EVANs OWOUR ODULA
Evans is a young permaculture enthusiast and activist who champions socially-oriented permacutlture on Rusinga Island. He first learned of permaculture as a child from his father Michael, a former high school principal and UNEP Global 500 Laureate who worked with primary school students to restore and protect the island’s ecosystem. After high school Evans worked as a social worker, implementing projects geared towards livelihood improvement, HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, and conservation. In 2008 Evans decided to combine his love for nature with his passion for social work and founded Badilisha, beginning work on the permaculture demonstration center. Since then both the food forest and project have grown; Evans has organized courses for local farmers on tropical permaculture, received input from renown permaculturists like Warren Brush and Lesley Byrne, and even hosted an international permaculture design course. Evans hopes that the project will one day become a hub of permaculture learning for the entire Lake Victoria region.
Rusinga Island COmmunty
Rusinga Island is a 44 square kilometer island on the northeast edge of Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa. It is home to about 30,000 people, the majority of whom rely on agriculture and fishing for subsistence. Close to 60% of Rusinga Island’s inhabitants live below the poverty line, on less than 1 US dollar a day. The average adult resident consumes 1800 kilocalories (calories) a day while those in households most affected by extreme hunger consume only 1400 kilocalories a day; both figures are well below the 2250 Kilocalories per day that the World Health Organization recommends for adults.
The causes of hunger and poverty on Rusinga Island are multifold. Effects of rapid population growth and development such as depleted soil, deforestation, and the destruction of local biodiversity, have hurt agricultural productivity. As the population has expanded, farms have been subdivided into smaller subunits that are unable to support the families which depend on them. Climate change has led to droughts and shifting precipitation patterns that have further compounded these problems.
The causes are not only ecological. The HIV/AIDS epidemic has hit the Rusinga Island community especially hard; the region has the highest rate of HIV with an estimated 23% of individuals positive. A top down approach to policy making with regards to poverty reduction has ignored the needs of marginalized communities and has helped to stall economic development on the island; the structural adjustment program (SAP) and increases in the value added tax (VAT) have disproportionately affected the poorest members of the community.