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August 2005: International Partners

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We received an interesting report from Emmanuel Omondi, Director of Manor House Agricultural Centre, about some of the groups which have received training as Community Mini-Training Centres (MTC):

Koinonia Self Help Group has established a double-dug bed 32-bed BIA [Biointensive Agriculture] demonstration garden. Members were able to raise over Ksh.3,300 from their demonstration garden which inspired each member to have at least 5 double-dug beds in their individual farms. One member was able to purchase a calf from the vegetable proceeds while another started a poultry project.

Engakha Self Help Group was formed in 2000 to improve the living standards of the members. A greater percentage of the community in this area were victims of the 1996 politically instigated tribal clashes, displaced from their original homes on Mt. Elgon and resettled in Chorlim. Since being trained by Manor House, the group has established a 25-bed demonstration garden, has sunk a bore hole for domestic water supply and irrigation—with help from Vi-Agroforestry, and have initiated a bee-keeping project as well as small livestock enterprises. Three members have been able to start flourishing kiosk businesses.

Machungwa Self Help Group was formed in 2003. It has an average of 5-acre plots per family—a fairly large size. The main income-producing activity is selling vegetables they have grown , usually with manual irrigation from the local river. The group's chairlady donated two acres of her land as a demonstration center for the mini-center, and each member helps maintain it. Since being trained, each member has at least 6 double-dug beds while one member has 24. Several members have established agro-forestry tree nurseries with over 1,000 assorted tree seedlings. They have organized themselves into a cooperative to market their maize and beans, maximizing their profits.

Junior Organic Agriculture Network (JOAN) was one of the original mini-training centers established by Manor House. However, Manor House has maintained contact with the group over the years, “partly due to the great potential it has of scaling up its activities and positively influencing other up-coming mini-centres. Most MTCs in the area and beyond have found it useful to include JOAN in their farmer-to-farmer exchange visits due to the mini-centre's exceptionally well-organized demonstration.” In a recent symposium at Manor House, the group's coordinator said: “Two acres of land have been set aside for Biointensive agriculture demonstration for the group. This contains 120 double-dug beds in which a diversity of crops are maintained. The centre also has a demonstration for small livestock (pigs, rabbits and poultry), beekeeping and agroforestry.

“Armed with training in BIA from MHAC, we have improved productivity in our kitchen garden and increased our income. Once every week, we conduct a one-day training to the rest of the community members on various lessons of sustainable development. We not only conduct lessons on what we learned at MHAC, but also allow farmers with technical local knowledge to share with others.

“When we started out, MHAC staff visited us regularly to provide backstopping services during our local training until December 2001 when we graduated. Since then, we have been conducting our training independently and have also been visiting other centres and institutions to broaden our skills. Besides our local farmers, people from all walks of life around the globe have visited our centre, which has been quite inspiring and knowledge broadening. We have been able to train many secondary and primary school students as well as students of the Moi University from Eldoret in BIA. To date we have trained more than 700 people of different backgrounds. We have also organized several field days for farmers as a way of extending knowledge.”


Las Canadas Eco-Farm in the cloudy rainforest of Veracruz state, Mexico—the most developed of the Biointensive projects in Mexico—is offering an Apprenticeship Program in several program areas. These include Biointensive mini-farming, agro-ecological farming, pre-school and elementary education for children, ecotourism, organic dairy production, eco-technology, cloud forest conservation, and tree nursery. The fee for an apprenticeship is $300 a month and covers lodging, access to a kitchen as well as the basic meal ingredients (not including meat), and mentoring and instruction by the person coordinating the area in which the intern is volunteering. For more information, contact Ricardo Romero, Apprenticeship Program Coordinator, Tel/Fax: 52 (273) 7341577;


Naqibullah Salik writes that the GROW BIOINTENSIVE project on Ministry of Agriculture land is going very well. In June three groups of 50 to 60 students each toured the demonstration garden, as well as a large group from the Ministry of Agriculture. There is another large opportunity in Lalander, a village a short distance south of Kabul. In May Phil Donnell of Palo Alto sent a copy of our May 2005 newsletter— which mentioned that Devon Patillo would be going to Afghanistan again soon to help guide the project—to Budd Mackensie, founder of Trust in Education, a grassroots non-profit which has built a school in Lalander and is undertaking other projects there. Soon after, Devon, Phil and Budd met. Budd offered a 150- to 200-acre piece of land, farmed cooperatively by 150 farmers, to be farmed Biointensively. Devon has been pursuing this possibility and has been sending many emails to Ecology Action, getting necessary background information for such a large project.


This is part of an email we received in June from Alex Kachan in Israel: We are very happy to update our international GROW BIOINTENSIVE network of friends about an exciting project to bring GB mini-farming to Palestinian villagers. The project received a $1,000 grant from the Peres Center for Peace (, a well-respected non-governmental and non-political organization that works on economic development towards peace in the Middle East.

The project is meant to create an active GROW BIOINTENSIVE training center in the village Kifeen (population of about 30,000), staffed and operated with local people. This will be accomplished using the Arabic translation of How to Grow More Vegetables and workshops taught by Alex Kachan and Itai Hauben. [Alex took a Teachers Workshop several years ago, and Itai was an intern at Ecology Action last year.] The training center will include, of course, a thriving mini-farm for actual demonstration, and we've already located an available plot of uncultivated land, 1 acre in size, in a great location within the village. The aim is to gradually train the local people so they can propagate this knowledge among themselves and other villages, creating thriving communities that grow food, soil and people.

This project is being carried out by the Galim Center for Environmental Education [Alex's organization] and the Palestinian Agriculture Relief Committee, a Palestinian grassroots organization working to promote organic sustainable small-scale food production in Palestine.

[Unfortunately, after writing this article we received another email from Alex saying the Palestinians have rejected the training and the money because they are being offered by Israelis. He bemoans the depth of the hatred.]



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