Sustainable Village Resources (SVR) Kenya is a community based, non profit organisation, restoring lost livelihoods by creating natural, agro-ecological ecosystems. SVR is a perfect example of how a mutli-layered, socially driven permaculture project can have far reaching effects in community. From delivering Permaculture Design Courses to tree-planting initiatives, SVR’s multiple aims are to reach out to people overlooked, displaced or disenfranchised by mainstream social, financial and political variables and engage them in practical solutions to become self-sufficient and independent.
Permaculture Teacher Caleb Omolo (right) with farmer receiving her Permaculture Design Certification (PDC).
SVR has been running since 2012, reaching people in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, DCR, Uganda and Southern Sudan. The key aim is to improve food security in the region, including everyone in the community, regardless of age, gender or ability. Other goals are to restore biodiversity, increase productivity and strengthen community through the use of indigenous knowledge and agroecological systems. There is a focus on permaculture as a key to regenerating soil and land and providing good quality, organic food. Some of the key principles that SVR work by are to build from 100% local materials, harvesting water for irrigation, no dig methods, building soils naturally and using no chemical pesticide inputs. These methods allow people to replicate the systems cheaply and easily in their agroecological zone and with a focus on accessibility for the whole community. Indigenous knowledge is the first thing to be assessed, so that this can be built on to tailor the context of the education to groups.
What makes this Regenerative?
Impact on Planet
The training provided by SVR champions food production through permaculture design. This includes the building of soils and humus, water harvesting and management, applying no dig principles, designing multi-layered growing spaces (2) and of course, obtaining a yield. Through designing food production with natural systems the impact on the planet is one of increasing biodiversity and a move away from reliance on synthetic chemical inputs. This has a positive impact on the land and local ecosystems.
Impact on People
This project particularly focuses on people care and the creation of a community of educators, growers and practitioners who are able to apply permaculture design for food security, environmental regeneration and social cohesion. A lower dependency on inputs such as herbicides, pesticides and growth enhancers means a lower financial output, a key area of focus for allowing farmers to improve their financial security whilst obtaining healthier and more natural produce. Organically, locally grown food also has a function in wellbeing, as people are able to trace where their food comes from, eating better quality and more abundant healthy food and feel a sense of ownership. Shared knowledge of permaculture also allows an increase in confidence and often better community relationships, which this project has been able to demonstrate. Knowledge and education are key areas of people care and SVR’s primary goal of integrating existing indigenous knowledge with permaculture design, allowing communities to put their own stamp on their particular projects.
Regenerative Impact: whole-systems integration of people and planet, and improving qualities
SVR has a regenerative impact in several ways. Firstly, their approach of establishing indigenous knowledge regenerates cultural and community based relationships within each area they operate. This allows each participant the opportunity to act as both educator and student, a mutually beneficial relationship with the programme leaders.
Secondly, the reintroduction of organic and permaculture design principles allows the growing areas to regenerate, whether through soil quality, increased biodiversity or increased productivity. Water harvesting techniques are also powerful aspects of environmental management.
This project seamlessly integrates people and planet, and SVR is actively involved in both the educational aspect as well as the physical implementation and building of the designs created during their PDC training. A great example of the application of this education is the Rongo shade grown coffee initiative. (3)
Scalability & Replicability
SVR has already proven it can work across scales, having reached communities in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, DCR, Uganda and Southern Sudan. The key principles of engaging the community, education and implementation are easily scalable to groups of many sizes. It is also a setup that can be replicated across many different communities.
What's Next for SVR?
Building on their successes, SVR has a network of permaculture practitioners throughout Kenya. They are now extending their work to Nairobi, and Kukuma in Northern Kenya where they are working with refugees. Additionally SVR are working within schools to educate children on permaculture, three in Kenya and one in Nairobi.
Shade grown coffee provides habitat for animals including a fantastic foraging habitat for birds. In this system, the coffee is grown intercropped with trees. As well as providing a better ecosystem it also produces a better quality product, contributing to the needs of people and planet.
Multi layered growing spaces are useful in permaculture design. They increase the space available for food production, create multi-layered systems that are closer to existing systems in nature, and they also provide microclimates, such as shade, moist or dry conditions or shelter from the wind.
350 former sugarcane farmers and 65 farmers who had former involvement in gold mining were able to grow coffee through polyculture design systems. These designs co-planted coffee with other species, such as trees, which increases the quality of the coffee grown and has improved yields of up to 5 times higher. The shade provided by the trees is a more traditional method of growing coffee, mimicking the conditions coffee favours naturally. The trees used for shade trees are often able to supply a yield themselves, such as fruit, giving the farmer a secondary income. Additionally, this set-up provides habitat for birds and plenty of other species. Each farmer involved in this project has been able to increase the amount of produce they grow and their income as a result.