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Jinja, Uganda

by Community Forests International on January 6, 2010

Estelle and I have arrived safe and sound in East Africa. We were kindly informed upon arriving in Nairobi, Kenya that a transit strike was imminent and so had to travel on to Uganda sooner than expected. We are attending a Permaculture Design Course near Kampala, Uganda beginning Wednesday and we did not want to risk being late. We are presently on the northern coast of Lake Victoria in beautiful Jinja, Uganda, where the Nile river begins.

En route to Jinja two types of productive human-made landscapes stood out in contrast. One landscape was that composed of small and diverse family plots all along the roads and in the medians, where a wide variety of plants and livestock are raised together intensively. The other type was that of large monoculture tea plantations. Though picturesque, the tea plantations are heavily dependent on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and sadly lacking in diversity and resilience when compared to the family farms. I wondered how the two would compare overall if one could calculate the outputs produced by both, on a national scale, relative to the land used and external resources invested. One thing is certain, if it becomes impossible to bring tea to market, or if the environment shifts to one less conducive to its cultivation, there would not be much to eat or trade on the plantations.

Tea plantation near Kericho, Kenya

Tea plantation near Kericho, Kenya

These contrasting landscapes have drawn our minds to Pemba, where the large scale cultivation of spices such as cloves resembles that of tea. We hope to expand Community Forests International's silviculture program there, with the knowledge gained in our Permaculture training, to design large 'spice forests' composed of multiple species and yielding multiple products over time. In a changing market and climate, a multipurpose 'spice forest' would likely prove more resilient than a mono-crop.

Banana and sweet potato, Jinja, Uganda

Banana and sweet potato, Jinja, Uganda

Permaculture is a design discipline for human habitats based on the science of ecology. The word Permaculture is a portmanteau of 'Permanent' and 'Agriculture' or 'Culture', indicating the study's attempt at achieving resilient human habitats and food production systems. We will be studying under Rosemarry Morrow of the Blue Mountain Permaculture Institute, at the Sabina Home near Kampala, Uganda. Sabina Home is an orphanage run by Children of Uganda that has recently implemented a full-scale permaculture design to increase the facility's food, water, and energy security. Our attendance at the course subsidizes the permaculture project there as well as the attendance of local students.

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