Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge
The eastern Cushitic speaking Konso people’s unique culture, intensely social mode of life and love of hard physical labour based on sedentary mixed agriculture, immediately distinguish them from much of the rest of Ethiopia. Their villages are remarkable for the beauty and simplicity of the workmanship, constructed entirely of natural materials. They are renowned for building defensive villages on hilltops ringed by dry-stone walls with stone-lined paths running between the housing compounds.
Who they are
Strawberry Fields Eco Lodge (SFEL) integrates an Eco-lodge, Permaculture farm and training facility, and offers “Cultural Immersion Programs” (CIPs). It is located in Konso Woreda, renowned for its unique culture and sophisticated agricultural system. The lodge is built in the local style, by local people, using traditional materials, so that it resembles a Konso village; a proud display of the local Konso culture for all who pass by. SFEL promotes community participation in tourism through CIPs; which include trekking, community-based activities, cultural lectures, and traditional skills workshops, all led by locals.
By establishing new trekking routes, training and consulting local guides, and cultivating community contacts, SFEL promotes alternative incomes for the community, handicrafts production, and traditional skills. SFEL also offers training in Permaculture – a system for integrated sustainable ecological resource management – to both the local community (working in partnership with NGOs) and to foreigners. On-site, SFEL hosts the first Permaculture demonstration farm in Ethiopia, which is used as a model for training as well as producing fresh fruit and vegetables for the kitchen. They also run a program of Permaculture training and follow-up in local schools in Konso.
What they do
SFEL promotes food security through training and consultancy in Permaculture Design (a system for integrated and sustainable management of ecological resources). SFEL partners with local NGOs to train school teachers in Permaculture and implement follow-up programs (implementation, monitoring and evaluation) in their schools, based on designs produced by the teachers during Permaculture design training. The aim is to improve community utilisation and stewardship of locally available resources and to break dependence upon foreign aid.
SFEL also promotes alternative livelihoods, facilitating community participation in tourism (a growth industry in the area) through CIPs, which include trekking, community based activities, cultural lectures and traditional skills workshops, organised in partnership with the KGA and KCTP. SFEL establishes new trekking routes, gives training and consultancy to local guides, and cultivates community contacts, delivering alternative income to the community at the grassroots level.
What they offer
Itineraries range from 1 to 12 days, taking in the villages of Konso and its famous terracing, the awesome landscapes of the Great Rift Valley, and a range of natural ecological attractions and cultural activities (pottery, weaving, smithery, wood working, dance and music, traditional healing, etc.)
SFEL’s Cultural Immersion Programs combine:
- Lectures on the local culture, language, history, agriculture and ecology, geography and folk-law. Our main lecturer, Korra Gara, is a respected local author and authority on Konso culture.
- Workshops in local traditional skills, including; dry-stone walling, cotton-spinning, pottery, music and dance and cookery, led by local crafts people.
- Treks to the villages to see the living practice of these and other traditional activities by the community. Our guests are thoroughly pre-briefed on the local culture, customs and how they should behave to promote respect and understanding between them and the community members.
- Live music and dance by local villagers can be arranged in the lodge
SFEL’s volunteering programs offer the volunteer a chance to participate in a range of activities:
- Teaching English language (or other subjects) to local kids
- Giving football training to / playing football with local kids
- Assisting with the operation of SFEL’s on-site Permaculture demonstration farm
- Assisting with SFEL’s Permaculture implementation programs in local primary schools
- Assisting with on-going construction and maintenance tasks on the project site
- Developing your own mini-projects: (e.g. solar-cooker construction, wood saving stoves, compost toilet designs etc – developing appropriate technology for the local situation which can be replicated and promoted locally.)
- Permaculture Design Training is offered for foreigners (as well as for locals) in 2 week residential courses.
Visitors must buy a pass from the local tourism office in Karat Konso town before entering into the Konso villages. SFEL can take care of this if you are following one of their itineraries. Otherwise they recommend you take a local guide. Most of the local guides are not good, but the tourism office can give you the best one if you contact them. The tourism office is in the Konso Town Administration. Turn right up the hill from the main road at the CISS Konso Cultural Centre upon entering the town.
SFEL is 10 minutes walk from Karat Konso on the Arbaminch road.
What you need
Boy scouts motto: be prepared! SFEL can provide most things (tent, mattresses, torch etc.) but it’s best if you have your own to be sure of the quality. SFEL can also provide cooking utensils for cooking in the field.
Things you will need are:
- A medical kit
- Malaria medication
Accommodation & Amenities
- When trekking away from SFEL, they provide tents and mattresses. Trekkers also have chances to stay with local families or sleep in the famous Konso community houses (“moras” – only men). When staying in the lodge (volunteering or on Permaculture Design Courses), participants sleep in dormitory accommodation in one of their local-style Konso houses.
- On-site there are showers and dry-composting toilets outside each room. Off site there are no formal toilets or showers in Konso. If you visit the hot-springs down at Segen you will have a great shower, but other than that, it’s going to be a bucket job.
- There is solar power on site. In Konso town there is often electricity. There is no electricity off site.
- Off site: local foods consist of beans, sorghum based dough balls eaten with Moringa leaves and a sorgum-based alcoholic brew called chagga. It’s not an easy diet for the un-initiated, but can be supplemented with packed food that you carry on your treks. On site: The SFEL restaurant provides a delicious range of national and international dishes, fresh vegetables and fruits produced on their Permaculture farm.
- Prices are in Ethiopian Birr (ETB) – ETB 20.00 = roughly GBP£1.00.
Single room: ETB 90.00 (1 person). ETB 120.00 (2 people); Double room: ETB 120.00 (I person). ETB 190.00 (2 people), ETB 250.00 (3 people); Twin room: ETB 220.00 (2 people), ETB 250.00 (3 people); Dormitory: ETB 40.00; Camping ETB 30.00.
Trekkig costs: GBP£150.00 for 3 days; £250.00 for 6 days; £450.00 for 12 days.
- For groups which have their own cooks, we charge ETB 20.00 per head as a service fee.
- Rates are subject to 15% VAT.
- All bookings and reservations can be made in Addis Ababa.
Check out the current exchange rate ETB to USD