Posted by Stacia Nordin, Sustainable Nutrition Activist, February 2016
The Permaculture Network in Malawi ran an Essay contest with plans to send the winner to present the essay at the Youth Initiative Forum in Sweden. Unfortunately we were unable to raise adequate funding, but the ideas are worth sharing and doing in our lives anyway!
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 was selected 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).
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 winning essay for the Initiative Forum http://initiativeforum.yip.se/
GET EM WHILE THEY’RE YOUNG
My presentation plans to 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.