Next to the Elephants & Bees Research Centre is a demonstration permaculture garden, located within Kileva Eastfield Primary School. The demonstration garden of organic farming also serves as a kitchen garden for the school. Its main objective is to grow a variety of crops to enhance the nutritional content of the school lunches to stop over-reliance on the same meal, at the same time demonstrating alternative crops that can be grown in place of maize. Because of its low–resilience index, crops like maize are less suitable in areas experiencing low rainfall.
Permaculture is important because it promotes a rich biodiverse ecosystem, using organic farming principles. This causes crops to be less susceptible to damaging pests and diseases. Organic farming is an integrated method of farming that utilizes natural components of the ecosystem, applying techniques such as crop rotation, use of compost and biological pest control and discouraging the application of synthetic farm inputs such as feed additives, pesticides, fertilizers and hormones, because of their harsh effects on the human health and environment.
Our intention is to work with the local farmers to find alternative crops they can plant that are less palatable to elephants but still hold an economic value. Sunflowers and citrus trees all grow well in our climate and are thought to be less sought after by elephants and there is certainly a market for them. The garden is also home to mango, papaya and citrus trees, a large patch of pumpkins, watermelons, and a passionfruit trellis.
In 2019, the Permaculture team completed a total renovation of the garden, constructing a new shade protected garden. Led by Victor Ndombi, E&B’s Community, Livelihood & Conflict Reduction Officer, the team established a vegetable nursery for spinach, kale, onions and amaranthus with plans to grow coriander, okra, cowpeas, sunflower and parsley in the near future. Using water and soil conservation techniques, including vertical farming, they have transformed the outputs of the garden, now harvesting veggies for the school twice a week!
To supplement soil fertility, Victor has been adding livestock and compost manure to help reduce the soil acidity, and has developed a crop rotation plan for the organic garden to reduce incidences of pests and to balance and enhance the soil nutrients. Crop rotation involves growing crops from different families in the same land in a regular recurring sequence. Composting is also essential, because it provides food to micro-organisms that live in the soil. This will subsequently produce healthy crops that can resist pests and diseases.
We encourage both the primary school children and their parents to get involved with the permaculture garden. We built an outdoor ‘classroom’ and often take the kids out there during our weekly environmental & conservation classes. Through the permaculture garden we also teach students, the teachers and parents how to use compost. In the summer term (the only term with boarders at school), we began a Farm Club on Saturday mornings to teach the students about permaculture methods.
It is popular opinion that agriculture and elephant conservation are mutually exclusive but if done right, these different and seemingly opposing concepts can be integrated, to work together.
If you are skilled in permaculture techniques and would like to come and volunteer with us, please get in touch!