Justice Begins with Seeds

I really enjoyed this post of  an interview with Katherine Zavala at  IDEX who will be a presenter at the upcoming Justice Begins with Seeds Conference in San Francisco on May 18th and 19th 2012. IDEX seems to be a non-profit worth supporting. Please read the entire post from Justice Begins with Seeds at Planetshifter (or attend the conference if you can easily access the San Francisco bay area.  I wish I could go.)

“The purpose of the upcoming Justice Begins with Seeds conference is to grow the food sovereignty movement by advancing learning and building coalitions between the GMO counter-movement in the US, and other movements thriving to develop sustainable food systems, alleviate climate change through soil practices, defend the rights of indigenous communities, reduce social inequalities and encourage citizen democracy against corporatocracy.

Does IDEX promote permaculture as a localization strategy? If so, how?

International Development Exchange (IDEX) identifies, evaluates, and grows the best ideas from local leaders and organizations to alleviate poverty and injustice around the world. IDEX supports community-led solutions that are making a huge difference for people living in extreme poverty. The initiatives come from people who want to create change for themselves. We provide the financial support.

Local leaders and community members do the rest. The work or our grantees typically integrate two or more of our core themes:

• Women’s Empowerment
• Building local economies
• Caring for the environment

For many of the communities IDEX supports, land, water, and seeds are central to their survival, livelihoods and health. Permaculture is part of the agroecological practices our partner organizations value and promote to secure sustainability of their community livelihoods.

Together with these themes, our partners and grantees work in ways that honor the rights of women, indigenous communities and other minorities, reflect economic, social, cultural, and political realities, and create solutions that have commitment from the grassroots.

Please tell us what the key principles are in sustainable agriculture?

Thanks to the learnings of our South African partners: Biowatch and Surplus People’s Project based in Durban and Cape Town respectively, they’ve shared with us the core principles of agroecology, which is the model for sustainable agriculture. All the following text comes from a three-day agroecology conference workshop organized by Surplus People’s Project, African Center for Biosafety and the Right to Agrarian Reform for Food Sovereignty Campaign.

Agroecology (AE) came about with the convergence of two scientific disciplines: agronomy (the study of soil management and crop production) and ecology (the study of the relationships between organisms and the environment). As a science, AE is the application of ecological science to the study, design and management of sustainable agro-ecosystems.

As a set of agricultural practices, AE seeks ways to enhance agricultural systems by mimicking natural processes, thus creating beneficial biological interactions and synergies between the components of the agro-ecosystem. It provides the most favorable soil conditions for plant growth, particularly by managing organic matter and by raising soil biotic activity.

Agroecology has the following core principles – it:

• Recycles nutrients and energy on the farm, rather than introducing external inputs;
• Integrates crops and livestock, because the one supports the other;
• Diversifies species and genetic resources in agro-ecosystems over time and space;
• Does not depend on a single crop;
• Does not use pesticides and fertilizers;
• Focuses on interactions and productivity across the agricultural system (every element, including soil, forest and livestock), rather than focusing on individual species; and
• Is highly knowledge-intensive, based on techniques that are developed from farmers’ knowledge and experimentation rather than delivered from the top down.

Agroecology as a basis for change – It is a counter movement to enable small-scale farmers and farm workers/ farm dwellers to take control of their natural resources and manage their environment in a sustainable way. It is viewed as an emancipatory political project based on social and economic justice, and rooted in ecologically sound practice.

Agroecology is not a one-size-fits-all approach – geographical and cultural diversity is important. Agroecology should be linked to broader social, political, cultural and economic transformation.”

Also see earlier post ……and the Echo Follows, Permaculture North and South


… and the echo follows, Permaculture North and South

Yesterday I attended a lecture in Atlanta  by author Nic Paget-Clarke. Nic’s new book entitled … and the echo follows was the basis of his lecture.  Both the book and the lecture explored the relationship between food and democracy. For over 15 years, Nic has been involved with farmers, peasants and farm collectives worldwide as the publisher of the web magazine, In Motion.  The book compiles photographs, stories, interviews and learnings gleaned from his work.

Democracy in its true sense allows people to collectively make decisions about the factors that affect their lives.  Nic has observed that people interested in achieving greater democracy were often involved in food production.  Both farmers and activists for democracy are concerned with the same three things, land, diversity and culture.

The book examines the contrast between 5  pairs of opposing global forces in pictures and through interviews:

  • Agribusiness and the Green Revolution vs Agroecology
  • “Free Trade” vs Food Sovereignty
  • Central Government Control vs Autonomy
  • Alienation vs Connection and Creativity
  • Vertical Integration vs Networks of People

Nic Paget-Clarke

Although Nic never used the term permaculture, much of his talk was about the global movement toward agroecology as a reaction to the negative impacts of agribusiness and the green revolution.

The technology he calls agroecology is very much akin to permaculture.  Before the lecture I had never heard the term before but since learned it is a science that applies ecological principles to food, fuel, fiber, and pharmaceuticals production. The system seems to be grounded in agronomy and focus on farm rather than household production.

Connections with the Permaculture Flower

In reviewing my notes on what he said and trying to think how I would connect his discussion to permaculture materials, I realized that the permaculture flower would be a good way to look at some of the concepts he presented.  According to the Permaculture Principles website:

(The permaculture flower illustrates that) the permaculture journey begins with the Ethics and Design Principles and moves through the key domains required to create a sustainable culture. The evolutionary spiral path connects these domains, initially at a personal and local level, and then proceeding to the collective and global level.

The key domains it names are:

  1. finance and economics
  2. health and spiritual well-being
  3. education and culture
  4. tools and technologies
  5. building
  6. land and nature stewardship
  7. land tenure and community governance

Holmgren has identified a few specific fields, design systems and solutions associated with each domain within the  wider view of permaculture.

Looking at them now, these  solutions are obviously those that the people of  Europe, North America and Australia primarily use. These are the parts of the world where permaculture seems to have been most strongly embraced up until now.

Nic’s presentation focused on domains 1, 3, 6 and 7 from the points of view of farmers and peasants in Africa, South America, central America and India as well as family farmers in North America. The strategies he covers in the book and their associated domains of influence are:

  • Opposition to so-called “fair trade” agreements and agroecological farming  – Domain 1 (finance and economics)
  •  Art and other creative culturally-based  strategies to combat alienation, the connection between food and culture and  equality of women – Domain 3 (education and culture)
  •  Seed saving and food sovereignty (Rather than growing an export crop for money and then buying imported food; the food you need to eat is grown locally.) – Domain 6 (land and nature stewardship)
  •  Agrarian reform, land ownership, local autonomy, cooperatives and networks – Domain 7 (land tenure and community governance)

As this blog continues I’m hoping it will continue to be a place to capture global permaculture strategies not just northern ones. Listening to Nic’s lecture let me know how much this permaculture movement (under whatever name you call it) is a global one . The forces, the effects of which are so clearly identifiable in the global South are also impacting us here in the North.  This book provides valuable food for thought as we all try to add permaculture to our lives.