The word 'permaculture' is derived from permanent agriculture, which gives a clue as to what it's all about! Permaculture techniques are methods of increasing agricultural efficiency using naturally available resources.
Permaculture techniques are largely simple yet effective. For example, one method is the construction of 'swales', which are essentially long troughs in the soil. Swales trap water when it rains, which means that instead of water being evaporated as soon as the sun comes out, it has the opportunity to soak into the soil and thus help plants to grow.
COCO has facilitated our project partners in being educated in permaculture techniques, so that the benefits of permaculture can be felt by the communities that we work in.
Firstly, permaculture training has been offered to members of the community, to boost crop yields and thus income. Community members can then use their increased income to enroll their children in education, provide healthcare to their family and put food on the table.
Within three years of the first two communities receiving permaculture training, farmers trained in the techniques had increased their income by an average of 497%.
Secondly, permaculture techniques have been used at COCO's Schools for Life. The use of such techniques in schools provides students with a marketable skill, given that agriculture is the main industry in Tanzania and Kenya. Furthermore, the yields from the garden provide students and teachers with nutritious food, and surplus can be sold on to generate income.
Thirdly, permaculture techniques were used to make COCO's Secondary School Sponsorship Programme self-sustainable. Food for Fees involves the cultivation of an area of land using permaculture techniques, with produce sold to the government food programme to generate income to sustain the programme.
In the longer term, it is hoped that parents and caregivers will pick up the permaculture techniques, increase their own income and be empowered to cover the cost of their children's education.