideas. About one in twenty are actually good ones for the context. But that's why I'm asking for ideas! I want that one out of twenty :-)

Marco Banks wrote:One potential technique you might try would be an outhouse on a skid so that it can easily be pulled from spot to spot.  Dig a shallow hole about 3 feet deep or so, and move your outhouse over the newly dug hole about once a week.  Poop for a week.  Move on.  In 52 weeks, you would have 52 poop-filled holes, each one perfect for planting a new tree.  10 years from now, thats 500 trees growing in that nitrogen rich soil.



I actually do that already at my house. It's a small concrete slab that I move over a new hole every year. Wow do the trees grow in those holes!! My school committee insisted that we must have a permanent latrine to meet national standards. So we've built that. But I think I will add the moveable kind closer to the classrooms so the kids will prefer that one :-)

Marco Banks wrote:
How do you keep those baby trees from being grazed down to the ground before they get a viable start on life?  Maybe you could create a round fence around each one with the mud-blocks that you show in those pictures.  If there's one thing that is plentiful, it's dirt.  Sun-dried mud blocks are a simple technology, but can be stacked to create a semi-permeable wall with openings that goats can't reach their little heads through.  Not only would the block wall keep the growing trees from being grazed to death, but would also provide a micro-climate that's slightly cooler during the day (due to shade) and warm into the evening (due to the heat-sink effect of the blocks).  


We actually do this too--even though the thermal effect is a draw-back; we need cooler nights, not warmer ones! See the picture:

   
 

 
connor burke
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allan savory is a local to africa and his method has been proven there time and time again. if you can convince your neighbours to keep all the critters together than they will be easier for a shepherd to manage according to his methods, especially so when the animals bond to the shepherd. by doing so you will be able to build biomass over time
silvopasture and agroforestry in your climate would basically be using trees as a perennial shade that will allow your annuals to grow under it whilst conserving the water that would have evaporated directly from the ground.
perennial plants start putting on leaves earlier than other plants and have much more biomass stored to be used as shade.
chinampas are basically VERY large sunken beds where you put the excavated soil directly next to the new hole to function as a windbreak berm
the most important thing is keeping the soil moist enough that plants can grow. try to avoid irrigating as long as you can. plants evolved to live off ground water and rainfall. irrigation can even lower the yield of a crop. if plants are never watered then they will be able to handle serious droughts as long as the soil is slightly moist from a prior rain event or minimal ground water. how far down do you have to go for ground water?
 
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Nathanael Szobody wrote:

I actually do that already at my house. It's a small concrete slab that I move over a new hole every year. Wow do the trees grow in those holes!! My school committee insisted that we must have a permanent latrine to meet national standards. So we've built that. But I think I will add the moveable kind closer to the classrooms so the kids will prefer that one :-)

We actually do this too--even though the thermal effect is a draw-back; we need cooler nights, not warmer ones! See the picture:



Clearly, you're already ahead of me and my suggestions.  We're on the same wavelength but you've already put those ideas into action.

The outhouse on skids idea is easy enough to quickly drag away when you don't want someone to see it.  3 people grab hold of the rope and drag it away, while someone else tosses a couple of shovels-full of dirt over the crap in the hole.  What outhouse?  I don't see no outhouse.

Capturing nitrogen and moisture from urine is a whole lot simpler than dealing with human feces.  But too much nitrogen on a young tree can burn the poor thing.  Is there a cover crop that could handle straight undiluted urine?  If so, creating an outdoor pisser that is fenced off to keep the goats out, but capture that N and feed a rapidly growing cover crop might be an easy way to generate biomass for compost or mulch.  
 
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connor burke wrote:
silvopasture and agroforestry in your climate would basically be using trees as a perennial shade that will allow your annuals to grow under it whilst conserving the water that would have evaporated directly from the ground.
perennial plants start putting on leaves earlier than other plants and have much more biomass stored to be used as shade.
the most important thing is keeping the soil moist enough that plants can grow. try to avoid irrigating as long as you can. plants evolved to live off ground water and rainfall. irrigation can even lower the yield of a crop. if plants are never watered then they will be able to handle serious droughts as long as the soil is slightly moist from a prior rain event or minimal ground water. how far down do you have to go for ground water?



Good suggestions Conner. we only irrigate our trees until they're big enough to survive the dry season on their own; our annual crops grow during rainy season. Interesting fact: A tree planted over last year's latrine does not need any watering the following year, nor thereafter. I suppose thst' s kind of a chinampa

As for growing annuals in the shade, well, they might grow, but they won't produce. This year I'm going to experiment with letting the wild trees grow, but cut off most of the branches for the rainy season.
 
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Paul Wheaton wrote a post somewhere making the point that the best thing you could do ever, anywhere, is plant polyculture trees. (I can't find that thread now, but I assure you it existed.)

I think he's spot on.

It is also said that sustainable change is slow.

For these two reasons we are STOKED about the two trees we planted this week. Both of them are banyan trees. They are:
1. Native,
2. Evergreen,
3. Fast growing,
4. Fantastic shade (therefore places squarely in the school yard),
5. Produce delicious little edible fruit,
6. The best climbing tree in the world,
7. A parasite tree that will multiply when birds poop their seeds in a nice moist crook of another tree on the property,
8. Gorgeous.

Aaaand since this is the "kids" forum, I'm gonna post some pics of the kids who were as stoked as me to plant them.

First, "monsieur" teacher, trying his hand at planting:

   

Then the kids made mud mortar to build a protective wall around it. The boys really get into this part! (Classroom in the background)

   
 
Then they bring bricks to build the protective wall. Zara would like you to know that she doesn't use hands to carry her bricks. In fact, she uses her hands to drink her funky who-knows-what's-in-it home made beverage.

   
 


 
Mark Kissinger
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Nathanael Szobody wrote:

As for growing annuals in the shade, well, they might grow, but they won't produce. This year I'm going to experiment with letting the wild trees grow, but cut off most of the branches for the rainy season.



The idea of letting the wild trees grow and trimming them back is essentially what coppicing is. All that organic material can be buried in a pattern of small hills and valleys that will end up adding carbon to your sandy soil and this will increase the amount of water that can be stored. The process can be applied to any vacant bare area if that is desirable. That extra water will allow cover crops of various deep rooted grasses and livestock feed to last longer into the dry season.

Now, if you could "conveniently" move your mobile outhouses along a line that you would like to be used as a fence, perhaps those wild trees could be grown densely enough so that when you coppiced them back during the rainy season, they could be used to build hugelkulture installations in the areas that would be "reserved" for your nomadic herders during the dry spells. A win-win for everyone? it would be a way to improve relationships with the nomadic herders, and would make the ground "lumpier" in order to concentrate the rainy season water in underground organic storage that would eventually provide better year around pasture for the common areas. More native wild trees will also act as windrows and even serve to make more shade for the livestock.

As you teach your children, ask them if they know any stories about how the village was saved from drought. Talk about how these ideas are helping to heal the Mother Earth, and how she happily rewards those who honor her by helping to heal the damage from the dry season.

Perhaps some research into the local folklore would give you some ideas on how to approach the integration of the new ideas into the local culture. I would try to cultivate the local shamans and chiefs as your very best friends! Ask them what the oldest stories said about protecting the village from droughts.

Do I remember correctly that you mentioned that some of the trees were considered evil? If so, see if you can get to the bottom of why that would be so.

I would be interested in hearing more about the social makeup of the area you are living in. I tried looking up the area on Google Maps, but since I don't know the area, I could not pick out your site. If you have the chance the next time you have internet access, perhaps you could make a screenshot of the satellite view of the area and post it here. The area looks to be fairly densely populated from what I could see. Or, if you can get me the GPS coordinates of your school, I could find it on Google maps and send you a screenshot via this forum.If possible get th GPS coordinates for the 4 corners, and perhaps one of the center of your circular mulch pit. Depending on the cell phone service, your phone might be able to access an app to provide that data. I have uploaded a Google Maps satellite view of Boudamasa, Chad. I might be able to get a closer view of your school, if you could mark it on a printout of the photo.

Best of luck with your adventure!
Boudamasa-Chad_2019-05-12-Google-Maps.jpg
[Thumbnail for Boudamasa-Chad_2019-05-12-Google-Maps.jpg]
 
Nathanael Szobody
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Mark Kissinger wrote:

Now, if you could "conveniently" move your mobile outhouses along a line that you would like to be used as a fence, perhaps those wild trees could be grown densely enough so that when you coppiced them back during the rainy season, they could be used to build hugelkulture installations in the areas that would be "reserved" for your nomadic herders during the dry spells. A win-win for everyone? it would be a way to improve relationships with the nomadic herders, and would make the ground "lumpier" in order to concentrate the rainy season water in underground organic storage that would eventually provide better year around pasture for the common areas. More native wild trees will also act as windrows and even serve to make more shade for the livestock.



Building a dense hedge by means of my portable outhouse is precisely what I had in mind. I've already started doing that at my house and it seems quite promising.

About the hugel. I'm still not convinced on hugelkulture for this climate. I totally do wood core garden beds, but burying large tree branches and trunks is another question. Firewood here is highly prized for starters, so it would be a mild scandal to go burying the suff. Secondly, the native trees here don't have many surface feeder roots; they"re all strongly tap-rooted to go down to the moist soil and survive the dry season. Thirdly, I'm still figuring out the role of termites, but they clearly consume a large amount of carbon--much of which is released through respiration for sure, but a large amount is also bound with soil particles and used as a glue to build and line their tunnels. Termites are the motors of this ecology. So I'm thinking chop and drop is just the best way all around. The problem I have not figured out is how to avoid attracting snakes at the same time...


Perhaps some research into the local folklore would give you some ideas on how to approach the integration of the new ideas into the local culture. I would try to cultivate the local shamans and chiefs as your very best friends! Ask them what the oldest stories said about protecting the village from droughts.



New ideas? The last time these people accepted a new idea was when Islam forced it on them with the point of a sword. Otherwise, they are accepting of anything modern that makes life easier. That's pretty much it. But even there, it has to be pretty well observed for quite awhile.

Do I remember correctly that you mentioned that some of the trees were considered evil? If so, see if you can get to the bottom of why that would be so.



Superstition is structural to their worldview. The tree attracts bad spirits because lots of people say so. And there are a nice supply of stories about strange happenings associated with the trees. Like strange light coming from it--years ago of course, not anymore.


I would be interested in hearing more about the social makeup of the area you are living in. I tried looking up the area on Google Maps, but since I don't know the area, I could not pick out your site. If you have the chance the next time you have internet access, perhaps you could make a screenshot of the satellite view of the area and post it here. The area looks to be fairly densely populated from what I could see. Or, if you can get me the GPS coordinates of your school, I could find it on Google maps and send you a screenshot via this forum.If possible get th GPS coordinates for the 4 corners, and perhaps one of the center of your circular mulch pit. Depending on the cell phone service, your phone might be able to access an app to provide that data. I have uploaded a Google Maps satellite view of Boudamasa, Chad. I might be able to get a closer view of your school, if you could mark it on a printout of the photo.



Google maps has not updated its images for this area in over six years. There isn't a trace of my house that has been here for four years.

As for social makeup, its a village of about 5000 people. There are probably eight different tribes with a significant representation here, each with their own language. Chadian Arabic is the common language, but anyone who has been to school speaks a little French. I work with the native tribe who are still in the majority. They speak Barma. Mayby three quarters of the people are Muslim. There are a minority of Christians from a coupld imigrant tribes; and a few traditional animists. Everyone is highly superstitious.

Everyone works fields for a living. They usually plow with an ox or horse plow. Some people still plant just with a hoe, and I'm really trying to encourage that. They grow what they can keep weeded with their hoe all summer. They also raise a smattering of animals.

My goal is to demonstrate better practices that will increase yield without the plow. It doesn't really matter if I convince anyone; the kids will learn it.
 
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Nathanael Szobody wrote:

About the hugel. I'm still not convinced on hugelkulture for this climate. I totally do wood core garden beds, but burying large tree branches and trunks is another question. Firewood here is highly prized for starters, so it would be a mild scandal to go burying the suff. Secondly, the native trees here don't have many surface feeder roots; they"re all strongly tap-rooted to go down to the moist soil and survive the dry season. Thirdly, I'm still figuring out the role of termites, but they clearly consume a large amount of carbon--much of which is released through respiration for sure, but a large amount is also bound with soil particles and used as a glue to build and line their tunnels. Termites are the motors of this ecology. So I'm thinking chop and drop is just the best way all around. The problem I have not figured out is how to avoid attracting snakes at the same time...



Quite interesting. HugelKulture does not have to be large logs, but can be any organic material that can be buried where the water collects. the intent is to act as an organic carbon sponge for the water that comes in the rainy season. Perhaps this is the function of the termites: a natural hugelkulture system?

Nathanael Szobody wrote:
Google maps has not updated its images for this area in over six years. There isn't a trace of my house that has been here for four years.



That's OK. I would just like to see where your project is in relation to the surrounding area.

Nathanael Szobody wrote:
As for social makeup, its a village of about 5000 people. There are probably eight different tribes with a significant representation here, each with their own language. Chadian Arabic is the common language, but anyone who has been to school speaks a little French. I work with the native tribe who are still in the majority. They speak Barma. Mayby three quarters of the people are Muslim. There are a minority of Christians from a coupld imigrant tribes; and a few traditional animists. Everyone is highly superstitious.

Everyone works fields for a living. They usually plow with an ox or horse plow. Some people still plant just with a hoe, and I'm really trying to encourage that. They grow what they can keep weeded with their hoe all summer. They also raise a smattering of animals.

My goal is to demonstrate better practices that will increase yield without the plow. It doesn't really matter if I convince anyone; the kids will learn it.




Thanks for the information. I think you will find the video links that I sent to you to be very helpful. If you can demonstrate how keeping the ground always covered with some sort of vegetation can increase productivity on a small plot, over several years, you might be able to make some headway. It is important to select a diversity of perennial seeds for species that grow during the rainy times, as well as those that can survive into the dry times. I do not know what those may be, but you might find some cues from observing what stays green during the dry season. It may well be that the natural adaptation for your climate is indeed the banyan trees and the other deeply tap-rooted "wild" trees. From what I have read, trees seem to be a key element in protecting the water table in your region. It can not hurt to have more of them, is my guess. I notice n the Google satellite view that there seem t be some groves of green trees in the area. Do you know what thes trees are? Can you tell from the google screenshot that I sent in what season it may have been taken?

Regarding the plowing. if you can demonstrate that it is possible to plant crops into a mix of beneficial native perennial ground cover plants (even if they dry out during the dry season) instead of plowing, you may be able to encourage beneficial soil life to flourish that can produce better harvests. That will certainly impress. This is why I recommend smaller test plots so you can make side-by-side comparisons to work out scientifically what works best in your area. For your kids, it teaches them how to be scientists!

Your work inspires me to renew my own efforts to work with the tradition-bound ranchers in my own neck of the woods (or desert, as the case may be).

Perhaps the evil comes from the termites weakening heavy tree branches which happened to fall on passers-by, or other such nonsense. (Forgive me--it is not nonsense if that is what governs people's thoughts and belief systems). You must deal with the reality you have around you...


 
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stories about strange happenings associated with the trees. Like strange light coming from it


That can happen. Some fungus's  spores appear on rotting wood and absorb sunlight then release it after dark. Possibly the creator designed it that way to attract moths to move the spores to other exposed wood. You could illustrate it with glow in the dark plastic. I find it good to replace superstitious fear with scientific based confidence in a creators wise design.  
 
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I love this thread and what you are doing!
It may take a generation but you have a hidden weapon that will make it so much easier to change the minds of those that are negative.
You have a school full of students! They will soak up everything like sponges and soon they will be teaching their families permaculture and defending the trees for you.
I would love to come teach there!
 
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I'm very excited to have found your thread, I've spent hours pouring over it today.  Unfortunately I don't think I have very much permaculture wisdom to impart that hasn't already been passed on, but permaculture application in Chad is something that has been on my mind and heart for years and is even what had originally inspired me to dig into permaculture in my home in the midwest USA starting ~5 years ago.  

I've spent a decent amount of time in Chad over the last several years, and have dear friends in Chad, multiple families, who have been living in the country for nearly a decade.  The challenges are so real.  My heart hurt with every familiar challenge you described, that is such a struggle to relay to other well-intention poster who hasn't experienced it.  The nomadic tribes and roaming livestock, the views on ownership, the termites, the dryness!  I laugh at our aversion to bare soil, if only!  All of my time spent in Chad (Mostly in Salamat) was in the April/May, so I only got to see the dryest hottest portions time of the year and never got to see the rainy season.

We understand permaculture as a system, and it's the challenges you face that show just how far that system extends beyond just the boundaries of your plot that lead to successful harvest.  Societal, cultural, infrastructure, spiritual.  I'm reminded how much we in developed nations and western cultures take for granted in the systems we enjoy that support our efforts.

I'm so excited to hear about and keep up with and support you in your efforts.

It was my visits to Chad and seeing the struggles there specifically that have inspired me to try to create digital technologies / web based tools to help enable better sharing of information and technique related to regenerative/sustainable agriculture for regional/climate specific challenges.  This forum is great, but there is a wealth of articles/blogs/scientific literature that is probably applicable as well, and nothing to structure it for your needs.  I want to structure it and make it available to the millions coming online via smartphones every year.  I see so much opportunity for better connection of existing resources and information to those in challenging climates to be connected with others who are experimenting and have solved problems they're facing.  

I'm burdened for Chad and other developing nations and their agricultural practices.  The practices that are going to receive funding, training, resources, be it via NGO support, local government, World Bank / WHO funding, or commercially, are going to all be based on industrial practices where there is commercial interest or mainstream commercial agricultural support.  Indigenous and sustainable practices will be lost.  What I saw in Chad was a history of misuse, mis-application, and destructive practices that we've even already learned from in the 'western' world but those mistakes we've made and learned from have not been caught up on.  I never got a picture, but if you could find some of the large scale 'agricultural fields' in Chad during the dry season and post it here, the vastness of the dry cracked nothingness extending for miles, it is astonishing.

One of the families I spent time with spent a lot of time learning, experimenting, and trying to grow and be fruitful and I tried to assist with ideas/inspiration as I could, though I certainly didn't have as good of advice as the masses on this forum.   That family was successful with raising rabbits, banana circles, and several trees in their limited/typical sized lot in Am Timan.  Malabar Spinach was a favorite I don't think I've seen mentioned yet. Chickens were great to combat the scorpions and other pests.  Their brick-stone wall surrounding their plot was instrumental in their ability to create a good microclimate for living, growing.  It protected from the roaming livestock and wind.  With eventual shade from trees, and walls to keep the cool air in moisture in, it made a tremendous difference.  It was culturally acceptable for them, it was standard in their location.  Everyone had one.  It would seem like that should be a high priority for you, though I know you have a sizable lot.

One of the tools I've created helps you find your climate analogue.  It takes the city you input, considers its Köppen-Geiger climate classification as well as your elevation and latitude, and looks for other cities in the world with similarities.  Learning these cities can help you expand your research base.  There are probably not a lot resources written for Boudamasa, but there are a good number of other cities around the world that have similar characteristics that might help you learn other ideas/techniques/inspiration.

Here are the analogues for Boudamasa:

https://www.growculture.net/analogue?pin=1148928302

There are cities (some quite large, >1million in population) in Nigeria, Venezuela, Columbia, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Peru, Ethiopia, Brazil, Curaçao, Cameroon, Angola, CAR, and Samolia with similar characteristics. This tool doesn't verify an exact match, eg their wet/dry seasons may be different than yours, but they might enable more research possibilities.

I hope you can take a respite at Zakouma at some point.  You should consider it important for your native wildlife and plant life, and permaculture related studies and observations.

Finally, if you've never heard of CLTS (Community Lead Total Sanitation), I'd recommend you check it out.  My friends in Chad were involved with this program for a brief time, in seeking to help eliminate open deification in some of the communities they served.  I believe, though I have never validated or developed this idea, that some of the principles in this approach could be powerful and/or helpful in considering ways to introduce helpful change and support in the community for some of the things you may be looking to implement.  

A good book that briefly covers the CLTS approach, and a book I recommend for ANYONE that seeks to influence, is "The Power of Moments" by Chip and Dan Heath.  Fascinating book, and good brief coverage of CLTS, and speaks to why I think this methodology may have merit to your situation.

I wish you the best and hope to hear more from you as the years go on.  If you have a blog or ministry email list I'd love to be added.  I can connect you with some tremendous people in NDJ, hopefully you are already well-connected and supported 'locally'.


 
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