PRI Kenya has now partnered with permEzone. PermEzone is a new program working with existing centers in less-developed countries to equip local farmers with practical skills, and then support them in designing model farms. A mobile phone platform, using technology that can benefit the most remote and resource-poor communities, will support the farmers in accessing and sharing information. PRI Kenya’s long term partners, Sustainable Village Resources (SVR) is delivering the first permaculture training in the permEzone pilot program, and is a locally-registered NGO working with small family farmers in Migori County, a district bordering Lake Victoria in South-Western Kenya.
permEzone is a project of California-based non-profit Empowerment WORKS, and an approved international project of the Permaculture Association (Britain).
About the Pilot
permEzone's goal is to promote the development of sustainable food systems by training farmers in permaculture techniques and empowering these farmers to help each other with continuing support services and a new mobile phone platform.
Read the concept note (link opens a pdf) from the Permaculture Research Institute, Kenya, to find out what we're aiming to achieve with this initial program.
The permEzone program is designed to work with these existing resources:
- Working with the network of regional permaculture training centers to help rural communities build their own efficient, sustainable and ecologically regenerative food systems.
- The ubiquitous cellphone, which is an effective tool to share information in isolated rural areas and can be a great asset in reaching resource-poor communities.
We want to train farmers to design their own regenerative food systems, and support them in creating model farms, empowering whole communities to achieve food security. They will continue to receive support from qualified teachers and experts, in person and through mobile technology, multiplying the impact by using cellphones to develop and share local expertise.
In the developing world, many farmers are still taught conventional farming techniques by governments or the private sector. These techniques, such as mono-cropping or reliance on toxic pesticides, have well-documented problems, including:
- Widespread degradation of soil and water resources.
- Fragmentation of communities and increasing poverty and inequality.
- A growing crisis due the combined impact of unsustainable farming practices on the natural systems on which all life depends.
Yields from agro-ecological farming can exceed those from conventional farming, without the associated problems. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food has stated, "Agroecology … is an approach that will help to address the challenge of ending hunger and malnutrition in all its forms, in the context of the climate change adaptation needed." (1)
Permaculture combines the regenerative practice of agroecology with design skills, including techniques such as water catchment and passive solar. Students learn an accessible conceptual framework to guide the application of systems thinking to problem-solving for each unique situation a farmer faces. Permaculture can empower farmers to create their own solutions to local problems - solutions that make the most of local knowledge to build eco-social resilience and work for the long-term benefit of the community.
We surveyed 50 permaculture training centers, in countries defined by the World Bank as ‘less-developed’, to gauge their interest in participating in a permEzone pilot. 27 centers expressed an interest in participating.
Why support the pilot?
A pilot will be an essential opportunity to develop and evaluate the program. Specific areas we want to refine are:
- Making the most of existing resources, the training centers and mobile phones;
- Building synergies around communities of practice;
- Evaluating the potential to empower rural communities to live healthy lives in a healthy environment;
- Defining long term options for the program, which could include social enterprises to strengthen communities, such as food hubs and group purchasing.
Pilot program, started June 2017
The pilot is being coordinated by the Permaculture Research Institute, Kenya working in collaboration with at least four established training centers in East Africa.
The first phase of the pilot program will be delivered by Sustainable Village Resources (SVR), one of PRI-Kenya's partner organizations. Initial projections indicate potential benefits along these lines:
- 20 lead farmers, representing an initial 100 farmers in their network, will receive a permaculture design course, based on a curriculum that they have helped to create, over a 12-month period. They will be supported in creating 20 model farms, and sharing their knowledge and experience with other farmers in their community.
- 400 farmers will eventually receive training by extension and peer-to peer education over the initial 2-year period and beyond, and will help to trial a mobile phone platform to support extension work.
- 2000 household dependents will benefit from improved food security and cooperative practices that help build more resilient local economies.
Furthermore, the pilot will allow us to develop the permEzone program, create training and extension resources for future use, and document the program's potential to empower people in impoverished rural communities to work together to build resilience and improve the lives of current and future generations.