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

 
Rufaro Makamure
Posts: 46
Location: Zimbabwe
7
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...
 
Maureen Atsali
pollinator
Posts: 354
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: 46
Location: Zimbabwe
7
greening the desert
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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
Posts: 46
Location: Zimbabwe
7
greening the desert
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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: 46
Location: Zimbabwe
7
greening the desert
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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: 46
Location: Zimbabwe
7
greening the desert
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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: 46
Location: Zimbabwe
7
greening the desert
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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: 46
Location: Zimbabwe
7
greening the desert
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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: 46
Location: Zimbabwe
7
greening the desert
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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.
 
Thekla McDaniels
gardener
Posts: 1823
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.
 
Hans Quistorff
pollinator
Posts: 773
Location: Longbranch, WA
42
chicken goat rabbit solar tiny house wofati
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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
Posts: 773
Location: Longbranch, WA
42
chicken goat rabbit solar tiny house wofati
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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: 46
Location: Zimbabwe
7
greening the desert
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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.
 
John C Daley
Posts: 38
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: 46
Location: Zimbabwe
7
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I am over the moon. I got the broadfork dimensions!!! I love life...! Thanks
 
Rufaro Makamure
Posts: 46
Location: Zimbabwe
7
greening the desert
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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
Posts: 46
Location: Zimbabwe
7
greening the desert
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images
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the pits
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team work
 
Rufaro Makamure
Posts: 46
Location: Zimbabwe
7
greening the desert
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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.
 
Jason Manning
Posts: 14
Location: Udon Thani, Thailand
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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: 46
Location: Zimbabwe
7
greening the desert
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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: 46
Location: Zimbabwe
7
greening the desert
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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
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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