Spreading Permaculture Throughout East Africa

February 14, 2020 2:53 pm Published by

Mainsprings Founder & CEO, Chris Gates, and Mainsprings Board Member and Co-Executive Director of the Valley Foundation, Sophie Oppenheimer, write about how we are working together to increase our impact across all of East Africa this year.


The thing about biology is that its facts become our metaphors… and in the natural world, diversity and symbiotic relationships are the key to success.


The same can be said for the nonprofit world. We have been talking for some time about the fact that the nonprofit world is full of competition for resources. While we might be friendly and share basic ideas with each other, there is the reality that at the end of the day we are all working to meet our financial needs. However, we must recognize that we are not in competition because we are all working towards similar goals. When we compete more than we collaborate, it limits the breadth and depth at which we can help our beneficiaries.


When Mainsprings, the Reed Jules Oppenheimer Foundation and Restoration Agriculture Development first teamed up in 2012 to transform the Mainsprings flagship campus in Kitongo to a permaculture-based system, the soil was hot, sandy, dry, and unproductive… a near desert. Year after year, we all worked together to design systems to keep water in the soil, incorporate a diverse variety of tall trees, shrubs, bushes, vines and increase the biodiversity and fertility of the soil. After integrating so many types of species, we’ve witnessed that each variety gives something unique and special to the soil and to the lives of our children, staff, and community. Plant communities have flourished, butterflies, bees and birds have returned. Instead of walking in the hot sun, students, residents and villagers alike walk in the cool shade with mangoes, papayas, bananas ripening on the trees overhead…


In the same spirit that the thousands of plants on the Mainsprings farm work together to create abundancy, we created a pilot grant program where organizations could receive training, support, and funding to implement and spread permaculture practices across East Africa. This idea created so much excitement that we were able to raise enough funding to support ten organizations to participate in this pilot project. Within a one-month window, we received over 30 applications from organizations in seven countries across the East African region.


These grantee organizations, combined with Mainsprings, impact the lives of over 11,000 people across Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Malawi. These organizations represent children, women living with HIV/AIDS, health systems, people with disabilities, subsistence farmers, pastoralists, and all the surrounding communities in which they work. Much like a permaculture farm, our hope is to create a network of partners that works together symbiotically to create a fertile environment in which all of our communities will thrive.


We hope you will continue to follow the progress of all these partnerships throughout the rest of the year and for the many years to come; and, that you will join us to expand our network of supporters and partners so that hundreds of thousands more communities can transform their lives.

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