On the morning of October 11, Dominique drove Xavier and Melanie of Green Beat down the long and winding dirt road along Lake Kivu?s shore, toward the Buyungule Pygmy community. After about an hour, the trio arrived at the large tea plantation that bordered the Buyungule Pygmy village. They exited the vehicle and were soon greeted by members of the community.
Leading the contingent was Chizungu, the village chief. Green Beat had met Chizungu the previous day at a conference in Bukavu. Alongside the leader was Ciprian, his adviser ? the only man in the entire community able to read and write.
Xavier and Melanie had a meeting with the tribe?s committee, which consisted of Chizungu and a number of men and women who governed the village with him. They took turns expressing their hopes for the project and their community’s specific needs.
The group decided that preliminary work on the land would begin the very next day. They made a list of fast-growing crops that could be harvested quickly for the project?s first phase. The committee then showed Xavier and Melanie the plot of land that would soon become the first set of raised beds.
The next day, Xavier and Melanie returned to the village to begin what would hopefully become a success, sustainable permaculture project. The field had already been cleared earlier that morning by a team of villagers.
The first task was building compost beds. Unlike chemical fertilizers, compost beds have no dangerous chemicals, cost almost nothing and are completely sustainable ? they could be replenished indefinitely with household waste. They would also retain more water, reducing the need for irrigation ? especially beneficial because the nearest stream was several miles away, up a mountain.
The village would build two types of compost beds. The first was made from banana and eucalyptus leaves, and dry sticks. The second was made from food scraps and dung from local animals. The two would be mixed in different proportions, depending on the crop being planted. The leaves and sticks were excellent at holding water for long periods, while the kitchen scraps and dung provided nutrients.
The second task was building seedling flats to contain germinating plants so that they can be tended to before transplanting them to the field.
The third task was modifying the roof of the village church to capture rain. This would keep the community from having to repeatedly make the dangerous trek up the mountain to get the water needed to keep the compost piles moist.
On Friday, the last day before Xavier and Melanie left for their two-week permaculture training in Ethiopia, they worked with the villagers to wrap up the projects they had started. The women teamed up with Melanie to plant the seedlings in the newly built nursery, while the men finished the rainwater capture system with Xavier.
The men dug a trench leading from the church to a 16-square metre hole a few feet away. They lined the hole with a tarp so that the water wouldn?t soak into the ground and weighed it down with rocks. As the rainwater collected on the church roof, it would run through fill, becoming a pond.
By the end of the day, the first seeds were planted, the rainwater capture system was finish and the compost piles were beginning to decompose. Things were looking good.