The Permaculture Aid Certificate course is almost over. The community project phase is when the students go into the community to build infrastructure or permaculture models for the community to learn from and copy. The best permaculture teacher is a working productive model I recon. Long after the teacher is gone, the model inspires local people to build something similar.
Deforestation is one of the causes of many of the environmental problems faced here in the Philippines and many other countries. Logging is one way forests disappear but the slow motion logging for firewood and charcoal is the other forest killer. Extremely poor people climb the mountains each day and eek out a living chopping down trees and making charcoal or bundling up the cut wood for selling in the villages or the roadsides stalls. When I examined the use of fuel for cooking I saw that the consumption of firewood could be dropped dramatically if people used an efficient wood stove. No need to reinvent the wheel, the LORENA stove has been around for 50 or so years and it can be made of one of the cheapest materials available, MUD!
I start our students off with a lesson on mixing local materials to make a mud LORENA stove. I have to cheat because we need the stove to be usable in 2 days so I add cement to the mix. We mix chopped straw, clay mud and a shovel full of cement for each 40 kg of mud. We dig a shallow pit and use it to mix the materials by hand and foot. Stomping the mixture is the most effective way to manually blend the materials into the right consistency. The right mix shouldn’t be too wet or too dry. I show the students how to gauge the right mix by slapping a blob onto my hand and turning it palm down. If the mix sticks its right if it slides off its too wet…
We build a base for the stove first so the stove is the perfect ergonomic height for a local woman to cook without having to bend or stretch when standing. Next, we construct the firebox and stove cavity. Rice husks are used to fill the cavity so we can lay the stove top on without having to wait. The cavity is sloped upwards so heat travels upwards towards the chimney hole and passes the heat over the cooking holes. So easy! Well not that easy because a lot of muscle is needed to mix and carry mud. By the end of the day the stove is finished and the team is lying around panting but happy they achieved a great result.
The school is our next target for a stove. At our local primary school the teachers are planning a feeding program for the kids as we have some of the poorest people in the Philippines. At present the school has one small open fire pit to cook on. That’s 400 kids fed from one fire! We kick off the day by presenting the school with a small collection of hand tools need for the permaculture gardens at the school. Its not much by wWestern standards buy the teachers are very happy!
The Green Warrior team splits into 3 groups, the mud mixers, the transporters and the mud builders led by myself. It’s a hot day and we are sweating in a cramped hallway sized kitchen laying the mud as fast as the mixers can make it. The oldest kids help me lay some cement blocks to brace up the concrete bench we are making the stove on. All goes well and 4 hours of heavy labor produce a LORENA stove that cooks 3 pots simultaneously on 10% of the firewood the old system used. A lot of kids and parents are gong to see this stove and want one I recon. The cooking instructor is over the moon and tells me she is going to build one at her house. Yes!!! The ripple effect is in progress!
The final mud project is a pizza oven. We choose a barrel-vault style design and site it at the Green Warrior Field School so anyone passing can see it in action.
We mix another several batches of mud and soon an oven begins to form. The barrel style is very easy to build compared to a dome oven. This oven will bake bread, pizza and cook various meat dishes. Not any people bake here because there are no ovens…not yet anyway.
The day’s work is complete with a cool pizza oven resembling a strange creature with a wide mouth. It has a smoke vent in the center of its forehead and big lips framing the pizza sized mouth. We nickname it Pizza-saurus! I can’t wait to eat our own home made baked goodies from this monster!
The students are heading home tomorrow. Lots of close friendships have been formed between each other, our staff and local people. A few tears will flow as they say their goodbyes but some have promised to return next year to help with our next community development projects. In the meantime a group of local ladies are going to run the pizza oven as a business. Every course advances the community at Green Warrior. As we move towards Xmas the typhoon season is almost over and the dry season begins. Fingers crossed we will make it to Xmas typhoon free!