Strawberry Fields is a farm! Much to the bewilderment of many Ethiopians it is not a commercial strawberry farm, but we do have at least some strawberries. We use a form of ecological agriculture and integrated resource management called Permaculture (read more on Permaculture here) which mimics natural ecological systems to create highly diverse and productive ecosystems which produce for human needs – i.e. food, spices, fibers, medicines, and a pleasant environment.
When Strawberry Fields began in 2007 we took over a barren and eroded, overgrazed piece of land (known locall as ‘LOKOLLOTA’ or ‘dead soil’) that had been cropped with fairly mangy sorghum and was shunned by local community as worthless. The three small watersheds and secondary gulley which make up the 2.2Ha site which is Strawberry Fields have, two years down the line, flourished into an oasis of greenery in semi-arid landscape of Konso’s sorghum arable land. The trees we planted in 2007/8 are now reachin up above our heads and starting to close a canopy over the vegetable beds; neem, papaya, mulberry and wanza have all shot up, and will be followed later by mango, tazmir (Mexican apple) and the infamous Moringa.
Beneath this canopy in the moister gulley bottoms are our Zone 1 vegetable beds; intercropped guilds of companion plants which assist each-other in various ways; deterring pests, providing nutrients, ground cover or physical support; thus beans grow with paprika, corn with pumpkins and lablab, lemon grass with salads and tomatoes. As in nature plants do not grow alone in stands of mono-culture, but integrated into a system where their functions (as well as their products) are of use to us and to one another.
Integrated with this system are the small animals of the farm; rabbits and chickens, eating up kitchen scraps and crop wastes and converting them backing into accessible nutrients for the garden. Humans will perform the same function and compost from our dry composting toilets will also eventually find its way back to the garden, though it is used for trees rather than vegetables!
Moving out into the wider areas or up onto the steeper and more exposed slopes, beyond the reach of irrigation, is Zone III, our cropped arable land, cropped mostly with sorghum, as is the local custom, though we have integrated it with a range of species of beans, chick pea, pigeon pea, calabash, sweet potato and cassava. We have also planted many young trees amongst the sorghum, including local timber species such as weybetta (Terminalia birownii), kopta, and wanza, but also fruit species such as papaya and mango.
This is a very short description of the current state of the design. There remain many interesting feature we have not gone into here, that we can show you on a short tour of the site (for which we ask a mere 5Birr for adults and 2Birr for children).
The process of Permaculture design has many stages and is a procedure that lasts for many years. It makes use of cooperative and participatory techniques to gather input from as many available sources (minds) as possible.
We offer the standard 2 week introductory PDC design course which is certificated by the Fambidzanai Permaculture Centre in Zimbabwe (the leading PC organization in Africa) and the SCOPE program.
For more information click here for the Permaculture section of the website.