A Permanent solution…
In our previous article we analyzed the basic principles of permaculture and the positive ethical implications of this agricultural ecosystem. When this social design principle is applied in an agricultural setting the main benefit that can be identified is a significant emphasis being placed on care for the earth and life on it. As we move forward into a more eco-focused generation that recognizes the importance of respecting our environment, permaculture provides a permanent solution for those who care about the earth, but who also want to push forward their agricultural ambition.
Permaculture holds at its core the idea of collective unity in much the same way as the cultural value of collectivism, the practice or principle of giving a group priority over each individual in it. Those interested in the idea of collectivism and the link between this and our environment can investigate this in more length, by exploring the work of Slavoj Zizek, a radical eco Marxist and one of the greatest academics of our time. You can also check out our previous article which simplifies for you what exactly is meant by this term ‘permaculture’.
Today we will focus on four great examples whereby permaculture, or equivalent philosophy has been applied. The most significant benefit of the application of permaculture, is its ability to transform a farm into a socially responsible, profitable agricultural system. Its all about building on what is already in place, in order to combat the throwaway culture, we are currently seeing in our societies. Something of which is a direct result of the acceleration of an unethical and non-environmentally friendly capitalism. We have chosen four organic farms to present here that through their actions, have been brought to the forefront of this ecological movement to move away from a throwaway profit machine culture. First, we will focus on the Bec Hellouin, which is one of the most dynamic permaculture farms in France. Then, we will fly to Morocco, to the Brachoua farm, where the farm allows a whole village to live decently. Then, we will take the road to Benin, to one of the Songhai farms, employing hundreds of people. And we will end the trip in northern Thailand, in Sahainan. Through these case studies we will demonstrate to you that not only does permaculture bring about significant benefit to our agricultural system, but by extension benefit to our communities, countries and the world as a whole moving piece.
BEC HELLOUIN, FRANCE
This farm is an extraordinary example of the significant benefit of a combination between practical application and education to improve our agricultural systems, and thus our environment. This particular farm is so widely revered as a direct result of its combination of practicality and academia. Like so many people who have made the move to a more socially conscious farming initiative, the pair who started this farm, had very different careers before they broke away to focus on improving our food cultivation. He was a sailor, and she was company lawyer. Everything comes from the earth, so they decided to synthesize different culture types to produce vegetables and fruits with respect and care, to protect and improve upon our failing ecosystem. In 2007, they turned to permaculture for permanent solutions. Now they follow the permaculture philosophy, improving it every day with new methods and tools.
Today, the farm is auto sufficient, and they can live like true farmers. Initially when they started farming here, the ground was only 20 cm thick upon limestone, and no farmer had attempted to grow here previously. Through the use of permaculture techniques, they have created an enriched soil in which to grow, that continues to develop over time in to a nutrient rich soil that lends itself to growing high quality organic product, that are good for the environment and good for us. One of their most successful and interesting projects is their food forest, where every plant is edible. This natural ecosystem produces twice as much biomass per hectare compared to a traditional agricultural system, without any fertilizer, tilling, watering or any human intervention. This is direct proof that our agriculture the world over, can be both profitable, successful, and also have a positive impact on our environment. However, you have to be conscious that is system keeps being implemented, and is not yet applicable to a large scale.
Brachoua is a small village near Rabat, in Morocco. This village used to be very poor, with no jobs for women, and odd jobs for men and children. There was no electricity, no water, and no gardens. However for the last four years the association Ibn al-Baytar has helped create and develop vegetable gardens for 60 families, applying permaculture principles to benefit our earth along the way.Today, the village is self-sufficient, each family has vegetables, fruits and meat to eat every day. They take care of their several vegetable and fruit gardens all together, feed every person in the village, and then sell the surplus in Rabat. It’s a move to return to a simpler time when trade in goods was the order of the day. It provides a direct and tangible evidence to support the idea of a move away from consumerism for consumerisms sake, in favor of a slower paced eco conscious consumerist society. The evolution of the village has been incredible.
Indeed, today they have drinking water, wells to water plants, their own sources of electricity and more. This group have also demonstrated through their inclusion of women in their agricultural system, the benefit of inclusion regardless of gender. The Women at Brachoua manage the cooperative and organize the sale of their products, as a result they have higher incomes than the average Moroccan women. The phrase many hands make light work could not be more relevant here. They also created an ecotourism structure, so they can have additional incomes. City-dwellers can come and live in the village, help in the gardens, and enjoy the organic products of the village. In fact, the creation of this cooperative has been and continues to be incredibly successful families have more money, so they can pay for their children’s studies, families are closer than before because they work and live together, and they can enjoy some free time during the day, so parents can spend more time with children. For these people permaculture, the application of a socially conscious agriculture, has created better life conditions, more profit and an equal society unapparelled in other agricultural methods.
In the 80’s, Godfrey Nzamujo was working as a researcher in California, USA. He looked back at Africa, in particular Benin where his family came from, and he saw many development opportunities. He decided to return to his motherland to make a positive contribution to its ecosystem, and by extension its citizens. In 1985 the state gave him 1 ha to launch an organic farm. Today this particular cultivation is 24 ha wide, and he has opened more than fifteen other farms in Benin and other African countries. His motto is: “nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed”. This again is an excellent example of the counterculture proposed by permaculture; a want and need to move away from our throwaway, wasteful societies; And in return to gain sustainable solutions which respect our earth.
Indeed, every animal, vegetable, fruit or waste has multiple roles to play on his farms. Its all about using the tools we have readily available us. For example, the hen droppings are used to make natural biogas, and when the gas has been extracted, residue is used as compost for plants; The gas is then used to produce electricity for the farm. Another recuperation innovation used here is the melting of every piece of retrieved metal to create their own pieces, so they do not have to import it. Nzamujo doesn’t call his farm permacultural, but it is based on the same principles. The incredibly significant positive impact this has had on the continent of Africa, is striking. He gave work to hundreds of persons across Africa, and made accessible clean food for everybody employing these methods across many African nations. It demonstrates directly and without doubt the ability for profitable successful farms, to also be positive for our ecosystem and the living things within it. Much like our previous example he also created an academy, where he can teach to the young generation how this model works, so they can launch their own organic farms. This is a real success story because Mr Nzamujo started from scratch and had everything to create: teaching the workers sustainable cultivation and recuperation methods, eco efficient waste management, and ultimately a deep-rooted care for the environment.
This farm has been created by the Lua people, a local tribe, who after being persecuted for generations have been gifted land by the Thai Government. Here they have started using ancestral techniques to grow food. When they started out the land was of a poor quality because of the monoculture system being used by pervious farmers. But a move back to basics, applying age old traditional techniques used by their ancestors, has meant they have made the land prosperous and fertile again. Although these principles slightly differ to those proponed by traditional permaculture, the ethos remains the same; A want to move towards socially eco conscious agriculture. Their farm is 3 ha wide, and most of their production is made in the “food forest”, as they call it. This is the same concept as seen in the Bec Hellouin farm, and is used again here because it is well recommended in permaculture. They use the protection, the water abundance, and the richness of a forest ground, and harness it to produce the best results.
Again, as we have already discussed in this article, it’s this return to basics, to the offerings of mother nature, which allow them to succeed. They grow an abundance of vegetables and fruits in the forest. Their productivity is very high because the soil is very rich, with thousands of different species feeding and creating the biomass. Moreover, the big trees and the density of the forest reduce the risk of enormous amounts of damage due to storms for example. One can ask the question here why we are demolishing this gift from nature, our forests, the world over in favor of man-made developments. After all this deconstruction of a valid and profitable part of our ecosystem seems pointless, if we cease to exist. A very real possibility if we continue to destroy our food sources through unethical and damaging agricultural practices. The aim is to use the hyper-richness of the forest biomass to feed and grow fruits and vegetables. Indeed, the forest feeds and protects all the plants from natural disasters; And it works.
These examples show you that this concept of sustainable agriculture is not only gaining momentum, but provides a real, tangible solution to many of our problems. It improves the health of our planet, and the lives of those on it. It promotes community, equality, and creates eco conscious caring citizens who together can work towards a better world; before its too late. Moreover, it combats the idea that developing countries are responsible for the destruction of our environment and have an uncaring attitude in relation to it. Rather it demonstrates in many cases the ability for these developing nations to lead the way in saving our planet and ultimately feeding us in the future. It is with great irony that we highlight this, as in the cases we see in the developing world here in this article and beyond, it is out of necessity that they have created these prosperous and profitable ecosystems. Forced into doing so because of the limited support provided by, and the destruction of the environment undertaken by ‘developed’ nations and ‘Developed corporations’. Beyond this article it is time for us to evaluate as societies firstly what constitutes a developed nation. Should it actually be socially conscious, inclusive, ecofriendly communities that are viewed as developed, and therefore imitated, as we move forward into a new age of which simply can no longer avoid dealing with the ecological crisis we face?