Permablitzing Northern Laikipia

Sheena Shah - PRI Kenya
Wednesday, 13th January 2016

PRI Kenya are transforming barren landscapes in rural regions, creating edible food forests, access to fresh water and compost toilets.

Naatum is a permaculture camp in a remote and challenging area of Kenya. It has huge problems with soil erosion. The harsh living conditions and arid land means these people only eat 11 meals a month. With the help and partnership of the ethical cosmetics company LUSH and their charitable arm the SLUSH fund, PRI-Kenya, in partnership with Laikipia Permaculture Centre (LPC), we have been able to complete a pilot project with the women’s groups.

Through permaculture techniques, we are helping to address some of the serious land degradation in the area. Laikipia North, where the project is located, is classified as semi-arid. Most of the communities are Maasai and Samburu and traditionally pastoralists.

In these communities, very little food production is happening locally. Communities instead focus on pastoralism, which due to the increasing lack of land, is putting enormous stress on the environment. The area has little rainfall and has suffered severe degradation, erosion of top-soil and huge gulleys have been created.

The women we work with walk a minimum of five kilometers to get to a food market and often spend days without eating a proper meal. Land is communal in these areas and the land that the women farm was granted to them from the men and the chief in the area. We hope to see their land regenerated using permaculture techniques and local food production flourishing - helping to address the problems of food security and malnutrition.

In 2015, the project received an enormous donation from Paolo Agolini from Italy, who had attended our Advanced Permaculture Consultancy Training and was drawn to the Laikipia Permaculture Project at first glance! His generous donation has made it possible to have a fence that has helped protect the land from elephants and is functioning very well. The women couldn’t be anymore happier!


Mapping out contours and digging swales


We are now gearing up for our very first Advanced Earthworks for Resiliency Course this February 22-26th with Warren Brush and Jesse Smith from Quail Springs, California. A lot of developments are taking place, beginning with compost toilets. You can see the foundation below. The materials being used are directly coming from the site itself such as the stones and sand. 

There will be washrooms both for gents and ladies. Banana circles will be planted next to the showers to recycle the grey water waste. All this has also been made possible by Peter Ash, who also generously donated funds from his recent composting facilitation toward this project.

One of our student’s Lorenzo Parilli and his wife Elena recently visited LPC and spent their Christmas at Twala Cultural Centre. They visited Naatum and were drawn to the women and their situation instantly.  They generously donated funds to the women to start up a food forest. Lorenzo took his PDC at LPC in April 2015. The women couldn’t be more excited for all the changed they’re about to witness!


Planting banana and papaya circles around the site 

With the support of all the staff at LPC, the women are now starting to get more engaged and are building their Manyatta’s (Maasai houses/huts) on their farm.

In 2015, a permablitz was organized in Naatum led by Caspar Brown, who took our Advanced Consultancy Course in January 2015 and was really eager to transform Naatum after visiting the women and project. Many volunteers showed up and helped build several swales. LPC donated seedlings, vetiver grass and moringa, etc., which were planted on the burms of the swales. The moringa trees are looking healthy after the long rains.

With the recent long rains, the 300m cubic tank is full, and with a kind donation from LUSH (slush fund), they piped the water into their new farm, and can now start growing crops and recycle the water back.

A cob kitchen and sitting area is in plan for Naatum, which will serve as a volunteer centre and eatery. Many local and international volunteers are very interested in living in Naatum to assist the project with different skills and expertise they can bring. There is currently a volunteer from Uganda helping implement the food forest. He also interned at LPC in 2015 and is very passionate about all the work taking place in Laikipia and wants to be part of the change.

As LPC agro processing is getting ready in February, we hope that Naatum and Twala Cultural Centre will be able to supply LPC with Opuntia (high nutrient prickly pear) fruits to process juice and jam, as well as press oil from the opuntia seeds to be used in the cosmetic products by the women themselves who are making these. This will be in addition with the ongoing business of leaves with Lush, producing their own natural and organic soap and selling it locally and nationally, thus providing them with a stable income. This product will be ready for sale early this year.

Joseph Lentunyoi from the Laikipia Permaculture Centre and lead trainer at PRI Kenya adds:

"I am so pleased to say that this is a dream come true for me and the women, I never imagined how much we could overcome and develop in such a short amount of time! I hope for more hands to join us on this journey. Our key goal is transform Laikipia and demonstrate a fully active permaculture region with the support from PRI Kenya and friends taking our courses."

The Naatum women are looking forward to the Earthworks course and how much this will change their lives! Your support mean’s the world to them! They want you to come join them on the course and be part of a fruitful transition from the 22-26th of February. Warren Brush is very passionate about this particular site too – he has worked in challenging areas around the world, including the Kalahari Desert but this site stands out the most, it is one of the worst degraded areas he has come across and now wants to demonstrate the incredible potential this site has, to fully transform for the women!

Advanced Earthworks for Resiliency Course in Laikipia, Kenya!

Join us from the 22-26th of February.

The premise of the course will be a mix between classroom theory and site application. The first part of the morning on theory and the rest of the day in the field for the five days.

Practicums will include: site survey, earthworks mapping, strategy and technique choice and application, one rock gabions and other erosion mitigation strategies both big and small, watershed calculations, bio-swale surveying and construction, dam siting, infiltration basin building, spillways and overflow mapping, stream dynamics, well/springline rejuvenation strategies, tools for earthworks and soil health, working with Opuntia as a succession plant to help create fast carbon pathways, general drought proofing design.

Students should be field ready as this is not a 'hotel training' and everyone will be engaged. You can read more about the course here and sign up here:

Further resources

Developing regenerative enterprises in rural Kenya

Watch: Urban permaculutre: permablitz

Watch: The keys to practical earth restoration


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