To celebrate this year’s Earth Day, we thought that we’d share a few pictures of some of the amazing Permaculture and agroecology initiatives throughout Malawi:
Posted by Stacia Nordin, Sustainable Nutrition Activist, February 2016
donate at: paypal.me/NeverEndingFood
Hellen Chabunya’s passion for healthy food and environment came through strong in her essay of a proposed presentation for the Initiative Forum http://initiativeforum.yip.se/, titled “Get ‘Em While They’re Young” (scroll down to read the essay).
The presentation is about how young people as young as two can be central to food production and positively living with the plant. She will speak on how traditional practices, which are often ostracized as what is damaging the planet, are not all are bad. But it is in fact the combination of the hurried introduction of technologies that encourage people to completely abandoned their way of life and in essence lose a critical part of their identity. She particularly wants to attend the conference as a knowledge sharing exercise where she can present the Malawian perspective on the efforts being made in permaculture design, agriculture and attaining what seems to be an elusive dream of being food secure in Malawi.
Her presentation was selected by the Permaculture Network in Malawi to attend and do a presentation at the Initiative Forum in Järna, Sweden from 26-31 March 2016. The Initiative Forum is hosted by and for people who want to enact positive change in the world. It is a space for learning, inspiration, networking, and collaboration. Participants can come to share and learn about initiatives for change from around the world.
Hellen is a stellar representative for the Permaculture Network with culture, people and environment in her heart. She is the President of Young Farmers Network, a member of Farmers Union of Malawi, a Managing Partner of Mbwabwa Farming Estate and also sits on the board for Commercial Farmer Cooperative COFACO, Women Empowerment Network of Malawi (W.O.M.E.N) and African Women Empowerment Programme (AWEP). For more about Hellen scroll down further.
Fundraising for partial Costs = 3,000 USD
Hellen needs assistance with covering the cost of the flight. The organizers of the workshop are covering all costs in Sweden, and Hellen is able to support her costs in Malawi (visa, local transport).
Hellen just had her second child two months ago (a very healthy exclusively breastfed child!) and she needs to travel with her baby and it would be ideal to bring her nanny so that Hellen can fully participate. This means we are looking for support for 2.5 people at a cost of 3,000 USD. (Thanks Eva for identifying a cheaper ticket!)
HOW to DONATE:
Paypal is the best way for us to receive funding. You can either use the paypal logo on our website or this link: paypal.me/NeverEndingFood
NeverEndingFood will cover the fees charged by paypal and will assist Hellen with electronic purchases of her tickets. If this doesn’t work for you, contact me at NordinMalawi@gmail.com and I will find another avenue for you to donate.
If you have any questions or suggestions for Hellen you can contact her directly as well: Hellen Chabunya, HellenZalira@gmail.com, https://web.facebook.com/hellen.zalira
An overview of Hellen’s proposed presentation to the Initiative Forum http://initiativeforum.yip.se/
GET EM WHILE THEY’RE YOUNG
My presentation will center around how young people as young as two can be central to food production and positively living with the plant. I want to speak on how traditional practices, which are often ostracized as what is damaging the planet. Not all are bad, but it is in fact the combination of the hurried introduction of technologies that encourage people to completely abandoned their way of life and in essence lose a critical part of their identity.
My presentation will be in two parts:
It is often said that the children are the future, and rightly so. If any behavioral change is to grow roots in the culture of any nation then the young generation should be targeted. Young people are the heartbeat as such they are key to ensuring the health of the planet and its future. Africa and in particular Malawi have often been stereotyped as the home of hungry children. Often times one will see carefully planned propaganda campaigns that use malnourished children as brand ambassadors for Africa. This is unfortunate as in the same vein others are marketing Africa as the breadbasket of the world in the future. Talk about confused messaging, What is on point is the fact that countries like Malawi who have historically fallen victim to cultural genocide where technological advances often demonize traditional practices as archaic and bad environmental practices. What is important is important is that a balance should be reached that borrows good indigenous agricultural practices and fuse them with the advances made in knowledge of the content of different foods and the best way to grow them. This is where young people are essential in ensuring that they absorb what the older generation has learned through generational acquired knowledge. Culture, traditional practices and not all poor and bad, rethinking indigenous knowledge can be the key to ensuring a healthy planet populated with well fed people.
A Different role
Food is the preoccupation of most Malawian families, this is unsurprising due to the high poverty levels of the country. It is this quest for a quick fix to feeding the nation that has led to malpractices in food production that is deteriorating the planets health. Malawi’s children have a critical part to play in feeding the nation. Strategies need to be put in place that encourage children as young as two to have a healthy relationship with food, especially wild foods that are often eaten as snacks and are shockingly being termed uncool and replaced with processed poorly packaged foods. It is unfortunate as the packaging is as damaging to the environment as the food it carries is bad to humans. A different role for young people can be established through;
- Early childhood learning
- Encouraging home gardens
More about Hellen Chabunya:
I am an energetic, highly motivated individual that is keen on establishing a natural eco system that is self-sustaining for both people and the environment in which they exist. I particularly wants to attend the conference as a knowledge sharing exercise where she can present the Malawian perspective on the efforts being made in permaculture design, agriculture and attaining what seems to be an elusive dream of being food secure in Malawi.
I am the President of Young Farmers Network, a member of Farmers Union of Malawi, a Managing Partner of Mbwabwa Farming Estate and also sits on the board for Commercial Farmer Cooperative COFACO, Women Empowerment Network of Malawi (W.O.M.E.N) and African Women Empowerment Programme (AWEP).
I have always been interested in the dynamics of achieving an equilibrium between people with nature and how the two can sustainably exist without detrimental effects to either. As a farmer’s daughter having grown up on a farming estate, I was raised with profound respect and understanding of the relationship between man and nature, granted our family farm is a commercial estate that has focused on mass production of cash crops like tobacco and food crops like maize and beans.
My interest in agriculture was natured not only by my family but during my time studying agriculture and natural resources management. I later came to appreciate that agriculture as it was taught to me centred around mass production of a few crops, this was and still is a misconception as I have come to understand that agriculture is about sustenance of all factors of production and not just the produce. It is this understanding that drew me to research and learn about permaculture.
As fortune would have I was recruited firstly as an intern then promoted to Project Director responsible for Behavioral Change for Tisunge! Lower Shire Heritage Trust, Mlambe Foundation http://www.mlambefoundation.org, which won the Diversity Leadership Award for 2009.
It is while I was a Tisunge! that I learned and experienced Malawi’s rich cultural history of nutritious power foods and lost but not forgotten handcraft of natural fibres and food processing and preserving technologies that have the potential of making the country food secure. At Tisunge! whilst implementing behavioral change programs I led several of their project: HIV, Nutrition, Enterprise Development, Indigenous Trees Reforestation, Tree Nursery Management and Livelihoods. I was also coordinating the Eco-friendly cultural heritage preservation initiative, and Museum and Bio-Sensitive Income Generating Activities for vulnerable groups.
Regarding the labeling of genetically engineered crops (GMOs), 64 countries around the world have laws requiring such labels, but in the United States we see millions of dollars being spent to fight such legislation.
Perhaps we need to think about it in another way. Take a hypothetical example of two glasses of drinking water. One glass of water comes from raw (untreated) toilet water which has been flushed down to a water treatment plant. At this treatment plant, disease-causing solids are coagulated through the use of additives such as aluminum and iron salts. Then, other chemicals are added (such as chlorine, ozone, ammonia, chlorine dioxide, or potassium permagranate) to disinfect the water. These chemical disinfectants react with the microorganisms in the water, as well as with naturally occurring organic matter, to produce contaminants referred to a ‘disinfection byproducts’ (DBPs), such as trihalomethanes, which can be toxic at high concentrations. To avoid this toxicity, many chemical disinfectants are only added after the water has already been filtered.
The other glass of water comes straight out of the earth from a clean, unspoiled natural spring.
You can choose either glass to drink, but before you do, you should have a few facts: The spring water is free, but the treated water is expensive due to the fact that it contains a special formula of additives (namely fluoride for teeth, and alkaline substances to reduce corrosion in plumbing pipes). These additives have allowed the producers of this water to have their special formula patented, meaning they own all commercial rights for the making, using, and selling of this water.
Both glasses appear to be ‘substantially equivalent’, meaning that they look and taste about the same, only a laboratory test can tell if the water came from the earth or from a treatment plant. Many scientists have declared the treated water to be ‘safe for consumption’, but there is not yet a scientific consensus on this point. Many of those who are concerned about the health effects of the treated water say that the ‘safety approval’ was based predominantly on studies that were conducted or funded by the producers of the treated water.
The spring water is part of the natural water cycle, in which the groundwater is replenished through rainfall and filtered through the earth’s bio-diverse ecosystems. The treated water is chemically tainted, and the byproducts of the treatment process may include endocrine disruptors from agricultural or household hormone use (i.e. growth hormones or hormonal contraception), which evidence has shown can have an adverse impact on humans when re-used for drinking water.
So there you sit with two glasses in front of you. You would like to make the best decision based on health, environmental impact, cost, and ethics. The only problem is that the two glasses are not labeled.
Again, this is just a hypothetical example (however, much of the treatment process is an accurate description of what happens to recycled water), but the point of this example is that we have two choices to make when it comes to our agricultural food production systems. The current ‘industrialized’ agricultural system is geared towards monocropped production. It is predominantly owned and run by agribusiness interests who hold commercial patents for various genetic alterations which have been made to seeds, plants, and animals. This system is chemically-dependent, and often involves the use of toxic pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. Some of this toxicity has been genetically engineered directly into the plants themselves (as in the case of Bt-crops), or they have been genetically engineered to be resistant to the free-for-all spraying of herbicides (as in the case of ‘Roundup Ready’ crops). This model of agriculture is expensive (it has been estimated that it takes about $100 million dollars to bring one genetically engineered seed variety from conception, to research, to market), locking farmer’s into economic dependency on the constant repurchasing of seeds, fertilizers, and chemicals. Genetically engineered crops have also been exempted from a great deal of regulation under the guise of ‘substantial equivalence’, meaning that GMOs should be ‘just about the same’ as regular food (the falseness of this lying in the fact that they are ‘substantially different’ enough to warrant a patent).
Many scientists have claimed that GMOs are ‘safe to eat’, however there is not a consensus on this point. When it comes to safety, GMOs cannot be viewed in isolation from the ‘whole picture’. When one considers the add-on consequences of increased use of glyphosate (a ‘probable carcinogen’ according the World Health Organization), the disruption of natural ecosystems leading to a collapse of keystone pollinator populations (such as bees and butterflies), the inherent direct-to-consumer toxicity of Bt crops, the growing incidents of pest and disease resistance (resulting in even more chemical use), the increased rates of malnutrition due to a monocropped over-production of high-carbohydrate low-nutrient staple foods, and the economic dependency created by a corporate control of global seed supplies and food production systems, it becomes clear that GMOs are not an appropriate, nor sustainable, approach to food security.
On the other hand we have agroecological approaches, such as Permaculture, which strive to mimic the immense interactions of natural ecosystems. These systems of agriculture use non-chemical approaches to protect from pests and diseases and to restore soil and water health (such as integrated pest management, protector plants, natural predators, crop rotation, agroforestry, mulching, compost, biochar, swales, guilds, etc). These organic practices also reduce the costs involved with the purchasing of fertilizers and chemicals, and even more money can be saved by safeguarding and replanting open-pollinated seeds from year to year. Agroecological approaches make use of diversified, annual, perennial, and highly-nutritious cropping choices to ensure food and nutrition security throughout the entirety of the year. This ‘polycultural’ approach also allows for diversification of income generating activities (rather than relying on the one-time harvest and sale of one or two crops).
So, here we sit with two choices in front of us. We want to make decisions based on health, environmental impacts, cost, and ethics. The only problem is that the choices are not labeled. (If any labels exist, it is due to the fact that organic certification requires farmers to spend their own money to prove that they are using healthy systems, while the chemically-dependent and genetically-altered systems are being promoted and subsidized with taxpayer money). Consumers have a right to make informed decisions about the products we purchase and the systems that we support through those purchases. The time has come to advocate for systems that support and foster: Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share. One very small step in that direction is to require a label telling us which system we are buying into.
Hi all! People often ask us to recommend a few resources to get started in Permaculture, so we have put together a new page of some of the things that we have found helpful, practical, and useful over the years. (Many of these resources can be purchased online and easily found with a Google search). We have separated the resources into three sections: Getting Started,Advanced, and Technical Help. We will be continually adding to this page, but if you have any suggestions for us regarding resources that you have found to be extremely useful please let us know and we’ll try to get them included (send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org). Here is s a sample of what can be found by visiting ‘Recommended Resources‘, but there are many more resources listed on the actual page so give it a visit.
Getting Started–The following are resources that are great for beginners or for those who are teaching people who are just being introduced to Permaculture ideas and practice.
“Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture” by Rosemary Morrow--This helpful manual walks through the basics of Permaculture implementation including: understanding the land, creating a design, adding resilience, and even takes a look at the ‘invisible structures’ of social Permaculture.
“Permaculture in a Nutshell” by Patrick Whitefield–This short booklet is a great introduction to Permaculture ideas. It is focused a bit more on temperate climate implementation, but takes a good look at both urban as well as rural application of Permaculture ideas.
“Introduction to Permaculture” by Bill Mollison–This book is a combination of two older books called ‘Permaculture One’ and ‘Permaculture Two’. It has revised the materials and made a more concise presentation of introductory Permaculture concepts.
We recently had a wonderful visit from and organization called ‘E3′ (Educate, Empower, Employ). This is a faith-based group that works in the Dowa District of Malawi, primarily in a community called ‘Gusu’, to “help create ways to stimulate the local economy; build and use local assets which are then leveraged for greater and fairer market participation.”
This group received training in Permaculture Design several years ago and are now using these principles and ideas to address issues of food security, health, education, and economic development. For this visit, E3 brought about 35 participants which included local farmers, members of local community groups, and project staff.
We are fortunate enough to currently have three interns at Never Ending Food (Emmanuel, Chiku, and Kusala) who can now give entire tours in English or Chichewa. They decided to divided the large group into three smaller groups and spent the morning teaching about Permaculture Designs. Their tours exposed the groups to concepts of: Permaculture guilds and zones, water harvesting, nutrition, compost making, worm farming, fish farming, animal management, bee keeping, tree planting, mulching, Malawi’s 6 food groups, composting toilets, diversified staple field production, solar drying, fuel efficient stoves, the importance of using local resources, and much more!
Never Ending Food has recently received a donation of money from a group in Canada, which the interns are planning to use to take a group of local women farmers to visit the E3 project in the near future. This ‘idea sharing’ fits in nicely with Permaculture’s third ethic of ‘Fair Share’ and helps to promote the implementation and uptake of ecologically sustainable ideas.
A big thanks to E3 for arranging the visit and to our three hard-working interns for the work they put into making the day a success!