Nathanael Szobody

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since Apr 25, 2015
Boudamasa, Chad
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Recent posts by Nathanael Szobody

Good idea Connor. I think I will put a banana circle in the middle of the pit. And I think I'll put a tree in the middle of the banana circle! Hmmm, what kind of tree? Something that will grow for a very long time, get very big, but preferably not a real dense canopy. I could do an acacia albida...But I would rather a food tree.

Also, partial shade for the rest of the pit is a must. I think perhaps planting moringas every few feet should do the trick. In the long term guava interspersed and pruned regularly would probably work. Citrus would grow too fast and dense to garden underneath. Naturally there will be some leucaena as well. Any other thoughts?

4 days ago
There is a series of forts built along France's Eastern border in the late 1800's. Some were built by the French, some by the Germans, and they were all built in-ground with enormous Earth berms. The idea was to be resistant to shelling and hard to spot. They became obsolete with the advent of aircraft.

The construction was vaulted stone masonry. The buildings themselves were two or three stories tall, all with a couple meters of earth bermed from the exterior up over the top, leaving large interior facing courtyards.

All this without plastic membrane.

I have visited three of them. Some of the interior space is rented out as offices and art space, but even the unrenovated sections are still in solid shape. So why can't we build houses like this? Where's the dreaded water leaking in and tree roots crumbling the structure? These places are covered in forest!

You can Google "fort de tamié", "fort du mont, Albertville," or "fort Kléber" to see the ones I've been to.

Rufaro Makamure wrote:I have been enquiring a lot on why millet and sorghum are not popular since they are drought resistant and indigenous plants. The reason why maize meal overtook the two is because of ease in processing corn into mealie meal. There is also more time needed during its growing especially when keeping birds away. It is still being grown but mostly for brewing beer, maybe I will be able to get the processing of sorghum and millet and share this. If we are lucky we will get some from the market for the chickens and successful use could be a good enough reason for planting it in our field and its availability will make its use in our home limitless.

Our roses have not been flowering and I added water amounts now it's a matter of time till we see flowers

True: sorghum and millet take longer to ripen. However, there are short varieties of sorghum that ripen as fast as corn. I have a 70 day variety.

As for processing, I'm pretty sure sorghum is simpler: After cutting the heads they are layed on the ground and beaten. The chaff is winnowed out of the grain. The grain is then processed into flour just like corn grains.
1 week ago
Last day of school! Afterwards some of the kids came over to my place to pick Chaya leaves.


Stew leaves are the main sort of vegetable eaten here. So, while Chaya is from South America, it fits nicely in the local cuisine. It's also super easy to grow. This is a hedge outside my house that was planted with sticks broken off of a single plant. In fact, all of my Chaya (hundreds now) come from one stick I planted three years ago. It makes good stew, good hedges, fast mulch, nice partial shade for a hot season garden, and a great conversation piece. It will be growing all over the school grounds by next year :-)
1 week ago
Variating your diet is a HUGE step toward sustainability. Bravo! I love your squash and milk meal.

If you're looking to produce grain for your own food, why not try some of Africa's traditional crops of sorghum and millet? They are much more hardy and drought tolerant, and they are much less demanding on the soil. They taste almost like corn :-) You could could try just one row to see how you like it...
1 week ago
The pit garden terraces are complete. My plan is to lay down loads of weed tree branches, cover that with a thick layer of peanut shells, cover that with dirt and plant lablab in it this year. The heavy  rains over the next four months will do its magic. That should give us some nice thick composty soil for the next school year to start planting trees in.


1 week ago
Hey Cj,

I live in zone 10. Bury stuff. If mulch is in full sun the top of it will not decompose. That's fine if you have such deep mulch that there are layers underneath that are staying moist. But I have concluded that burying the mulch is more effective in extreme heat.

Two principles that really help me:
1, The intensive nucleus. Pick one spot near the house that you will see and walk by multiple time a day, and really spoil that spot. Dig a huge pit, fill it with lots of mulch of any kind. Add some manure on top if you have it. If you don't, take a laxative (kidding!!! But you get my point.) Cover it all with dirt and plant a trees in it as closely together as you can allow. Then garden under the trees with your precious potting soil. Focus your watering and composting on that spot. It's an intensive nucleus. Year by year you can build out from there, but you know you will not get over-extended, and your getting double and triple duty from all of your nutrient and water applications.

Rather than composting kitchen scraps, just keep a shovel nearby and put your scraps under the surface of the soil in this area. With the heat you have they will decompose in no time. This sort of project can keep you happliy occupied for at least the first year. Just keep working out from there. You can dig more pits or trenches around your first one as your time and resources allow. If you have a slope on the property, put in swales on contour and double dig them and bury the mulch IN the swale. Spread the berm out. This is all a lot of work, but if you work from the intensive nucleus approach you only ever take on what you have the time for and can keep up with. My yard is an acre, and sometimes it's overwhealming. But today I just HARVESTED potting soil from my first intensive nucleus pit (as well as eating bananas and papayas out of it.) Now that pit is flanked by a laundry washing station to take all the grey water, and by a moringa garden on the other side. This year I added several more rows of moringas, olives and cherimoyas. Just working outward...
2, The niche in time and space. As for the rest of your property, I would stick stuff wherever you see a real niche for it. See a lightly shaded spot? put a few pomegranate trees there--if you can keep up with watering it. Do you have a place where water sits after a huge rain? Put in some almond or citrus trees. Big bare spot that you want to develop? Put in some mesquite trees that will creat shade for other stuff. Just always be looking for that perfect spot for something. But always keep in mind the energy and time needed to maintain it. And only do what you have the mulch to do properly to create a rich soil. There's nothing more frustrating that trees that don't grow.

One more suggestion: for a good fruit prickly pear does great in Arizona! You can plant a tree right next to it and the prickly pear will become a living mulch at its base to keep the ground cool.

1 week ago

Happy to meet a fellow worker in Chad! I live straight West of Salamat, so we have the same climate here. I'm excited to hear of your software project. There is a whole lot of information that needs to be brought together to help workers.

Take trees, for instance. I'm a tree guy, and have undertaken to master all the native trees. I've pretty much got all the food species down. There are masters theses on the internet on all of these trees, exploring nutritional value and cultivation. But you have to hunt for them, and dig through them to get to the good ones. There is an incredible wealth of food right here in the bush trees, but they are just not appreciated enough to be cultivated and put into production.

The savonnier tree is one good example (Balanites aegyptiaca). The bark and leaves are used as detergent, the leaves are used as a vegetable, the fruit are sucked on like candy, the almond is bitter, but very nutritious--but the oil? Oh, the oil... I just paid my neighbor to buy several pound of nuts from the Arabs nomads--who are the only people who go through the work of cracking the nuts and selling them. She extracted the oil for me--twelve litres. So delicious. Like the oil you get from melting butter. That used to be the local cooking oil before Westerners introduced peanuts. And if you actually compare the labor, I'm convinced that the savonnier nuts are actually less labor intensive than plowing, planting, weeding, harvesting, drying, and shelling peanut. Plus: it's a tree!!! Growing them will improve the soil rather than impoverish it as well as producing many other products. I must do it.

And that's really my answer to everything: it is unrealistic, exhausting and condescending to tell local people to live differently than they want to. So I'll live differently and teach that to the kids. Some people get curious over time...

Besides, many of our Western initiatives have VERY little benefit. You mention the 'zero defecation in open air' campaign. I have to confess, I'm a sceptic. The alternative to defecation out in the bush is defecation in a latrine. Have you been in one? There's urine all over the ground you have to walk in, and if you shine a flashlight down the hole the blackwater glistens with fly and roach larva. Because the place stays wet the diseases stay alive and are carried by every fly and roach that goes in and out of there--not to mention on my own feet as I leave the place! African latrines are an unmitigated disaster. And think of the lost nutrient! All of that manure that used to be placed in the surrounding fields through open-air defecation (and somewhat sterilized with intense UV rays) now gets encapsulated in a pit, often times lined with brick and ciment.

Personally, I use  humanure compost toilet. Africans will not use that because they wash with water instead of using toilet paper; they would end up with a smelly bucket of slush. So for my guard's family I just dig a very short latrine hole, do not line it with bricks, and simply move the concrete slab to a new hole every year. That way, at least, I can plant a tree in each of those nutrient pits once a year. You should see the tree from two years ago :-) Not to disparage CLTS in general. I'll give it a look-see.

Let me know next time you're in Chad.
1 week ago

Kristina Raza wrote: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!

Thanks Kristina!
You're welcome to come you know French?
1 week ago

Rufaro Makamure wrote:
We are using the cob( the part that remains after shelling), for making fire for heating up our bathing water and we will use the ash for our compost. In addition to maize we got almost 3kg of beans from the same field. /quote]

Fantastic! These are all great practices. I know we've mentioned this before, but this makes me wonder what sort of perennials you could plant to provide your own mulch. You'd be that much closer to closing the fertility circle and being sustainable.

2 weeks ago