The Ghana Permaculture Institute (GPI) is a bastion of permaculture practice, meet one of the men behind it...
Ghana can be a gruelling place sometimes. One of the most heavily deforested countries in the world, ahead of Indonesia or Haiti, it can seem almost hopeless. But with Paul Yeboah’s calm tuition we learnt that simple solutions can help to arrest, maybe even reverse this. The fact that Paul is a keen social entrepreneur, accomplished farmer and excellent teacher make him a hard act to follow.
From the first time we met Paul in 2010 his focus has been on real land use and demonstration for the many people living hard lives trying to make ends meet from the land. The first demonstration he gave was a simple one-acre plot. The plan was to build a training centre with Permaculture gardens. This soon changed. On his way home Paul spotted a timber yard and saw mill. He saw them sweep up huge piles of sawdust and burn it away. Never one to miss a trick he asked if he could take the sawdust away with him. Working with his brother, Richard, they found a way to grow oyster mushrooms on the sawdust and his first enterprise was born. Now the one-acre site houses a very large mushroom shed that sells bags of mushrooms not only locally, but across west Africa, to restaurants and others keen for this tasty treat. All from a waste product. The site also houses a fully furnished training facility to help train students from all over the world in permaculture.
After his first success, he asked if we could find some more land and extend the dream of demonstration to a larger area. Soon a suitable piece of degraded land became available. Used for road building, nobody wanted the land: its topsoil had been removed and it held very little fertility. Local farmers told Paul he was mad for buying it, “Are you mining gold here? If not the land is no good.” And so Paul set to work on designing a system that would regenerate. A natural earth building to house staff and volunteers was built first. Then Moringa was quickly identified as a great pioneer tree that could give some products Paul may be able to sell, so they went in to re-fertilise the soils. Vetivert grasses were used to stop erosion, food crops were grown to feed the site.
Over the next two years more and more ideas arrived. Now a new mushroom house and small straw cropping houses mean they harvest fresh mushrooms every day. Another building is home to a seed press that presses moringa seeds to produce an oil Lush can use and also valuable seed ‘cake’, an excellent fertiliser and chicken feed. Paulo spent his last working days with Paul building passive water dams that would capture water to help bring further fertility to the land. They also installed biogas, huge bags of kitchen waste, cow manure and clippings that produce enough natural gas to cook from every day.
Now the Ghana Permaculture Institute is a bastion of permaculture practice. Providing local education and opportunities (his enterprises employ 30 people directly and reach to many hundreds of farmers). Creating solutions to the problems of deforestation, the rise of expensive artificial fertilisers and pesticides and at the same time replenishing the earth’s resources.