I have recently arrived in Kenya with my husband who is setting up a windpower business here in Kisumu, teaching people to make their own windmills from locally sourced materials. Kisumu is in the province of Nyanza, the Western part of Kenya on the border of Uganda which was left forgotten for many years. Kisumu is Kenya’s third biggest town and is rapidly growing, though still nested in amongst rural areas of mudhuts, goat herders and small shambas.
I arrived in Kenya looking for permaculture and found that though permaculture did not really take root here like it did in other African countries in the 70’s and 80’s, something has happened recently and there is a sudden urge for permaculture across Kenya. Though permaculture does not have a long story here, Kenya does have a long history of sustainable agriculture and the organics and grow bio-intensive movements are strong here. The demand for organic food is rising rapidly especially in the Nairobi area and awareness is growing.
Kenya is a fertile country growing vast quantities of coffee, tea and green beans for consumption in the West. It is a beautiful country, that sadly has been ravaged by a rapidly growing population, a growing industry and a demand for agricultural land and firewood. WIthout a doubt Kenya’s biggest problem is deforestation. Around Kisumu the hills lie devastated with not a single tree in sight and this seems to have happened in the last 20 or 30 years. Men in their 30’s talk dreamily of the days when they were young boys herding goats in hills that were covered in thick indigenous forest with an endless variety of colourful birds decorating its branches. Rusinga Island in the lake Victoria is a stark example. The island used to be covered in trees, with thick forests up the hills. Today it is slowly but surely turning into a desert. Up the hills you will not see a single tree, only shrubs and thorns. The deforestation is causing severe soil erosion down the hlls, washing away the fertile top soil and leaving the ground bare, turning into a hard, dusty, cracked surface during the extended dry seasons.
Perhaps the recent surge in interest in permaculture in Kenya is only part of the larger urge of humanity for a new framework for thought, one that helps join the dots, one that makes sense. As more and more people train, there will be more and more permaculture sites popping up throughout Kenya, eventually creating a strong, grassroots network of self reliance.