Alex is the director of a fantastic eco-tourism and permaculture project in Ethiopia. He is looking for volunteers and investors. Read his story and get in touch!
We are always looking for volunteers. Check our our website and get in touch.
I am currently the director of http://www.permalodge.org/" rel="nofollow">Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge in Karat Konso, South Ethiopia. We work with community-based eco-tourism. We have a traditional style hotel where guests sleep in local style thatched cottages, with an organic restaurant, our own on-site gardens and farm, and we run trekking tours and cultural activities of the local Konso culture.
We also work with http://www.permaculture.org.uk/" rel="nofollow">Permaculture - a design system for effective and sustainable management of ecological resources and food production. We give training and consultancy in this for the local community. You can find more info on our website: http://www.permalodge.org" rel="nofollow">www.permalodge.org.
The idea is to benefit the local community through assisting them to develop food security and develop alternative incomes to subsistence agriculture, while at the same time providing visitors with a better and more meaningful experience.
I am mostly running around doing admin. Half of the time I am up in Addis Ababa (600km north of Konso), where I am dealing with government offices, contacting various clients and partner organizations, doing promo stuff, accounts, researching/writing, and new projects etc.
The other half of the time I am down south, where I may get down to some practical on-the-ground action, for example supervising construction workers in building a flood defence wall, doing a bit of DIY to fix a broken bed, or shouting at kitchen workers that can’t turn up on time. I much prefer being in the south where I can get my hands dirty on the ground.
I was drifting around the world as a smelly back-packer looking for a place to set up a Permaculture project.
I chose Ethiopia because it has fantastic ecological wealth and yet economically suffers from abject poverty, so a fertile ground for PC to yield great rewards for communities and the environment.
It was probably five years or so ago. I had a stubborn resolution that I would do it all along really, no matter what people said. So I did.
I was under-prepared. I’ve had to learn most stuff the hard way, and a lot of people have taken advantage of my inexperience along the way.
I had a diploma in Economics (which was useless) and a Permaculture design course, but that wasn’t much use for administering the whole project in legal and business terms, which is what I actually do.
Some of the money came from an insurance payout I got when I was younger and some came from the rent for a studio flat which I own in London. And some has been put in by my parents, who’s support has been vital in getting the whole thing off the ground…
Getting together a good team of reliable and competent people who are dedicated to making the project work. That is not so easy when you are 600km out in the sticks in a country with one of the lowest levels of education in Africa! Fortunately though there were enough good people out there to let the whole thing work out.
Help along the way:
The two people who have really carried it over into success have been Tichafa Makovere, a Zimbabwean Permaculturalist and former head-master who is now our PC trainer and consultant, and my wife, Semira, who happens to be the best cook in a 300km radius of Konso and is the hard-nosed boss of the kitchen and domestic staff – absolutely vital.
The feeling that life is getting easier than it used to be…
Don’t take everybody at face value – you can’t trust everybody but you have to trust somebody, so make the choice carefully! Get in touch and I will give you whatever advice I can.
I would recommend anybody thinking of doing such a project to take a business and management course, if not an MBA, then get a few years working experience before running off to Africa to set up their own business.