GEN Ghana was founded in 2013. One of its members is the Ghana Permaculture Institute, a non profit organization in Techiman, in the Brong Ahafo Region of Ghana. Paul Yeboah shares the work of this initiative, which has been supported by the UK based company Lush. It shows how permaculture and ecovillage principles provide solutions for regions that are ripe for making the change to a more sustainable lifestyle.
The Permaculture Institute was established especially for the rural dwellers, low-income, and peasant farmers of Ghana. Our aim is to achieve a secure, stable food system in conjunction with the restoration and care of local ecosystems while improving the quality of life for all inhabitants. The methods we use are based on Permaculture Design principles. We intend to make Ghana a leading example in caring for the Earth and its people.
In early 2004, Permaculture teacher Greg Knibbs was invited by the Abbott of Kristo Buase Benedictine Monastery in Ghana to come and run two Permaculture Design Courses (PDCs), and to help redesign the Monastery’s 430 acre farm. On the course, Greg met Paul Yeboah, the farm manager at the time. Greg and Paul became good friends and together worked to set up the non-profit Ghana Permaculture Network in 2004 (since then renamed Ghana Permaculture Institute).
In 2007 Greg came back to Ghana to co-teach another PDC with Paul for the members of the growing network, and then again in 2009 to meet the growing demand for courses.
Evidence to Act
The greatest problem in our region is poverty, as seventy per cent of the people are living below the poverty line. Many youth have been unemployed for years and are fast losing any hope of getting out of the poverty trap. The situation needs immediate resolution in the form of capacity-building and the creation of employment.
The widespread poverty also traps people in environmentally destructive systems, as they lack access and means to other knowledge and possibilities. Through no fault of their own, the people continue using their land and local ecosystems in ways that further degrade them. The collapse of soil systems and ecosystems affects everyone negatively. Utilizing Permaculture Design principles we have proven solutions to meet these challenges.
We have started to introduce the Permaculture concept to schools, communities and farmers, to mining companies, government and NGOs in Ghana. On a long term basis, we want to develop communities as model Eco-Villages and permaculture demonstration sites, where people can teach each other through their experience and the positive examples of working systems.
The Institute’s Actions
The Institute is actively training people in local communities in the development of strategies for earth restoration, food security systems, economic stability, and the care of people, using Permaculture Design ethics and principles.
We assist farmers in our institute with appropriate supplies of seeds, trees, and cereal grains. We share practical knowledge with them on how to develop their farms so they can improve yields using local, simple and reproducible techniques.
We also help farmers to search for buyers who pay fair and better prices, freeing them from the need for a middleman. All of this work helps to foster self-reliance and self-employment, thereby improving income and living standards for the local people.
We discourage bush burning and encourage the old tradition of crop rotation, as well as encouraging tree planting as a means to check soil erosion and generally protect our environment.
We slowly introduce more complicated, sophisticated, and productive permaculture agroforestry systems to the farmers over time. We also carry out research on the nutritional and medicinal values of various local plants.
Since 2004 the Institute has set up 50 community tree nurseries and offers advice and training to local farmers. Currently we are networking with over 5,000 farmers. We are also introducing Permaculture to schools, teaching children about earth care. We have donated trees to schools, community organizations, and also farmers.
In 2008 we donated over 35,000 trees to the United Nation Trees for Africa programme. We continue to give away thousands of trees and teach people how to design food gardens, control the severe erosion, and restore the environment around their homes.
Small farm demonstration site
On a small piece of land on the edge of Techiman, we started a training and demonstration centre as a model small permaculture farm. Key components of this site are a mushroom growing project, a tree nursery, a number of different food growing systems, accommodation and training space for courses. There are multiple, diverse income streams for the site enabling us to employ 11 people.
Waste sawdust (that is usually otherwise burned) from nearby sawmills is collected, composted, sterilized and bagged up, before being inoculated with oyster mushroom spawn, which is incubated in sheds and then cropped periodically.
The mushrooms are sold to local markets, and the inoculated bags are also sold directly from the farm at a cheap price so that people can take them back to their communities by the hundred or thousand and set up their own cropping house, producing mushrooms for 3 months.
We have many customers and, in this way, many new local rural businesses are created, nutritious food provided and the local economy is developed. We also run specialist courses in mushroom growing.
Women’s group microfinance (Permaculture Ethical Women Loan Scheme)
We encourage women’s groups formed in the communities to apply for a loan and start up their own small businesses. The women themselves assess whether they think a woman is able to repay the loan and then put her forward to receive it.
The GPN staff running the scheme, travel to each community regularly and at the same time as “opening the bank” they also give trainings on food and nutrition; how to run a business; home gardening; and other topics as the need is perceived. In this way, staff slowly introduce permaculture into the community.
GPN provided help with seeds and other materials, and as each group developed, a proposal was given to set up a tree nursery in the local school, with GPN again providing material support.
As well as offering the lowest credit rates available to the women, the scheme also operates as a bank where people can safely deposit their savings (and so some women could protect it from their husbands so it couldn’t get spent on drinking!).
The fact that the bank comes to them in their own community is a big advantage to the women, as they do not have to pay to travel far to town and leave their children or crops unattended.
Medicinal moringa soap making
Moringa is a wonderful tree that GPN use a lot in their systems. It is a fast growing, nitrogen-fixing pioneer species that is drought-resistant, and is planted to improve the soil and give shade and support to other plants. In addition to this, it is highly nutritious: its leaves can be used in soups and stews and it produces an edible bean as well as an oil-bearing seed.
GPN has started a micro-business programme making medicinal soap from the juiced Moringa leaves combined with coconut oil, shea butter and caustic soda. They also make creams and ointments with Moringa, as it has powerful anti-fungal and anti-bacterial effects and is good for skin problems. The products are very popular and we are selling lots of them, including a regular order to the neighbouring country, Cote D’Ivoir, of 1000-2000 bars per month.
Our business “Natural Moringa Enterprise” is now producing and selling the soap. We are justifiably proud that the project has achieved far more than its initial aims!
You can read more about this part of the project here:
Ghana Permaculture Institute Ecological Building
Ecological building design conserves energy using, for example, trellised vegetation around the building for shade and cooling, and to filter out dust instead of using an air conditioning unit that would consume electricity. We aim to minimise energy consumption in the building and then meet the energy needs using renewable energy.
This type of building has attracted the attention of many people in Ghana, especially people living with low income resources. This is because the materials are available to them from the land as well as being much cheaper than steel and concrete. By combining traditional natural materials with modern ecological building techniques we can achieve buildings that are comfortable, affordable, environmentally friendly and beautiful.
Our Vision for the Ghana Permaculture Institute
We want to extend our work by developing a working Permaculture farm and training centre. The students will work with rural farmers and communities across Ghana to help them retrofit their land. Our Permaculture team will offer consultancy in Permaculture design and village development to governments, the private sector, and local and international organizations. Our goal is to build up a network of well trained and qualified Permaculture teachers and designers for work in Ghana and to spread across Africa.
Partnership / Collaboration
We are looking for all possible support and collaboration from local and international organizations wishing to support us in our fight to protect the environment, encourage sustainable agriculture, and aid the rural populace in achieving self-reliance and improved living standards.
We are also looking for international youth wanting to come for internships as part of their university degrees or wishing to do 6 -12 months volunteer service in Ghana and Africa.
Information on Ghana:
Director, Ghana Permaculture Institute
Box TM 390
Techiman – Brong Ahafo Region
Tel.: +233 249892457
Email: [email protected]