Laikipia Permaculture Centre (LPC) is founded by Joseph Lentunyoi, co-founder of PRI-Kenya. Having spent a year teaching permaculture around the world with PRI-Kenya, Joseph felt the need to set down some roots in his home area and start ‘walking his talk’. LPC was founded in 2012 on a degraded piece of land donated by Joseph’s father. In 2013 Joseph started working with women’s groups in the area who were growing Aloe Secundiflora and who were facing challenges with pest control, at the same time LUSH cosmetics in the UK, PRI-Kenya partner, was showing an interest in the aloe for their line of cosmetics. This started the partnership between LPC, PRI-Kenya and LUSH on the Laikipia Permaculture Project.
The Laikipia Permaculture Project is being developed along the same model as the other projects part of the Permaculture & Regenerative Enterprise Programme, though at the same time designed with its very specific context in mind. The project works with four women’s groups, one of which is an umbrella group for six women’s groups, with a total of 227 women. The women are Maasai and traditionally pastoralists, hence there is not really any indigenous farming knowledge. Climate change, severe environmental degradation and change of land available for grazing has however pushed the Maasai to find alternative livelihoods. The area where we work is a drylands, receiving very little rain and overgrazing and charcoal burning has led to severe degradation resulting in huge gullies and soil erosion. A majority of the women we work with walk between 10-20 km to the nearest market to buy food and eat only a few proper meals per week.
The women’s groups have communal farms where they grow the Aloe Secundiflora, PRI-Kenya works with LPC to help the women improve and diversify their production through permaculture techniques with the aim of providing both food crops as well as crops suitable for organic soap production, such as Moringa Oleifeira, which makes an excellent oil, and lemongrass, which makes a wonderful essential oil. All of the crops integrated have several functions, such as nitrogen fixing, soil erosion control etc. Our aim is to see each women’s group set up as a small enterprise producing Aloe Secundiflora leaves for LUSH UK, organic, handmade soaps and other products such as honey for the Kenyan and East African market and fresh organic vegetables for their local community.
A key part of the project is also the development of Laikipia Permaculture Centre as a central education, demonstration and processing site.