Clockwise from above: Members of GGG with seedlings to be planted at Shamba La Jamii; Students with tools gifted from OneTreeLove at the gates of Shamba La Jamii; Students from the school with the design for the garden. Photos by Kate Lidgerwood
The Green Garden Group (GGG) of Iviani Primary School in the Eastern Province of Ukumbani, Kenya, started in 2013. Back then it had around 60 teachers, students and community members who were eager to learn about and practise permaculture. I facilitated the start of GGG because I felt that food security and prevailing droughts can only be addressed with changed behaviour, hence the introduction of permaculture.
The students attend school from 7am until 5pm and there was little or no food available throughout the day. While there was a government feeding program of maize and beans, these initiatives come and go fast in Kenya, so the GGG took action. We implemented a kitchen garden, and planted a food forest and Moringa forest. We also established a tree nursery from seeds collected from their environment, planting over 4000 trees on the school land and throughout the community.
In order to support the work of the Green Garden Group, I initiated the OneTreeLove Foundation back in Australia. This enabled me to get the Australian community involved in supporting the project. In the early days, OneTreeLove Foundation was able to tank the whole school in order to harvest rainwater, and fence the garden plots to keep the goats out. Last year we gifted the GGG a piece of land only 600 metres from the school, enabling them to plan and implement a Permaculture Model Farm. This plot is called Shamba La Jamii, which means ‘garden’ in Kiswahili.
At Shamba La Jamii, the GGG are making a mudbrick staff house. This house will be a share house for the caretaker and teacher Victoria and her family, as well as the future farm manager.
Members of the GGG try to meet regularly, either at Shamba La Jamii or at school. Their love for the environment, gratitude and respect for the Earth’s resources, self-empowerment and betterment, and service and volunteerism, follow the ethics of permaculture. They tend to their plants, watering and mulching. They’re developing their community plot slowly by digging swales, making compost, planting a live fence along the wire fencing, and planting a food forest and woodlot. Tools are always needed; they’re gifted by OneTreelove Foundation for the GGG to work on their projects but they use their hands to make rocket stoves and to toil in the soil.
One of the main focuses of the GGG is empowerment through education, so members attend educational trips and have trainers come to the school. David Mutinda comes to Iviani three times a month, providing training sessions, networks with other organisations, and communication and reports on the GGG’s progress.
Earlier this year, Permaculture Research Institute (PRI) Kenya’s consultant, Joseph Lentonyui, held a five-day workshop with the GGG to design Shamba La Jamii. The PDC itself has become very popular in Kenya in the last couple of years; it’s great that permaculture is spreading.
A desire in the near future is to send the GGG president and a few members on a PDC at Laikipia Permaculture Centre near Mount Kenya. We’re also in the process of becoming a partner project of PRI Kenya, where volunteers from around the world can visit and help with the design for Shamba La Jamii. It would be fabulous to host a PDC and other workshops, and being a PRI Kenya partner will enable us to do so.
After nearly 10 years of friendship with the Iviani Primary School community, there have been many highs, lows and lots of laughs. GGG is on ‘African time’, and although the staff house will get finished soon enough, it has taken over five months and the roof is yet to be put on. The rains have started, so we guess there will be no water harvesting from the roof of the staff house this rainy season at Shamba La Jamii!
Back in Australia, OneTreeLove Foundation will offer financial support for the next few years until the project reaches financial stability. We run two major fundraisers each year to provide this support, both of which are highly supported by local businesses and the community (including Pip).
We wish that the GGG will one day be self-supported through endeavours such as sales made from a large-scale nursery, and hosting visitors and workshops at Shamba La Jamii.
Kate Lidgerwood is the founder of OneTreeLove Foundation & the Green Garden Group.