The definition of ‘conventional’ means “conforming or adhering to accepted standards.” The time has come for us to examine the standards which we are accepting.
As another rainy season is getting underway here in Malawi, many people have just planted large fields of maize. Unfortunately, this maize won’t be realized as ‘food’ until the April/May harvest season. Each year we see the same over-emphasis on one crop to provide year-round access to food. This is a problem for several reasons: 1.) Maize alone does not provide the diversified nutrition that humans need for proper growth and development. 2.) Fluctuations in climate make maize susceptible to poor yields. 3.) Maize harvests often don’t last the entirety of the year, leading to chronic ‘hungry seasons’. 4.) Maize was introduced to Malawi from the Americas and has overshadowed (and even stigmatized) the use of traditional food crops. 5.) Millions of dollars are spent on farm inputs (seeds, fertilizers, chemicals, etc.) 6.) Millions of dollars are spent on nutritional fortification and supplementation programs to compensate for a lack of nutritional diversity.
Fortunately, there are simple solutions to these problems. Permaculture aims to provide people with access to diverse and highly-nutritious foods on a daily basis. By mimicking nature through the integration of perennial food crops, it helps to ensure that food production becomes local, seasonal, and organic. A walk around our Permaculture site this morning demonstrates some of the foods that are already available to us. This is one of the reasons we named our site ‘Never Ending Food‘…the food never ends!