sustainable farming

How to make a Banana Circle

By: Ivan Lieman

Step 1:

Select an area to use for your banana circle and mark out a circle two meters in diameter. You can mark another bigger circle around this one, as a guide for your mounded garden bed.

Step 2:

Using your two meter circle, dig out a dish-shaped (concave) hole to a depth of 50cm to 1 meter. Put the soil from the hole around the edge to create a mounded garden bed. At this point, you can create an opening slightly below ground level for rainwater run-off or your grey water from showers to enter the banana circle.

Banana Circle Schematic

Banana Circle Schematic

Step 3:

Line the hole with old paper, cardboard, or a few layers of banana leaves to slow down the infiltration of the water once it’s working. This will make sure that water and nutrients stay in the pit long enough to be taken up by bananas, papayas and other plants that surround the pit.

Step 4:

Fill the pit with organic mulch, you can add some ash, effective microorganisms or manure making a large compost pile. Stack in a prism shape, they will reduce in size over time.

Banana Circle Shower

Banana Circle Shower

Step 5:

Plant banana suckers around the rim of the mound at 60cm intervals. Normally four banana suckers around a two meter banana circle. These can initially be inter-planted with papayas. Also add cover crops like watermelon, taro, pumpkin, sweet potato, cow peas etc. Comfrey and other green manure crops can be inter-planted and chopped into the mound. You can also add climbers and vines like passion fruit when the trees can support them. Think layers, guilds and stacking food! Have the water loving crops in the inside rim of the circle such as taro and sugar cane, and the less water loving on the outer rim such as cassava. Lemos grass is a great to use as an erosion controller for your mound not to break down.

Step 6:

Mulch very generously to cover and protect the soil and minimize evaporation, and the build-up of organic matter.


Are you interested learning more Permaculture Techniques to apply to your land? We now have monthly Voluntourism opportunities on our drylands permaculture farm in Nakukulas, Turkana. For more information on this follow the link below.

Permaculture on Mfangano Island | Governors' Camp


Mfangano lies on the Eastern part of Lake Victoria in the Homa Bay county of Kenya. 65 km² with a population of approximately 17,000 and home to the Wasuba tribe who were originally refugees from Uganda around 400 years ago.

 Lake Victoria | Mfangano Island | Governors' Camp

 Lake Victoria | Mfangano Island | Governors' Camp

Traditionally the people of the Island are fishermen, they fish for ‘omena’ sardines at night using lights to lure the fish into their nets. This is a dangerous occupation and also produces a lot of wasted by-catch such as juvenile Nile Perch. Tilapia are also netted in great numbers close to the shoreline and with no regulated fishing procedures the practices have become unsustainable with fish stocks seeing massive reductions over the past few years. There is a minimal amount of subsistence farming carried out on the Island using the highly destructive slash and burn method which has rendered great swathes of the landscape barren and susceptible to desertification.

Tilapia from Lake Victoria | Permaculture on Mfangano Island

Tilapia from Lake Victoria | Permaculture on Mfangano Island

Since we hosted our first guests in 1990 Mfangano Island Camp has been the only major hotel on the Island welcoming people from all over the world, we have created many jobs, assisted communities and families and become firmly integrated in Island life building schools and clinics in various villages. We believe that it is our duty and responsibility to preserve the heritage of the community as well as being a driving force for positive change.  We now wish to take this train of thought further by establishing truly sustainable development which will empower the community and allow them to progress independently without relying wholly on outside funds or influence.

Through mutual friendships, interests and good old serendipity we teamed up with the Barefootsoulutions team with the aim to initiate a drastic change in mindset on an island wide scale hopefully allowing the islanders to prosper with work, food and nutritional security. After an initial site visit we sent two of our staff members to Kilifi where they successfully completed a PDC course.


The Garden

a showcase and training centre for the local community on Mfangano Island

The team then returned to the camp where we first focused on our own carbon footprint setting up a now thriving garden, revamping our waste water management, kitchen waste and plastic recycling. We are well on the way to producing 80 percent of our vegetables and fish by the end of 2017. This garden has become a show case and training centre for the local community and with the help of Barefootsoulutions we will be running regular workshops held on building low emission and low consumption wood burners, eco friendly building techniques and encouraging sustainable agriculture, fish farming and aquaponics.

Composting | Permaculture on Mfangano Island | Governors' Camp

Composting | Permaculture on Mfangano Island | Governors' Camp

Already we have implemented a project at a local primary school with astounding success. We have found that through a connection with nature some of the children struggling academically have thrived and the community as a whole has rallied around the idea of sustainability raising funds amongst themselves to fence the school and donate seedlings.


Permaculture on Mfangao Island | Governor's Camp

Our eventual goal is to spread the Permaculture message throughout the island and have a collective of farmers who can supply the camp and the island with food creating sustainability and abundance. We look forward to an exciting future working with the Barefoot team.

Sukuma Wiki Forest

Permaculture on Mfangano Island | Governor's Camp

If you are interested in improving your eco rating and implementing a permaculture approach to your lodge, hotel or restaurant please visit our "Course" page and sign up for the next Permaculture Design Course (PDC).