Before Permaculture there was this…
Have you ever wondered what a centuries-old, tried and tested permaculture system might look like? How it would influence the culture of the community working within it, and nature around them? Look no further than Tanzania, East Africa, in the southern foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. The "Chagga homegardens" (or "banana forests") is a traditional form of land use that has been built over time to sustain one of the highest population densities in rural Africa.
The Chagga people mix agriculture, forestry and animal husbandry to work within the mountain forest ecosystem, providing enough food, traditional medicine, coffee, timber and firewood for their communities, past and present.
The homegardens stretch across 1000 km2 of land carefully sculpted with canals for more effective irrigation and water retention. Four layers of vegetation allow for greater biodiversity and help buffer the elements and build soil. The canopy tree layer shades the smaller banana trees beneath it, which in turn shade the coffee trees, and then shorter vegetable plants.
The wealth of the Chagga homegarden system is in its diversity - a system that works for both nature and humans.
We're hoping to transfer the lessons of the Chagga homegardens to the island of Pemba, also in Tanzania, to build a Spice Forest ecosystem that benefits both people and nature.
For more information on Chaaga homegardens and Community Forests International’s spice forests, check out this article written by Daimen, our Program Director: