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

 
Posts: 60
Location: Zimbabwe
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greening the desert
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My heart is all over the place with ecstatic happiness. The boy with the enthusiastic talk invited me to his home to show me the garden he started in his yard...!!! He has plans of working on the outside garden (the plan I new of) but he has also been working on the inside yard. I invited him to join me in the collection of mulch which I had planned for, for a day or two next week and he agreed.....aaah...
 
pollinator
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Location: Western Kenya
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That's great! Your enthusiasm is spreading, and its great for a young gardener to have a mentor to encourage him.

Ps- I got your facebook friend request, but my phone is really slow for Facebook.  I am not ignoring, will accept when I get to a WiFi access.
 
Rufaro Makamure
Posts: 60
Location: Zimbabwe
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We finally quantified all the maize we got. From the 2 acre area (conventional farming), we got 12 full 50kg bags and some extra maize which is less than a full sack. Then from the half acre where we used conservation we got 14 bags....unbelievable...right!!! ( the test is not fool proof because the type of seed was different, we did not know which seed was better when we grew the maize) some neighbors are not no longer burning stalks in preparation for compost making. So maybe it will take a while to fully appreciate permaculture but I am sure a continuous living proof of the benefits will eventually get the idea across. Thanks for the encouragement to you all...
 
Rufaro Makamure
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It felt good today working with someone. We went to look for mulch and the boy is not all talk, we were done collecting by 9 am. I will send images when I have a better connection.
 
Rufaro Makamure
Posts: 60
Location: Zimbabwe
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I have been selling some rape seedlings (will add the image in the coming posts). Some man who came buying seedlings asked about fertilizer to go with the seedlings. It opened a platform to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of artificial fertilizers. We ended up going to his place to work on his bed where he wanted to plant his rape. He mentioned that he was aware of the benefits of manure. The only problem is "there is no incentive for a labor demanding methods" as he put it across. So he said he will be assessing how the rape bed we worked on turns out. Obviously I have to think of a strategy that makes permanent agriculture worth it, a way that can help a person earn a living. 
The man(Evans) has a huge tomato garden and it was an amazing opportunity to show Steve (the enthusiastic boy) what can come out of a yard. Steve's mum buys and sells tomatoes (so Steve can see the value of a tomato plant, which can hopefully help him appreciate the benefits of a personal garden). Steve and Evans exchanged numbers so that when the tomatoes ripen Steve's mum won't have to travel to town to buy tomatoes for reselling. Steve's mulch is still heaped, I will not push him for any work to be done, but I will take every chance I get to expose and show Steve a possibility of benefiting more from his already existing resources.
 
Rufaro Makamure
Posts: 60
Location: Zimbabwe
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I had fun working with other people. Hope there will be plenty of days like this.
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Steve collecting mulch
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Working on a bed at Evans' place
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leaving mulch at Steve's place
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Evans' tomato garden
 
Rufaro Makamure
Posts: 60
Location: Zimbabwe
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I heard there is a farmer who sells at least 10 000 birds per day. Shockingly the person was saying they worked at the farm but went for a couple of months without being paid. This is becoming common but it should not be like this. I know because we are in a capital based society, money is a requirement, but what exactly do people do with all this money? Are we not concentrating on wealth accumulation and letting go of some of life’s precious gifts, like spending time with family and friends or just caring for the next person a little bit more? How hard can it be to make things better in a permanent way? Today is one of those days where I really question if I am the wrong one in thinking using the resources we have in a regenerative way is the start to ending poverty. What are the odds that what I see is right and the majority who are around me are wrong. Could it be impossible to end poverty? We might not all be equal but we surely can make life more convenient for each other. It is strange how one moment I am certain things will be better and the next everything becomes so blurry. What if I fail to bring out this vision I have… this is my greatest fear. I strongly believe that everyone has the potential to live better lives if they only believe in themselves, become less greedy and use what we have for creating a better environment. It cannot be impossible, we just need to think a little bit differently... 
 
Rufaro Makamure
Posts: 60
Location: Zimbabwe
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We have started working on the zai pits in preparation for the farming season. We decided to do the holes ourselves (i.e. the lady staying at my mum’s plot and myself), since I now have the time. The ground was very hard, it was practically impossible to dig the whole place. We have resorted to pouring water as we re-dig the holes and the rate at which the soil absorbs the water is pretty amazing so this is making the work a lot easier. We are on day four of digging and we did half the area. This experience revealed the reason why the zai pits are not common, the digging is no joke.  It is proving to be a bit unsustainable, to maximize value for time and effort farming this way. I am imagining where a struggling mother who has a responsibility of feeding her children, who does not have an easy water access, which is the bulk of the group I am trying to focus on, will get the time and energy? The method is definitely beneficial, its sustainability is the one I question in terms of its labor demands.  Is there any simple tool (cheap) used when making these holes other than hoes and picks, because I fear that this concept might be perfect theoretically or for people who can outsource labor or in our case, families who have water readily available. I actually thought this method would be relatively affordable for a financially struggling family. If there is a different way of doing the zai pits please let me know. I know we have managed to prove that the zai pits definitely give a better yield, but it is not enough since it demands so much labor, time and energy. The zai pit concept managed to draw so much attention, the next step is to find a smarter way of preparation of the field and this might get people to eagerly do this (who knows, we might stop concentrating on just yields and start focusing on issues like climate change, soil regeneration... etc. as a community). We are going to wait so that we see how many of our neighbors will go the zai pit way this farming season.
 
Rufaro Makamure
Posts: 60
Location: Zimbabwe
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Anyone with a permaculture farm that you would recommend for volunteers may you please advise. I am thinking of going on a well established farm to learn one or two things for part of next year.
 
gardener
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Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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Greetings Rufaro,

I read of your efforts on the zai holes,and it sounded like you might have been feeling discouraged.  I want to salute the efforts and accomplishments thus far, and encourage you to continue, but also to take a break when ever you need one.  It might take years to get your whole field transformed through the zai holes, but in the mean time, the difference in fertility should be evident, and may be enough to convince others that it is worth the time and effort.

Good luck to you , and keep your spirits up.  You have already accomplished plenty to be satisfied about.
 
pollinator
Posts: 833
Location: Longbranch, WA
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Give the boy a chance to earn a fence. Perhaps by helping you build a fence.  Change the culture gap. Often undeveloped cultures see educated people have jobs that don't require hard work so they think that if they get education they automatically won't have to work.  Have him read with you how to build different kind of fences then offer if he helps you build a fence you will help him build a fence. He needs the experience you have of reading then doing the work. You build an apprentice by working together so that the apprentice pays for his education and learns work ethic at the same time.
 
Hans Quistorff
pollinator
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Location: Longbranch, WA
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Application but read the information about how it works.

Rufaro Makamure wrote:We have started working on the zai pits in preparation for the farming season. We decided to do the holes ourselves (i.e. the lady staying at my mum’s plot and myself), since I now have the time. The ground was very hard, it was practically impossible to dig the whole place. We have resorted to pouring water as we re-dig the holes and the rate at which the soil absorbs the water is pretty amazing so this is making the work a lot easier. We are on day four of digging and we did half the area. This experience revealed the reason why the zai pits are not common, the digging is no joke.  It is proving to be a bit unsustainable, to maximize value for time and effort farming this way. I am imagining where a struggling mother who has a responsibility of feeding her children, who does not have an easy water access, which is the bulk of the group I am trying to focus on, will get the time and energy? The method is definitely beneficial, its sustainability is the one I question in terms of its labor demands.  Is there any simple tool (cheap) used when making these holes other than hoes and picks, because I fear that this concept might be perfect theoretically or for people who can outsource labor or in our case, families who have water readily available. I actually thought this method would be relatively affordable for a financially struggling family. If there is a different way of doing the zai pits please let me know. I know we have managed to prove that the zai pits definitely give a better yield, but it is not enough since it demands so much labor, time and energy. The zai pit concept managed to draw so much attention, the next step is to find a smarter way of preparation of the field and this might get people to eagerly do this (who knows, we might stop concentrating on just yields and start focusing on issues like climate change, soil regeneration... etc. as a community). We are going to wait so that we see how many of our neighbors will go the zai pit way this farming season.


Even if you could have a simple one with one or two tines made locally it would speed up the pit making and store more water by loosening the dirt below the pit. I had him make mine narrower which allows me to dig a trench in hard rock filled soil once it is loosened and sift out the rocks and have fine soil to mix with compost so it does not get hard again.
 
Rufaro Makamure
Posts: 60
Location: Zimbabwe
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What lovely messages to come home to. I knocked off early from the field because I was not feeling too good. Thank you all for your responses they are very encouraging. Thanks for the broad fork link. I will see if I cannot get dimensions from the organization so that we can have one made.  We are currently using a garden fork to make things easier but the tines are deforming slightly by each day. About Steve we have started sharing information, I will have to find out how to go about doing the work with him, without him thinking I just want to use him. Maybe offering to give him a bit of money for the job he does might help. Unfortunately I am a part of the culture that I am trying to break so there are some things that might seem obvious but from where I stand might be hazy, to be honest I do not even know how to ask Steve to join me in the garden though I agree it will help to show that being educated sometimes involves hard work physically, but the work is done smarter. Thank you once again.
 
Posts: 99
Location: Bendigo , Australia
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Here is something else that may help
Sand dams
Excellent works with community self-help groups in semi-arid Africa to improve their environment sustainably. Effective soil and water conservation enable improved water supply, food security, health and incomes. Find out more about Sand Dams here: … http://www.excellentdevelopment.com/articles/people-amp-communities/what-are-sand-dams

Sand dams are a key technology to improve water supply in semi-arid regions. A sand dam is a reinforced concrete wall built across seasonal river beds - 2 to 4 metres high and up to 90 metres across. Over one to three seasons, the dam fills up with water, then sand, which filters water clean and protects it from evaporation and parasites. About 40% of the volume behind the dam is water, meaning that sand dams can hold an incredible 2 to 10 million litres of water!

Sand dams are combined with land terracing and tree planting to improve the conservation of both soil and water, enabling farmers to grow more food on their land. This holistic approach to development creates a positive cycle of improvement which allows people to change their lives sustainably, moving away from a situation where water and food are in short supply, towards water and food security.
Category

 
Rufaro Makamure
Posts: 60
Location: Zimbabwe
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I am over the moon. I got the broadfork dimensions!!! I love life...! Thanks
 
Rufaro Makamure
Posts: 60
Location: Zimbabwe
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The digging of holes in images.
One of the upside to the zai pits that made me stifle a laugh is how it is a natural counseling environment. The husband to the lady I have been working with has been helping us for the past two days. There are times when you can sense some tension but as we work and talk everything melts away and the warmth of family love that fills the place is quite amazing. I couldn't help but take a shot of the adorable family. I have put the images in the next post it was impossible to add them to this one. The little one insisted on helping out and we let her join us lest we discourage her. 
 
Rufaro Makamure
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images
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the pits
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team work
 
Rufaro Makamure
Posts: 60
Location: Zimbabwe
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We are done…! The digging of holes has been a real challenge and we are happy that we are done. I am glad I got this opportunity and given another chance I will do it again (using better tools). The last days were the most fun ones, with the second from last day being a miracle. We had targeted to finish the remaining part in two days but as the second from last day was progressing, it was clear we would not finish as expected. Sometime after 2pm, my mum’s cousins came to have a look at the place and when they saw us digging they were eager to join. They were not worried about their clothes or how tired they already were since they walked to the plot, all they wanted to do was to help out in any way they could. The work they did made us meet our target and I really am grateful for their assistance. When extended family removes all selfishness, it can be a very powerful tool to living life a lot easier and fulfilling. We even had time to watch the sun setting with the children.
The reason why it was so important to finish the holes is because I was fortunate to get an invite to some holistic management workshop being hosted by soft foot alliance of which I am a trustee (more of a protégé in planning, as well as turning a dream into reality). These are the guys who introduced me to permaculture. It is my first time to be amongst the trainers and organisers bigger than the soft foot alliance team and being a part of this prepares me for future projects I intend to do, which will involve a lot of training and workshops on sustainability concepts mostly. Will send images when I have better connection.
 
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Rufaro Makamure wrote:We have started working on the zai pits in preparation for the farming season. We decided to do the holes ourselves (i.e. the lady staying at my mum’s plot and myself), since I now have the time. The ground was very hard, it was practically impossible to dig the whole place. We have resorted to pouring water as we re-dig the holes and the rate at which the soil absorbs the water is pretty amazing so this is making the work a lot easier. We are on day four of digging and we did half the area. This experience revealed the reason why the zai pits are not common, the digging is no joke.  It is proving to be a bit unsustainable, to maximize value for time and effort farming this way. I am imagining where a struggling mother who has a responsibility of feeding her children, who does not have an easy water access, which is the bulk of the group I am trying to focus on, will get the time and energy? The method is definitely beneficial, its sustainability is the one I question in terms of its labor demands.  Is there any simple tool (cheap) used when making these holes other than hoes and picks, because I fear that this concept might be perfect theoretically or for people who can outsource labor or in our case, families who have water readily available. I actually thought this method would be relatively affordable for a financially struggling family. If there is a different way of doing the zai pits please let me know. I know we have managed to prove that the zai pits definitely give a better yield, but it is not enough since it demands so much labor, time and energy. The zai pit concept managed to draw so much attention, the next step is to find a smarter way of preparation of the field and this might get people to eagerly do this (who knows, we might stop concentrating on just yields and start focusing on issues like climate change, soil regeneration... etc. as a community). We are going to wait so that we see how many of our neighbors will go the zai pit way this farming season.



Would it be possible to wait until the rains come before doing any significant amount of digging, such as zia pits?
 
Rufaro Makamure
Posts: 60
Location: Zimbabwe
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It would be ideal to dig after receiving a little rain because not too much work will be needed but we will miss the first rains. The whole objective is to have the field ready by the rainy season since the rain pattern is so erratic now and with the exception of last year our area is usually dry so every drop counts for our crop to give us a good yield. The labor involved might result in too much pressure (time wise) when digging of holes is handled after the rains come. It might work for me maybe, if I use the internet to predict how the rain pattern might be like and which days I will get a window period to do the holes. The rest who do not have internet access might find it a bit of a challenge. What we will look at though is improving our harvesting method so that we clear the fields of all the grain and whilst the ground is still soft we dig holes, we will not have to water then. The one resource that is available but not too obvious to the local farmer is time after the growing season where there won't be much to do (like literally people have nothing to do except for some who have gardens), so for now if we can use this time to help grow our yields and hopefully when the focus moves from food accessibility we will continue to develop our approach and become more efficient  as the years go by and improve on convenience.
There was a lady who saw us digging holes now and she mentioned that the zai pits were introduced in their area as "dhiga udye" literal translation being "dig and eat" but she said the method was abandoned because it was too demanding physically and it ended up being referred to as "dhiga ufe" meaning "dig and die". She said that, of the people who had been taught this method, they would wait until just before the rainy season and because of the pressure to finish before the first rains, they would not dig deep enough and maybe miss out on a lot of fundamental things which did not help improve on yields. She did mention that she was willing to try digging the holes a few at a time soon after harvesting and see how much area she covers by the time the rains come. I have faith in this method because its not too expensive monetary wise which is one thing that is given as an excuse by so many in starting something different.
 
Rufaro Makamure
Posts: 60
Location: Zimbabwe
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The last two days in images. It was Prim's first time to see a well and Clara was more than delighted to show off her newly acquired skill of getting the water out of the well. The great thing is Clara's mum is the one who was doing all the talking explaining why we were digging the holes, the benefits of putting the pile of soil on the sloping side  and why we needed mulching. It was music to my ears, because when we were going through this discussion before, I was not sure if I was explaining myself clearly to her but the way she explained, without being asked was really good. I am crossing my fingers that we get it right again this year, I will know that we would have won over her family without doubt. The other main targeted objective was to emphasize on the issue of daily productivity to Clara's mum ( for anyone who has a child they are addressed by their child's name in our community), how what we spend our 24hours doing has a major impact on our overall success. The lady in the yellow head scuff is the one who was explaining how this method was not successful in her area, she was actually shocked when she saw the sacks of maize we got from last year's harvest. 
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celebrating good team work
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relaxed as the sun set
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an experience at the well
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amazing family
 
Rufaro Makamure
Posts: 60
Location: Zimbabwe
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"Would it be possible to wait until the rains come before doing any significant amount of digging, such as zia pits"
Jason, thank you for the question, I paid attention to the pattern we have had on this year's first rains and indeed we can wait for the rains in order for us to dig pits. We received a substantial amount of rain 3 days ago meaning for the past 3 days if anyone wanted to dig it would have been possible and a lot easier without any disturbances from the rain.
 
pollinator
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Rufaro, I really admire your work!
 
Rufaro Makamure
Posts: 60
Location: Zimbabwe
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We have finally put the maize seed in the ground and the seed has emerged. Thanks to the internet we have managed to use the first rains for the emergence of the maize. Each year we are going to improve with one small step until we exhaust everything to increase the chances of attaining a good yield. To add to the use of holes, this year we have increased mulch quantities and this is still an ongoing process, in order to improve water retention in the field as well as suppression of weeds.

Instead of relying on the rains only as our water source for the maize crop, we are going to use both water from the borehole as well as from the well to reduce any strain that might be caused by dry periods within the rainy season. Last year we compiled the water needs for maize, during its different growing stages until maturity, from our research on the growing of maize. With the help of different weather forecasts, we will develop a watering schedule for this year’s crop (we have already checked on the feasibility of watering the maize field using both buckets and a hose).  The aim is to minimise the excuse of water shortage on crop yield.

We had some challenges with compost making this year, we tried the thermal compost a number of times and only got it right after the third trial. For the past years we have had chicken waste and this year we used mainly cow dung as our animal waste and the compost would not heat up.
We planted our maize without manure and fortunately the compost piles are almost ready now, so we will be applying manure to the growing maize. On plant pests, is there anything, not too artificial, we can use to avoid being attacked by the maize stock borer for this is a potential problem. 

This year our neighbours used tractors in their fields. So there is still some work in finding out how to best communicate long term effects of conventional farming.

The number of green plants per square meter throughout the year has increased a little this year. Our area used to be mainly green during the rainy season and afterwards most of the ground space is usually dry. This is slowly changing.There is so much hope in improving food accessibility. Imagine if every household increases the probability of a good yield for every plant they grow, we will not talk about food shortage at all. 
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emergence stage
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mulching
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favourite mulched portion
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Finally got the compost right
 
Gilbert Fritz
pollinator
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Location: Denver, CO
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Yes, chicken manure is much more powerful the cow manure. And getting a hot compost pile is not as easy as it sounds!

Good luck!
 
Hans Quistorff
pollinator
Posts: 833
Location: Longbranch, WA
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If you gather wild green mater that comes up after the rain and mix it in your compost it will help the bacteria, fungi and critters that make the compost continue to reproduce and make their nutrients available along with the moisture in the vegetation.  I have a flowering annual her that makes flowers for my bumble bees but also stores large amounts of water in it's stems. These become very valuable during our dry months.
 
Rufaro Makamure
Posts: 60
Location: Zimbabwe
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greening the desert
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My uncle sent me images of his compost making process and he is in Matopo which is around 200km from Gweru the town I am staying. I know we can start a chain reaction if we just appreciate regenerative ways of living.
I took images from our rains as evidence, on the potential solutions that can be offered by simple shifts in how we already live our lives. Below are pictures taken of how rain can be a source of problems if handled in one way and can be a treasure if handled differently.  Currently most of the water from roof tops is left to flow as runoff and of the places where there were proper drainage systems, they have been closed by soil that is deposited, as runoff water flows through the drains. A little rain thereby results in flooding of roads and yards.
On the contrary if the same water is harvested, it will reduce runoff water and increase water that is stored for future use. Reduced runoff reduces washing away of soils and when more water is harvested, then there will be reduced floods which in turn reduces the chances of waterborne outbreaks.
Ground cover goes a long way, just a patch of loan we have planted this year has proven that ground cover works in increasing water infiltration.
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the first layers in compost making (Matopo)
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rain water almost filling up one of the available containers
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most of the water flows as runoff
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there is more than enough water (overflowing rainwater harvesting tank)
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roads flooded with water
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difference between ground covered with plants vs bare ground
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I don't have any advice or help to offer you, but I do want to say that I think what you're doing is really inspiring. Trying to alleviate poverty through permaculture is a great idea, and I think a lot of good will stem from the work you're doing.

I look forward to following this thread and seeing what you do in the future. Good luck with the growing season.

-Spencer
 
garden master
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Hello Rufaro, I have been watching your progress, since you first joined us. You are an inspiration to your entire community, and to this one. Your command of English, is impressive. You have never solicited money. So, I want to do it for you.

You are a teacher, and teachers need to be paid. Both of my daughters are teachers, and they get paid.

 I have friends in Kenya who use wave.com, to send money to some of their older relatives. It is easy for them to send a few dollars, directly from their cell phones. Do you know if there is a similar system, for Zimbabwe, so that anyone wishing to contribute, can easily do so? My friends in Kenya use the safaricom telephone network. I'm not familiar with what is available in Zimbabwe.

I will start it off by sending $20. I'm in Canada, so that amounts to about $16 US. I will wait, to see if you know of a system that is set up for this. You can put that information here or send me a private message, where we can sort things out and then post a link, so that others may contribute.
.....
Here's a short economics lesson for those of us in more wealthy countries. Zimbabwe is usually ranked at about number 3, of the world's poorest countries. This may be a little low, since Zimbabwe has many beautiful places and untapped potential. But, the average person does not earn much cash income, which makes the purchase of any imported, manufactured item, expensive.

One of the best ways to spread knowledge, is to hire  young apprentices. I wonder what would be an appropriate wage for a young man, like the one who helped gather mulch? How many days of labor and learning could 16 US dollars pay for? This is a very small quantity of money for me. What would that amount of money do for that boy and for his family?

On many occasions, you have wondered how to get others in the community interested. I'll bet that if they could see that you hire a helper occasionally, this would draw some attention. Just about everyone likes to have some extra money.

I'm sure that there are many projects on your land, which could be pushed forward faster, given a little extra cash. I will leave this in your hands and I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks for all of your hard work, Dale.
 
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Rofaro, I have been inspired by your thread. God bless you and don't give up.

for the pest issues, check out Push-Pull as used by Biovision Foundation in East Africa:

Desmodium is planted as an intercrop between the maize or millet and its smell repels the stemborer moths - Push. The ability of the soil to absorb and store moisture is improved, nitrogen is fixed and so soil fertility is improved. In addition, desmodium decimates the striga weed and so increases yields.

Napier grass is planted as a border crap and it draws the moths away from the field - Pull. The moth larvae then perish on the sticky leaves of the napier grass. Both napier grass and desmodium are also a welcome source of healthy animal fodder.


http://www.biovision.ch/en/projects/sub-saharan-africa/push-pull/

You might get support trough the ECHO network https://www.echocommunity.org/ South-South exchange of reserach and practices in Sustainable Agriculture.
 
Dale Hodgins
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My brother planted Napier grass and now spends hundreds of hours every year, trying to control it. Investigation is needed.
 
Rufaro Makamure
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Location: Zimbabwe
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We managed to apply manure from the compost, thanks to Dale for the encouragement, we finished just before we received rain after 7 days of dry weather. The field has different soil types and some of the maize looked so healthy even before applying manure. There is an area which is mostly sandy and is at the lower side of the filed (the field is not level), there is so much water that settles in the area and from the look of the maize in that section, it seems there is a lot of leaching of nutrients. So we will see how it will be like, a couple of days after putting the manure. There is a field adjacent to ours which has pretty much the same soil structure as ours and there is maize which was grown on the same day as ours. Yesterday the owners applied fertilizer, which is close to the period we put manure. So I will just take pictures of the different fields to help understand the effects of conservation farming vs the conventional way.

On a different note, our roads are being fixed and one of the things that was done was to remove dirt that was blocking the bridges which form part of the drainage system. The pile of mud was just too much. I wonder if a lot of us realize that, it is top soil from different fields, gardens and bare patches of land. The city council has initiated improvement of the place, but it is up to us the residence of the area, to avoid or minimize the washing away of soil through adopting some affordable practices like mulching and growing ground cover plants as individual families. The machinery that was hired to remove the dirt is good enough to show how much our seemingly trivial choices and actions translate into huge costs in the long run. 

I will post images when I have good connection.
 
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Hey there Rufaro, I just came across this thread today, and I love what you're doing.

I think many of us struggle with the fact of people not taking enough interest around us, my family happily eat what I grow, but none of my siblings help out. I have, however, started teaching my nieces and nephews, and I got them tiny watering cans they can carry (I'm on the coast in Sweden, and have lots of rain that we collect in 200L barrels), and I have special small projects for them to see quick results with. Now, whenever they're here, they run out to the garden and want to water, sow or plant... and my sister still doesn't know you can't sow zucchini here in winter! So things are changing, slowly. And I leave my permaculture books out for visitors to read. One of them had an absolute "aha" moment two years ago, where he saw the change in soil structure before and after a farm was started (video here https://permaculturenews.org/2014/10/18/canadian-rocket-stove-powered-greenhouse/) - and I gave him some comfrey to start his own farm when he left. It was fantastic to see!

Regarding your young friend, I don't either think you should give him a fence, and I know it all took place months ago, but there's an option I use with my nieces and nephews: I always ask if they'd like me to show them how to do something. I never say "let me", or "this is how you do it", because I want it to come from them. So I ask, "do you want me to help you" or "do you want me to show you how to do that", and 99 times ot of 100, the say yes. So, if you have the time, you could ask your friend whether he would like you to show him how to build a fence to keep the donkeys out, using sticks. Also, what other solutions might there be? Keeping the donkeys in a pen instead? Not something that has to be done, but it's more of an exercise in creative problem solving. It can get as silly as you want, like putting the donkeys on the roof (obviously impossible), just allow for any and all solutions and then select the best ones.

For example, you can both weigh the pros and cons of building with sticks.
It's cheap, but it's frowned upon (manual labor).
Well then, you weigh the pros and cons of that:
getting a garden started, versus people sneering at your efforts.

Obviously, you have done this whole trip and know your truths and answers, but my suggestion is guiding the neighbor into the line of thought, rather than a simple yes or no answer to whether he'll receive  a fence. Helping him get in the mind frame of self sufficiency will give him so much more than a fence ever could. Since it's months since you posted about this, I presume you've already solved the problem, but I thought I'd give you a shoutout and say I love what you're doing, loved reading about it, and that the change will come, even if slower than you might initially want.

Thanks for sharing your story, and best of luck to you!
 
Posts: 6
Location: My garden SW Mich (zone 6a), my kids' - to whom I'm an advisor -Chicago (zone 5)
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Hello Rufaro,
  I just been reading your thread and I ‘m so glad to know you haven’t lost any of your enthusiasm and commitment to permaculture and to developing conservation agriculture in your community.  I love hearing your story and admire your spirit and your PATIENCE.  The pictures of your maze growing and of your garden, and especially of your family and friends working together are beautiful and have lifted my spirits .
  I’ve been gardening for many years in the U.S. midwest for fun and fresh food and have been incorporating permaculture methods and principles for several years.  As Kate has lamented, it seems harder than it should be to interest people around me in the benefits of permaculture for solving the problems facing the planet.  My daughter who gardens is gradually incorporating some of my methods and her children – ages 3 and 5 – love to run around and “work” in my garden.  So I have hopes that that I can gradually help spread permaculture ideas.
  It's heartening to see how many people in the Permies community have responded with support and with offers of help and ideas.  That's just the way it should be.
  It’s exciting to hear what you’ve accomplished and how you’re working to spread the word while being wise about how to bring people on board, by starting where they have a level of comfort.  Good luck, and please keep posting!
 
Rufaro Makamure
Posts: 60
Location: Zimbabwe
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Thank you everybody for the supporting words, they really go a long way in ways that I cannot describe.
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beautiful pile of dirt
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closeup on the compost
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applying the manure
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digging into the pile
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feeding the plants
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morning dew 7 days after the last rains
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some people make the nest out of every situation, Thubambe found himself a joy ride as we were collecting mulch
 
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Hi Rufaro,

I have been following your progress and it looks fabulous. Well done.

Earlier you posted about floodwater and soil being washed away. Someone mentioned napier grass, but I wonder if you have anyone using Vetiver grass instead near you? Vetiver planted in narrow hedges slows surface water and traps sediment and organic matter so that it can't be washed away. It also provides a massive amount of organic material that can be cut and used for mulching crops. It is frequently planted on sloping land to control erosion - natural terraces form between the hedges for planting. But it can also be used to protect teh gullies and waterways that you describe as building up lots of sediment.
 
Rufaro Makamure
Posts: 60
Location: Zimbabwe
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greening the desert
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So we decided to try and put a really thick mulch to add onto the grass we had thinly spread throughout the field. Well we managed to cover almost the whole field and my hope is that, for the whole of next year, the places that are covered now will still be covered throughout the year. With the rest of the areas that have a thin mulch, we will use the material from the field, after every harvesting, I do not think we will be hiring anyone to find us mulching material anymore, in the coming years (talk about small steps towards eliminating costs permanently). My mum's cousin gave us skins from nuts which is waste from his peanut butter making process. We put some of it on an area which is sandy, hoping the fineness of the material means it will decompose faster. We planted comfrey about two weeks back so exciting times ahead.
From 2015 the objectives have been
  • securing our water source
  • covering bare ground

  • So as to have have some control, better than before, over what our yearly yield will be. We will keep on developing the above objectives as we go, but the next big step is to now make the water from all the sources easily accessible for watering plants in the field. Instead of only using the space we grow maize in, only when the rains come, we should be able to use the space throughout the whole year. I tried to design an irrigation system a year or so ago but I got all clouded and overwhelmed. My sister has offered to help in the design process, and we hope to do this between now and end of March.

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    1 week old comfrey
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    true riches for our soil
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    Priscilla and Chengeto Helping
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    we got some grass from a our neighbor's cleared field
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    my sister weeding
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    waste from peanut butter making process
     
    Rufaro Makamure
    Posts: 60
    Location: Zimbabwe
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    As we collected our mulch we noticed the difference between the places which had maize stalks, piled for most part of the year. The soil looks richer than the rest of the soil within the same field. There is a lot of burning currently as fields are being cleared and for those fields that have been cleared there is evidence of soil erosion.
    I got the chance to build a rocket stove with Priscilla and Chengeto. Most people nowadays use electrical or gas stoves but the ladies I was working with still rely on fire for cooking. I learn't about rocket stoves when I visited two of my really amazing friends, Laurie and Brent, and the concept makes so much sense. With the help of you-tube videos we managed to build one and we had fun doing it.
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    clearing of fields and burning of grass... etc
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    soil being washed away
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    mud removed from the road drainage system
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    approximately a quarter of the field is left with a thin mulch
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    making a fire in the rocket stove we built
     
    Posts: 12
    Location: outside Brisbane, Australia
    chicken greening the desert cooking
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    Hi Rufaro

    At night I read through this site to put me in a good mood for sleep. Your thread is one I have read through very keenly. I have been fascinated and impressed by your efforts, and your determination. It is a miracle to me that I can read about the life of someone on the other side of the globe, and from a different culture with a different language (credit goes to your excellent English). I guess gardening does connect all people from all parts of this amazing planet.
    Looking at your soil, and the soil from your neighbourhood, I can see that it is quite fine and sandy. I am sure that the continual addition of mulch will improve things. Here in South East Queensland, Australia, I have the opposite problem. My soil is heavy clay, which is "hard as a bull's head" (my husband's phrase) when dry, and sticky when wet. It gets so sticky, it likes to hang on to your shoes, and there are times when you pull your foot out of a puddle and the shoe is left behind, buried in heavy mud.
    Our rainfall is variable: we have a wet season, but in the last 2 years, the rains did not arrive then (Nov-Jan), and there was a horrible drought. (Well, no animals died, but I spent the whole time walking around looking at my plants and being upset over how shrivelled and bare they were.) The big rains arrived in March both years. I had given up on vegetables, and was using my precious dam water to nurse shade/windbreak trees. However, Mother Nature loves to be unpredictable, and this year we are starting summer with lots of rain. I have planted native trees and vetiver grass as a hedge to stop the horrible Dry Season (winter) winds, which dry everything, including the soil. I am about to start some seeds of Asian vegetables, which are more suited to the summers here than the European vegetables that traditionally have made up the diet of the non-Indigenous population here.
    Your passion and commitment are obvious, and I am sure, if you do not get defeated by the low times that come in life, that you will emerge as a permaculture leader in your community.
    Best wishes for your success.
     
    Rufaro Makamure
    Posts: 60
    Location: Zimbabwe
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    It has just started raining after a long period of scotching heat. This time some of the maize is not as green as the previous seasons, we have decided to put chicken soup (water that we soaked a sack of chicken manure in, for a week), with the hope of making the maize healthier than it looks currently. We did not have the actual way of producing this soup so we just soaked a sack full of chicken manure in a drum of water and even the dilution was from our head. This time the most difficult part has been sharing time with other things that need to be done apart from field work. The ability to properly plan is one of the skills I have to work on. I made a watering schedule with the intention of watering the maize if there are episodes of dry times during the farming season, inorder to avoid straining the maize. I had not watered the maize and I am grateful it has started raining again.  I will still target getting a minimum of 14 bags with a bench mark having been set by last year's harvest (from the plenty rain we received last season, we know what our field is capable of). If we manage to maintain a specific target in our yearly expected yields, I believe psychologically we will start believing that we have a certain ability to control certain outcomes, if we have the right knowledge and skills. This will help us prepare for droughts and be equipped enough also, in the good farming seasons. The ultimate result will be availability of food always and then the focus can then be changed to diversity and healthy eating.
    As for now, I really need to work on the maize, because the field is not truly representing what I envision, if there is proper application of permanent agriculture principles. Below are pictures from different parts of our field as well as the neighbors' field which had fertilizer applied to it. Both farms have maize with different sizes and shades of green, but the one with the artificial fertilizer has most of the maize looking really green.
    I know I have to create time for watering the field when the rain is not enough, but I am not sure of how to make the maize greener and healthier so that we get a good yield.   
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    some of the maize with growth that is not satisfying
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    healthier though wilted maize
     
    The only taste of success some people get is to take a bite out of you. Or this tiny ad:
    2018 Peasant Permaculture Design Course in Montana
    https://permies.com/wiki/74473/permaculture-projects/Peasant-Permaculture-Design-Montana
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