VOLUNTEER/ INTERNSHIP AND FIELD VISIT PROGRAM IN ZANZIBAR
By Steven Odhiambo Otieno
My journey started when on 3rd December 2020 , I was so happy and eager to see what is waiting for me on the other side of the family Indian ocean. It was nice to reach in Nairobi and evening the right traffic jam, I had hopes that things would go well for me at the end of the day. I arrived in Nairobi so fine, took a taxi to the airport to confirm my flight status and any other things I could have forgotten just to get ready for the next days journey, and after I had to get myself some food for the night and a hotel room which I settled at around 9.00 pm .
My next morning which was 4th December became a little bit hectic, I had to wake up at 5:00 Am to make sure I get ready and beat up Mombasa road traffic jam to the airport . Of course my flight was at 8:99 AM but I still needed some little rush due to unpredictable Nairobi roads. Luckily by 8:30 Am I was at the Airport, passed through the security check and headed to the immigration. In the process through the immigration I learned that my flight was cancelled and forwarded to 7.30 PM so I had to wait till 6.00 pm to finish the immigration process. Oh Noo, that was a hard task and what made me feel bad is that I was never informed that they cancelled the flight…no text no call. No one seemed responsible for anything so I had to go to Kenya Airways reservation office within the airport of which they agreed to put me on rescission flight to Daresalaam via Zanzibar. The flight was scheduled to jet off JKIA at 8:30 PM which eventually flew off 9.30 pm. So I had to wait for more than 13 hours .
The delay of course interrupted my plans so I had to arrive in Zanzibar very late at night and by time I could find a guest house it was 12:00 AM.
Its always good to have things go our way but sometimes it’s good to learn to be elastic that we can take situations the way the are, so I accepted and I had to plan how to take the rest of my days .
In Zanzibar I couldn’t reach most of my contacts because it was already weekend and I promised to be there in Friday early which wasn’t possible because of the flight delay. I had to reschedule myself until Monday, so I had two days to get a better guest house that could at least fit my budget, get a sim card, some airtime and also get to know some cheap food restaurants .
Early 7th morning I had to take daladala (a buss ) from Darajani market to Matemwe, up north -Zanzibar to visit DADA project for the volunteer program. It was about 65 km and we took about 2 hours to arrive because we had so many stop overs for pickups and dropping the passengers, I’m lucky I was at the front seat, I couldn’t see how people were so squeezed at the back and some had to squat down on their knees. We have a litle bit of the same experience in Kenya though this was a bit extreme, it could be strange if you are new in Africa.
I arrived in Dada Permaculture Farm and everything seemed so wonderful from the natural eco-system to everything my eye could catch.
Antije and the family welcomed me ..sat for a few moments then went for my orientation which was very important and informative. We had three hours walk and talk around the farm. I came to understand everything was ok, apart from too much tension in the region due to political reasons and any new person that could be seen around was a threat to their peace. In a short story, Matemwe people are believed to be rebels of the Tanzania -Zanzibar government and they were opposing the appointment of President John Magufuli of Tanzania mainland, and Ali Mwinyi of Zanzibar. In the previous election violence, some people were killed in Matemwe and some are still missing until to date. In that case Antije advised me not to reside in the project or in the nearby guest house and instead stay in stone town and only show up during morning hours and leave by 4:pm for all the days I intended to be there.
I chose to take her advice positively, scheduled five days of commitment to volunteer to do some garden work (observe and interact method of learning) get to know the background story of the project (ask and answer method of learning), meeting with chicken yard -Zanzibar owners, and two days of field visit of which I had to go to Permaculture Institute of Zanzibar, Fumba Town Permaculture together with Permaculture Design Company, and then a day of doing my networking evaluation.
DADA Permaculture Project background
The project was initiated and made up by the locals (communities) of Mbuyu Mabundi and Kijiwe Mnara in Matemwe region North of Zanzibar and supported by an NGO known as Solar Africa Network which brought the introduction of new energy alternative, which is mostly solar energy, to help them in income generating activities. They have an in charge person, who is a German lady permaculturalist living with her family. She has been living for in Zanzibar for 30 years practicing permaculture. Her name is Antije.
Antije clarified to me that she never came to buy land in Africa and when she came to visit she only saw a dying community with a very big forest area being cut off, though it was a coral area. She decided to settle there just to help and that’s when she engaged the community in the area. She volunteered to stay there, considering the land agreement made that she wasn’t going to purchase the land, and the community were not to interfere with her activities and instead join her in reclaiming the land. Her only intentions were to bring back the lost glory and teach the community about regenerative agriculture and how to relate with nature.
The project is divided into two sections, the Dada Project for women and Dada Permaculture Project, and I could understand that they do combined exchange and learning at the same time. The exact description the project address the following problems in the community:
Fuelwood Shortage. Due to over-harvesting of fuelwood and slash-burn farming methods, the dry coral rag soil does not provide anymore for substantial growth of natural vegetation fast enough. Additionally, the population is growing at high speed.
Income generating. The communities´ main need is to improve their livelihoods. Apart from fishing, seaweed farming and subsistence farming little contributes to the well-being of most of the local households. In sharing entrepreneurial ideas and passing on skills whilst using renewables, feasible ways for sustainable development are demonstrated and exercised.
Why did Antije decide to use Permaculture?
Due to climate change reason considering her observation, monitoring and of the area she knew that social problems such as unemployment, crime, waste and pollution are combined with environmental issues such as wildlife habitat destruction, water scarcity and soil erosion was going to be on the rise.
By applying Permaculture, she needed to change the mindsets and behaviors of the individuals and Matemwe community members as whole to have both short and long-term positive effects.
She believed that Permaculture could bring together tried and tested approaches in designing and redesigning and bring other technologies to the design and development of sustainable systems.
This was the only better way of teaching Matemwe sustainable/organic agriculture, energy efficient housing like her own house, appropriate technology like using the solar panels and the solar energy cookers. Fair trade like Fumba Town trade markets that they participate in every month with the rest of the farmers from all over the country.
Now it’s clear to many that permaculture as a way of designing Dada Project, not only reduce the impact of their living, but also to provide a model for how to live sustainably in harmony with the resources of the earth. The intention is to inspire many others and help broadcast the ideas of sustainability, low-impact living and permaculture far and wide.
This came a day after orientation of which I had to go to the garden with other youths who had taken swahili PDC in Permaculture Institute of Zanzibar. I must admit that it was so fun to be with them because most of the time we had to talk in swahili language even though my swahili wasn’t perfect like theirs, but I spoke only English with Antije to get more clarification. We had to tackle different activities in the farm by applying a system thinking approach to problem solving with an outcome of creative solutions.
1) Site water auditing and working with water on a site (roof capture and surface run off water where by we cold calculate the land topography and how to lay water pipes according to the gravity and placement of the water tank. Catch and store energy.
This involved both the catching and storing of seasonal water for household needs and long-garden use.
2) Animals in the Permaculture farm. How to do the best chicken yard, warm rearing and using chicken waste.
3) Garden lay outs container/ vertical gardening and types of gardens.
4) soil preparation
Adding organic matter in the form of compost and aged manure, using mulch and growing cover crops (green manures).
Meeting with chicken yard -Zanzibar Founders.
Before I went to Zanzibar, they are one of the best poultry farming practitioners I have been following for a while. I admire their work and how they impact lives of women in the island. I crossed my fingers that when I get the chance then I would love to meet and also get some knowledge from them. Off course we would soon want to implement one of our own Tunaweza chicken yard so it was very important to organize a small meeting.
Luckily when I was in Dada Permaculture Project, I happened to ask Antije if perhaps she knows them. Surprisingly she told me that they ware project partners, and she could just do a phone call and make them come. The next day when I came to Dada, we had really a good meeting under the Baobab tree.
They gave me some general information on small-scale chicken production with minimum risk and improved output and further gave me the logic on how I could start on a small space.
They also promised to pay a visit to Tunaweza Permaculture at any time from February 2021 to see what we are doing.
Practical Permaculture Institute of Zanzibar
I had to to take a day to visit practical Permaculture Institute of Zanzibar where I already had a contact with a lady called Agnes. Agnes is assistant operation manager at the institute. She gave me a warm welcome then took me around the farm which we could finish because of time. The Practical Permaculture Institute of Zanzibar is an educational/ demonstration site, located 25-30 minutes away from Stonetown. It occupies 5 acres of land where features had been created. An organic vegetable garden, swales, grey water management system, rainwater harvesting, food forests, rocket stoves, solar power, nursery have been carefully designed and implemented.
The purpose of the institute is to train as many locals starting with primary school teachers, women`s groups, youths and farmers where they can come and gain the knowledge necessary in permaculture to build and maintain a happy, healthy way of life centered around nature and all she has to offer and what they can offer in return. Learning permaculture gives them the tools for self-sufficiency, future food security, environmental recovery and regeneration and a sustainable livelihood. The school work to change the way the people view and design the landscape, their surroundings, their relationships and their daily lives so they can improve on what the planet needs.
Fumba Town and Permaculture Design Company
I was also glad to visit Permaculture Design Company which is a waste management company situated
in Fumba, Zanzibar and working together to build Fumba Permaculture Town.
I met Franko Gohse, the CEO of the company, who was so happy to welcome me, gave me the background story and showed me around the permaculture design company and Fumba Town.
The exercises took about seven good hours and a lunch break in between, and I must say that the all exercise gave me an opportunity to at least learn a little about waste management in urban area, and I got orientation on few other things they do within their projects which are important as well.ry out sustainable urban landscape design using Permaculture principles to implement the sustainable development goal. I came to learn that they have a big team that is managing the landscape of Spice Island Hotel with permaculture principles. People Care, Earth Care & Fair share. Companion planting, mulching, composting, vermicomposting, natural pesticides, poultry keeping and kitchen gardens.
Friends and network
Being a person who is very social and always ready to express myself, this journey was one of my best journeys ever. Apart from difficulties of sickness and things being more expensive in Zanzibar, due to festive and tourism high pick seasons, I still managed to meet some few friends. We had a good time and almost all of them ware so much interested to know more and visit my project. Here are some photos of the friends I met. From light Blue t-shirt is Ran from England, he loves Permaculture and would like to visit Tunaweza Permaculture next time he will be traveling to Africa for hollidays. With the black T-shirt is Abel from Sweden, but he is of Eritrea origin. He promised to come to Kenya in September to visit Tunaweza Permaculture Project. The last guy (white guy) with the blue t-shirt is Tobias from Netherlands, he is a social permaculturalist and would love to work with Tunaweza Permaculture to do some Permaculture entertainment/information videos for social media and website.