Permaculture in Gambia: in photos

Andrew Ross
Thursday, 22nd December 2016

Andrew Ross shares through photos, how permaculture is changing the lives of people in Gambia. From polycultures and compost, to moringa and coppicing.

Compound life. Here the families of the compound are removing the groundnuts from the plants. Large quantities of biomass are brought into the compound and could make excellent compost. Note the citrus trees, which is a pleasing and productive development, but notice too all the bare swept ground and the scrubby area close to the wall, so typical of many compounds. (Above)

Pile of the tops of the groundnuts lie next to the well of the compound. Groundnuts are the principal export crop of Gambia yet most Gambians do not have compost areas for dealing with this quantity of plant biomass, so a great potential source of compost goes to waste. Note the citrus trees behind and the bare sandy areas. The water table lies about 7m below the surface so it should be easy and cost effective to water any plants growing in a compound.

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Areas like this in a compound could easily be fenced off from goats and used to grow vegetables, medicinal gardens, fodder grasses or trees.

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This citrus tree has been fenced off to protect it from grazers. The man who did this is the exception rather than the rule in Gambia. He also grafted citrus varieties such as mandarin oranges onto vigorous lime rootstocks.

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The potential for creating highly productive Permaculture zones 1 and 2 in Gambia compounds is great. The canopy layer would include trees such as Winter thorn (Faidherbia), Mahogany, Palm and Leucina; the low trees layer would be filled with citrus trees, neverdie and fruit trees; the shrubs layer would have bananas, pawpaws and Chaya; the herb layer tomatoes, peppers, beans, hibiscus, asthma weed and other medicinal plants; the rhizosphere would contain ground nuts. 

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A young Winter thorn bush Faidherbia albida. In the Permaculture garden each tree has been planted 10 metres from the next in a grid iron pattern. Their roots go down so deep and draw up nutrients lost to all other plants of the area. As the leaves fall at the beginning of the wet season these leaves and nutrients are scattered over the surrounding land, just when new seedlings and freshly growing plants are needing a nitrogen boost.

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Chaya, the spinach tree Cnidoscolus aconitifolius variety Estrella, has leaves which are very rich in protein, but they also contain a white latex of hydrocyanic glycosides and so must be  boiled for a few minutes to drive off the cyanide.

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Here two year old Neverdie trees (Moringa oleifera) are being intercropped with Noni bushes, whose juices provide a wonderful tonic. Next rainy season the Neverdie trees will be cut down to around 50cm and then coppiced annually. New branches can grow a few metres in a season and then be cut to provide fresh leaves for cooking or making into a high protein powder which is a tremendous nutrient supplement for malnourished children.

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Andrew Ross and his wife Kate are both Biologist who worked in Rwanda for five years while tending a four acre garden and growing about 85% of their food. Subsequently they helped set up Highbridge Community Farm in Hampshire, UK, a group of about 120 stakeholders growing fruit and vegetables together. In recent years Andrew has visited and worked for short spells in Rwanda, Zambia and the Gambia, where he has been helping local communities with tree planting, introducing Farming God's way and setting up Permaculture demonstration gardens.

Further resources

How permaculture is transforming Gambia

Eco friendly bamboo bikes of Ghana

Permaculture ethics and practice is sub-Saharan Africa

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