Dakar, Senegal – the western-most tip of Africa, and former slave trading post – was home to the Global Ecovillage Network’s international conference December 10 – 14. There were meetings with the country’s king, spiritual leaders, and musical icon Youssou N’Dour (who is now Senegal’s Minister of Culture and Tourism). This is because ecovillages (and permaculture) are a strategy of resilience for the country – Transition Towns take note!
During the conference, we convened a lunch meeting for people interested and involved in Permaculture. Together, we drew a map of Africa and identified permaculture organisations across the continent. Some have been offering permaculture for many years, such as the long-standing Fambidzanai Permaculture Centre in Zimbabwe, which was established in 1988.
Afterwards, I travelled with Kipper Fischer (of SONED Berlin) to Sandele Eco Resort in The Gambia (a tiny country around the Gambia River, which is completely surrounded by Senegal). This project is closely associated with the traditional village of Kartong on the south coast of The Gambia, which has declared their interest in becoming an ecovillage. This is due to Sandele having hosted a very successful Ecovillage Design Course in March of last year, with a Permaculture component lead by Paul Yeboah of the Ghana Permaculture Institute (The Ghana Institute is support by SONED and the Sustainable LUSH (SLUSH) fund).
While we were in Sandele, we had a tour of their bio-char creation system, and admired their earth brick construction techniques (brought to them via Auroville). We hosted one workshop on permaculture, and another on soil building in which we evaluated and came up with suggestions to improve the composting systems.
In the nearby village of Kartong, we visited the Bamboo College garden and another local garden inspired by the EDE. We also visited a village of refugees from Guinea Bissau whose income is based on the harvest of palm oil trees around their compound. It was rice harvesting time, so here are some pictures of winnowing done in the family compound of the village chief.
Another line of connection is Islam. A proposal has been submitted to COMCEC (Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation), through which Kartong and Sandele want to offer more training in 2015, including a PDC.
And, on the subject of permaculture in Islamic Africa, on my way back to France, I toured a 2-hectare site towards the Atlas mountains from Marrakech, which has been under development for the past year. Frederick, who has trained in Australia with Geoff Lawton, has done a great job. This property is in the alluvial plain of the Atlas mountains, south of Marrakech, nearby to another permaculture project, Marrakesh Organics, who just offered a PDC.
Kipper of Soned, Benjamin Burnley of Permaculture Itinerant, Steve Read of Université Populaire de Permaculture and myself are exploring how to support the continuing emergence of permaculture in Africa, particularly in West Africa, as Ben, Steve, and myself speak French. In fact there is interest in a global Francophone Permaculture Network, which would include all French-speaking areas around the world, which includes my home of the Province of Quebec in Canada. If you are interested in any of these initiatives, please be in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org).