Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Here in the wild lands

Hello all you wild and enthusiast Forward Farmers.

I have been a very bad blogger the last few months, as always time seems to gallop off towards the horizon, a thick dusty trail kicked up by the motion.

But here we are and with a new and exciting project at hand. At the end of March we bought a small piece of land in the mystic fertile village valley of Suurbraak, about twenty km’s from Swellendam along the N2. Suurbraak is not so well known, which is perfect for us mountain dwelling mush roomers, however it is easily accessed from the N2 or from the N1 through Barrydale and the Tradouws pass.

There are some wild ideas up on the drawing board for what we would like to manifest there over the next year. At present we have been staying in Cape Town doing the paper work to bring everything into place. One of the projects will be to restore and manage our plot and a large section of state land next door to us that has been left to be overcrowded with alien species. This obviously is a massive fire hazard, and so with intelligent wood lot management, alien clearing and restoration we hope to one day restore this small piece of earth back to a more natural state for the area. Much of the inspiration for our restoration techniques have come from our completely wild conservationist friend Patrick, who talks with so much experience and understanding for the restoration land process. He avoids using the term clearing as this often denotes how some folks have gone about mass exodus, poisoning and ripping up alien infested areas. Patrick’s stance is much more along the lines of Masanobu Fukuokas natural farming ideas and carefully looks at how natural eco-systems restore themselves.

Along with the restoration process Loki has put in hours of research time finding saplings that we can plant while we gently clear the plots. We have chosen Samgro in Wellington to buy our saplings from, they grow a wide range of indigenous tree species as well as fruit trees at a brilliant price per tree. So this is going to take some time we know, but we know that all those beautiful things we wish to see in the world sometimes take time to grow, and one day our forest will take care of us.

Loki also built for us a super avant-garde organic shack which served us very well in the warm months but will have to be insulated for the winter months, as Suurbraak in known to get very cold. Our plot is just in front of a beautiful waterfall that runs almost all year round and flows into an 18th century canal that borders our plots. Great for summer time swims and baths with the frogs.

Sending love and light to every corner of our beautiful planet, brothers and sisters. Here is the earth pray from the Bio-dynamic calendar for this week, I hope I don’t get into trouble for this but its so beautiful I think everyone should read it.
‘ The spirit-sun from the centre of my being is trying to break through the grey clouds of my dull senses; to free the forces of my soul that want to help to heal the circle of the people’.

Blessings Gervaise, Justin and Balu

Monday, 12 December 2011

Forward farming, an awakening adventure.

The momentum is gaining speed. The farming of naturally grown produce nationwide is kicking into gear, and in the cogs of this green wagon are some very inspiring stories and individuals.

 It’s not the peak oil crises or the rise in global temperatures, nor the unsecured seas of the stock market that rivals mankind’s biggest threat to date. Man can survive without money, without fashion and other frivolous material pleasures, but without food our species will fail to continue its existence on this planet. So how is natural farming in South Africa going to save us and how can we all contribute to the survival of our species?

For the last six months my partner and I have been travelling around South Africa, visiting and documenting Organic, permaculture and bio-dynamic farms. These farms are our bridge to a new agricultural era, to naturally grown, chemical free food.

 Since the Industrial Revolution, deforestation, tillage or ploughing, development of cities and highways, has left the arable soil on earth radically leached and disturbed. Only in the past twenty years have we witnessed an awakening of people conscious of this urgent state of the planet. It is no wonder then that any fertile soil left is the new black gold, and nations who have already exhausted their land resources, seek and are buying up massive areas of virgin soil in Africa and South America only to further the exploitation and destruction of industrial farming.

The world works on supply and demand, and so the more people support and buy naturally grown and produced goods, the more our limited resources will be protected. The more you buy locally grown produce, the less oil will be spent on transporting and packaging and the fresher your produce will be. Speaking to your super-market manager about supplying locally grown produce, is something all of us can do. The farms are already out there, growing quality food for you and your family, all you need do is ask.

 Another alternative to supporting naturally grown produce is to connect up to an vegatable box scheme in your area. A full box of delicious, fresh organic fruit and vegetables from local farms, sometimes containing a few extra treats and interesting recipes for some of the lesser known produce,  are available and delivered to a convenient location in your area. One of the nicest things about the pre-ordered vegetable boxes is that every week it is different and a surprise awaits you on delievery.

Local weekend farmers markets are great places to buy your produce from and supports the growers in your area. The markets usually have other pleasure to enjoy and makes for a fun family outing. This sort of support is possibly the most important change we can make as a society, and enable us to be more in touch with the food we eating.

Everyone is responsible. Everyone can contribute to a positive abundant outcome by making conscious descisions about where and how our food is grown.

Bon appetit and blessings on your food

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Artwell Chivinge talks to us about the youth and his relationship with nature.

An inspiring man by the name of Artwell Chivinge originally from Zimbabwe, shared with us his expansive knowledge of Home Food Security. Artwell speaks to us about youth involvement in agriculture and how growing up in rural Zimbabwe was his best teacher. Born to a family of rural farmers and brought up farming in a farming community, Artwell learnt the fine art of gardening organically as a very young child. He recollects his childhood with good memories of herding cattle and helping grow vegetables to make pocket money. He learnt how to harvest wild honey with his bare hands and observed from early on the importance of maintaining a healthy relationship with nature. In his community all of their vegetable, fruit and grain needs were taken care of by the community, only leaving the odd trip to the shop for salt and soap. Artwell learnt how to process their food, growing their maize and taking it to the mill, his family was always blessed with good fresh nutritious food. He grew up seeing his parents farming and understood that to eat they must work. It started as a hobby like playing but now he knows how crucial his understanding food security is. Artwells family grew their own sunflowers and processed them into oil, they grew groundnuts and turned it into peanut butter, His family was poor in one way, and very rich in other ways. He feels that it is a blessing they did not have money to buy fertilizers and had to really seek out the answers to good relations with nature from nature. Through this Artwell developed a great passion and dedication to caring for mother Earth.

 Artwell has gone on to become a lecturer for UNISA in their two new ‘House Hold Food Security’ course. He promotes home food security through talks and tours at his own urban dwelling. He dreams for a piece of land to do further training courses from, where he can teach the public with practical skills how to farm with nature not against her. He found moving to the city meant limited land, but this didn’t mean he was going to fold his hands. He is going forward and promoting urban agriculture, agriculture in whatever space you have. He has revolutionized the quaint apartment building he shares with his family of four and other tenants. Within the limited spaces of flower beds and using his imagination to turn any used container into a mini veg garden he manages to save up to R1900 on spinach in one year alone! In one small space he manages to grow onions, herbs, and his favourite variety of Zimbabwean spinach. Any empty containers do, he recycles all old milk and juice containers and uses them as growing pots. He keeps earth worms in a brilliant system of old car tyres and makes compost from all the tenants organic matter. He would like to take it further and create a living roof, but is restricted. Artwell also works for the Eastern Cape NGO Coalition, and spent time teaching in Tanzania about home food security. He wants his pupils to know that instead of focusing on the macro picture they can contribute to their own home food security in their own micro environments.

He speaks to us about over coming the obstacles of Youth and agriculture.

 The children need to be encouraged from early childhood. In the crèche and primary schools, they need to start becoming involved in a garden set up. This should be factored in to their curriculum so they can develop an interest from an small child that feeds into their teens. That interest can develop into a passion and or a understanding of nature and her abundance when managed in the right way. They can feel like they can make a real contribution to sustainable agriculture and if done in the right way through environmental clubs can further their knowledge and outreach. The incorporations of story telling, poems, plays and music can play a key factor in creating an interest in nature, and Artwell encourages parents to become involved in their children’s knowledge gardening. He says his parents were such a big influence in his relationship with growing food, and if children see their parents gardening they become interested and feel free to ask questions. There are plenty of fields for which aspiring youth can move into in a professional level, and so agriculture should be seen as a positive step towards a sustainable future. He says as a child he learnt to love and appreciate all the gifts the wild gave him, like honey and herbs, and edible plants. Where you destroy nature you destroy the bio diversity and life giving soils and so youth need to be encouraged and shown the gifts of nature.

Looking to Permaculture for sustainable solutions, and how small scale farming can save the world

   By Bill Mollison

When we design for permanence, we go generally toward forests,
permanent pastures, lakes and ponds, and non-tillage agriculture.
That is our business. Until we get more clues as to
what will be sustainable, that is what we have to play with.
Industrial water can be supplied from roofs. Settlements can
use that water. America is simply sort of tanks. Now there are
different sorts of tanks. One is the kind you put under the downspout
from the roof of your house. Tanks of another sort are
the cheap tanks - earth tanks. Absolutely no problem. Always
enough water for all our uses - fresh water, which we presently
let go into the sea.
We have three ways of water storage. We can store it in the
soils; we can store it in surface earth tanks, and we can store it
in sealed catchments. For an agricultural situation, we will use
the soils. For domestic situations, we will use earth tanks. They
are very much cheaper. For every 5,000 gallons we can store
in concrete tanks, we can store 250,000 in Earth tanks at the
same cost.
We have legal and financial strategies. We can convert locally
into far more self-reliant bioregions. The people who are doing
that are adding greenhouses to their houses and doing
their own gardening. There is an immense conversion going on.
That’s where we start, dealing with an acre.
Now the thing that we have ignored, not only turned our
backs on but often fled from, is conversion of high level investment
capital to these low energy systems. There are a whole
set of strategies to do so that we are assembling as an "Earth
banks" service. Some of these strategies will benefit our social
happiness as well.
The only way we can do things fast is by making the least
number of moves in the fastest possible time, and by very rapid
delegation of work to people. There is no hope that we can get
this done in the next five years if we keep it to ourselves. Therefore,
I have come here to break the monopoly of the elite alternative
in America. We have got to let experts loose on the
ground. We need hundreds and hundreds of them. We don’t
want at any time to patent anything or to keep any information
to ourselves, not even keep our jobs to ourselves. The time for
that is gone. What we are involved in is a cooperative, not a
competitive, system. There are a very few of us operating at
this end of the system, therefore we have to act in a very efficient
way in order to create the greatest amount of change in
the shortest period of time.
I think we have an ethic here: to stop admiring the people
who have money. There has to be a big ethical change. It is an
interesting time to be living in. The big twist we have to make is
away from our educational system. All the methodologies and
principles we use arose as a result of observation of natural
systems, and are stated in a passive way. The mind twist that
has to be made to create permaculture is to realize that you
can get hold of that and do it. We have to make our knowledge
active. We have to move from a passive to an active thought

" Agriculture is a destructive system."
What are the strategies by which we don’t need agriculture?
Agriculture is a destructive system. Well, we need a lot more
gardeners. Gardeners are the most productive, most hands-on
sort of agriculturists. They always have been. There never has
been any debate about it. When you make a farm big, you just
accept a suddenly lower productivity and yield, but less people
get it. That is why it is economically "efficient." When you talk
about efficient farming of this order, you are talking about dollars.
When you reduce the size of the owned landscape, providing
you don’t reduce the lots to less than a quarter of an
acre, the agricultural productivity goes up. You get a lot of arguments
to the effect that breaking up large farms into five acre
blocks is uneconomic. Five acre blocks are. One to onequarter
acre blocks are not. They are highly productive.
Now gardenersÉHow many gardeners are there in the United
States? Fifty-three percent of households now garden. They
garden only 600 square feet on the average. They make something
like $1.50 a square foot. These household gardens are
producing 18% of the food in the United States, at a value almost
equivalent to total agriculture.
Now let’s look at Russia. The peasant farmer, on a half-acre
to an acre, is producing some 84% of the food. The state
farms, which occupy most of the agricultural land, produce the
remainder. But the state farms are not doing their job. They
have a 6% deficit, which is shipped in from Canada or the United
States. The glamorous agriculture, the large scale, broad
scale agriculture, is not the agriculture that is producing the
We are now down to about 20 basic foods. The day of soybeans
is probably arriving. You can make just about anything
out of soybeans.

Control of Seeds

I don’t think that there are very many seed companies left in
the world that don’t belong to a consortium of not more than
10 companies. It is certainly true in Australia. The seed is now
being grown for and distributed by the multi-nationals. Can you
buy a non-hybrid corn in the United States? Here and there. In
Australia, we can’t. But we do have one seed company. It is
called Self-Reliance Seed Company in Stanley, Tasmania. Maybe
we have two.
[Self-Reliant Seeds is now defunct, but it was replaced by
Phoenix seeds, also of Tasmania. Ed.]
The next move of the large seed-growing consortiums was to
have been seed-patenting legislation. At this point, a lot of people
started to get a bit suspicious. The patenting of biological
materials was a slightly suspicious move. Then the World Council
of Churches looked into the situation and produced Seeds of the Earth
. The cat was out of the bag. So there has been a general
ground-level revolt against takeover of a basic resource.
Kent Whealy’s Seed Savers Exchange is just one of these
But one thing this may have taught is that you can’t run away
from systems. Holing up in two acres out in the New England
forests isn’t going to get you out of the system unless you are
into a seed-growing operation and know exactly what you’re doing.
Most people do not. If you are training yourself to be a good
gardener, there are still certain areas you just haven’t got into,
and seed growing is one of them. In one valley in Tasmania,
among a group of hippies living there, you might find 50 Ph.D.s.
Most of them are sitting home knitting or weaving or running
around getting blackberries, just leaving it to the really ruthless
people to get on with what they are doing. We must involve all
our skills to organize life forces, not just a few.
In the permaculture garden, we must deal with the question
of ways in which elements are to be placed. Some of these elements
are manurial or energy-exchange systems for other elements;
others are defensive elements that protect other plants
in a whole set of ways; and some act as trellis systems for others
or provide shade. So there are physical relationships involved
and there are whole sets of rules that govern why certain
elements are put together. And we understand some of
these rules. A lot of them are quite obvious.

Resource management One: A look at resource realities from 1981

Bill Mollison lays it out clearly to a group of young Americans, on his introduction to permaculture course.

THE TERRIBLE TIME OF DAY, By Bill Mollison 1981

I don’t think anybody has summarized what is happening on
the face of the Earth.
In order to change our ways, we seem to need to terrify ourselves,
anticipating tidal waves and catastrophes. Now those
things may come off, and the San Andreas fault may shift. But
we can’t do much about that. What is really happening is something
for which we, as human beings, are personally responsible.
It is very general. Almost everything we say applies everywhere.
The real systems that are beginning to fail are the soils, forests,
the atmosphere, and nutrient cycles. It is we who are responsible
for that. We haven’t evolved anywhere in the west
(and I doubt very much elsewhere except in tribal areas) any
sustainable systems in agriculture or forestry. We don’t have
a system. Let’s look at what is happening.


Forests have been found to be far more important in the oxygen
cycle than we ever suspected. We used to think oceans
were the most important element. They are not. Not only are
they not very important, contributing probably less than 8% of
the oxygen in atmospheric recycling, but many are beginning to
be oxygen-consuming. If we release much more mercury into
the seas, the ocean will be oxygen-consuming. The balance is
changing. Therefore, it is mainly the forests that we depend on
to preserve us from anarchic condition.
Of the forests, some are critically important, like the evergreen
forests, of which there are two extensive systems. One is
equatorial, multispecies; and the other, cool evergreen forests
of the Russian tundra and the southern evergreen forests.
Rain forests are critically important in the oxygen cycle, and in
atmospheric stability.
The forests also provide a very large amount of our precipitation.
When you cut the forest from ridges, you can observe the
rainfall itself fall between 10% and 30%, which you could probably
tolerate. What you dont see happen is that precipitation
may fall over 86%, the rainfall being only a small fraction of the
total precipitation. It is quite possible on quiet, clear nights with
no cloud, no rainfall recorded anywhere on any gauges, to have
a major precipitation in forest systems. It is particularly true of
maritime climates. But it is also true of all climates. Therefore
it is possible to very rapidly produce semi-desert conditions simply
by clearing trees from ridge top. This is being done at a
great rate.
It is the character of forests to moderate everything. Forests
moderate excessive cold and heat, excessive run-off, excessive
pollution. As forests are removed, immoderate extremes arrive.
And of course, it is the forests that create soils. Forests
are one of very few soil-creating systems.
What is happening to forests? We use a great many forest
products in a very temporary way - paper and particularly newspaper.
The demand has become excessive. At present, we are
cutting one million hectares per annum in excess of planting.
But in any one month, that can rapidly change. Last month, for
instance, that doubled because of clearing of the Mississippi
bottom land forests for soy beans.
Of all the forests that we ever had, as little as 2% remain in
Europe. I don’t think there is a tree in Europe that doesn’t exist
because of the tolerance of man or that hasn’t been planted by
man. There is no such thing as a primeval European forests. As
little as 8% remain in South America. And 15%, I think, is a general
figure in other areas. So we have already destroyed the
majority of forests, and we are working on a rather minor remnant.
Cutting rates vary, depending on the management practices.
But in general, even in the best managed forests, we
have a constant loss of 4%, giving 25 more years to go. But in
fact, what we observe throughout Southwest Asia and in South
America, and throughout the Third World, and wherever multinationals
can obtain ownership of forests in the Western
world, is about 100% loss. It is a "cut and run" system.
We have long been lulled into a very false sense of security
by reassurances that the logging companies are planting eight
trees for a tree cut. What we are really interested in is biomass.
When you take something out of the forest in excess of
150 tons and put something back which doesn’t weigh much
more than 10 ounces, you are not in any way preserving biomass.
What are the uses to which we put forests? The major uses
are as newsprint and packaging material. Even the few remaining
primeval forests are being cut for this. Forests that had
never seen the footsteps of man, that had never experienced
any human interference, are being cut for newsprint. Those are
forests in which the trees may be 200 feet to the first branch,
gigantic cathedrals. They are being chipped. There are trees in
Tasmania much taller than your redwoods. These are being cut
and shipped out as chips. So, for the most part, we are degrading
the primeval forests to the lowest possible use.
That has effects at the other end of the system. Waste products
from forests are killing large areas of the sea. The main
reason why the Baltic and Mediterranean and the coast off
New York have become oxygen-consuming is that we are carpeting
the sea bottom with forest products. There are, broadly
speaking, about 12,000 billion tons of carbon dioxide being released
annually by the death of forests. We are dependant on
the forests to lock up the carbon dioxide. In destroying forests,
we are destroying the system which should be helping us. We
are working on a remnant of the system. It is the last remnant
which is being eroded.


The effects of this on world climate are becoming apparent
both in the composition of the atmosphere and in the inability
of the atmosphere to buffer changes. In any month now, we will
break the world weather records in some way. In my home
town, we are very isolated and buffered by ocean and forest.
But we had in succession the windiest, the driest, and the wettest
month in history, in two hundred years of recording. So
really what’s happening in the world climate is not that it is
tending toward the greenhouse effect; it is not that it is tending
toward the ice age; it is starting now to fluctuate so wildly
that it is totally unpredictable as to which heat barrier you will
crack. But when you crack it, you will crack it an an extreme
and you will crack it very suddenly. It will be a sudden change.
Until then, we will experience immense variability in climate.
That is what is happening.
We can just go cutting along, and in maybe twelve more
years we won’t have any forests.
There is still another factor. It would be bad enough if it were
just our cutting that is killing forests. But since the 1920’s, and
with increasing frequency, we have been loosing species from
forest to a whole succession of pathogens. It started with
things like chestnut blight. Chestnuts were 80% of the forests
that they occupied. So a single species dropping out may represent
enormous biomass, enormous biological reserve, and a
very important tree. Richard St. Barbe Baker pointed out that
the trees that are going are those with the greatest leaf area
per unit. First chestnuts, with maybe sixty acres of leaf area
per tree. Then the elms, running at about forty. Now the beeches
are going, and the oaks, the eucalypts in Australia and Tasmania.
Even the needle leaf trees in Japan are failing. The Japanese
coniferous forests are going at a fantastic rate. So are
the Canadian shield forests and the Russian forests.

The Phasmid Conspiracy

Now we come to a thing called the phasmid conspiracy.
Each forest varies in each country in that its elms, its chestnuts,
its poplars, its firs, are subject to attack by specific pathogens.
Insects are taking some sort of cauterizing measures.
The American reaction would be to spray; the British reaction
would be to fell and burn; and in Australia, the reaction is to
say: "Aah, what the Hell! It’s going to be gone next year; let it

Really, is it these diseases? What are the diseases? Phasmids
are responsible for the death of eucalypts. There is the
cinnamon fungus. In elms, it’s the Dutch elm disease. In the
poplars, it’s the rust. And in the firs, it’s also rust. Do you think
that any of these diseases are killing the forest?
What I think we are looking at is a carcass. The forest is a
dying system on which the decomposers are beginning to feed.
If you know forests very well, you know that you can go out this
morning and strike a tree with an axe. That’s it. Or touch it with
the edge of a bulldozer, or bump it with your car. Then, if you sit
patiently by that tree, within three days you will see that maybe
twenty insects and other decomposers and "pests" have visited
the injury. The tree is already doomed. What attracts them is
the smell from the dying tree. We have noticed that in Australia.
Just injure trees to see what happens. The phasmids come.
The phasmid detects the smell of this. The tree has become its
food tree, and it comes to feed.
So insects are not the cause of the death of forests. The
cause of the death of forests is multiple insult. We point to
some bug and say: "That bug did it." It is much better if you can
blame somebody else. You all know that. So we blame the bug.
It is a conspiracy, really, to blame the bugs. But the real reason
the trees are failing is that there have been profound changes
in the amount of light penetrating the forest, in pollutants, and
in acid rain fallout. People, not bugs, are killing the forests

As far as we can make out, we have lost 50% of the soils we
have ever had before 1950. We have been measuring pretty
well since 1950. And we have lost another 30% of the soils
that remain. Now this is as true of the Third World as it is in
the Western World.
The rate at which soils are created is at about four tons per
annum per acre - much less in dry areas. Soils are created by
the fall of rain and the action of plants. The rate varies. In the
desert, they are being created at a much lesser rate. But in
these humid climates, at about four tons per acre. If you don’t
loose any more than four tons of soil per acre per annum, you
are on a break-even.
But let us look at the usual thing. In Australia, we lose about
27 tons of soil per cultivated acre per annum. You do a lot better
than that in America, however. Where you grow corn, you
can loose as much as 400 tons per acre per annum. While the
average may be twenty, it will go as high as 400 or 500 tons.
So we are not doing too well. In Canada, they are measuring
the humus loss, and that is about the same. There, they are
running out of humus. In the prairies, where they started with
good humic soils, they are now down to a mineral soil base.
Here is something that should be of interest to each of us.
For every head of population - whether you are an American or
an East Indian - if you are a grain eater, it now costs about 12
tons of soil per person per year for us to eat grain. All this loss
is a result of tillage. As long as you are tilling, you are losing. At
the rate at which we are losing soils, we don’t see that we will
have agricultural soils within a decade.
Apart from the soils that we lose directly by tillage, we are
losing enormous quantities of soils to what is called desertification.
In the state of Victoria, in Australia, we lose 800,000
acres this year to salt. That means not only a loss of soils
which are tilled, but also a loss of the soils that we don’t till.

Deforestation Causes Soil Loss

Now the main reason for disappearance of soils is the
cutting of forest. And almost always the cutting of the forest is
remote from where the soil is lost. That is, you can do nothing if
your soil starts to turn salty here, because the reason lies way
up the watershed, maybe a thousand miles away. We are now
starting to get soil salting in humid climates in Australia. It is
becoming a "factor out of place." It is no longer only occurring
in deserts. It occurs in quite humid, winter-wet climates. How
did this happen?
It is not a simple process, but it is easily understood. The
rain, as it falls on hills and penetrates forests, has a net downward
transfer. If we remove forests, we now have a net evaporation
loss. Forests transmit clean water downward, and they
release clean water into the atmosphere. This net downward
transfer carries with it the salts which are an inevitable part of
that additional four tons of soil per acre which is produced
from breakdown of rocks. These salts normally travel on out in
deep leads. They are not surface systems. Fresh water runs
from the surface and soaks down. Even in humid climates, we
have much saltier water at depth than we have on the surface.
This is because the trees act as pumps to keep the leads low.
If we cut the trees down, the deep leads rise at a measurable
rate, and they are rising measurably across enormous areas
in America, Africa and Australia. When they are up to about
three feet below the surface, the trees start to die of "phasmids."
And when they are up to about 18 inches below the surface,
other crops start to die. When they reach the surface,
they evaporate and the soil visibly goes to salt. Then the Australian
government starts providing free pumps to farmers and
they start pumping out the salt water. Where can they discard
the water they pump out? Big problem!
The next step is to have concrete delivered, so now water diverted
from the rivers soaks into the soil while they are pumping
the salt water off to the sea. And they have to be doing that
forever. You now want a thousand thousand pumps. At the
same time that the government is supplying pumps to farmers,
it is leasing additional wood-chipping licenses to the multinationals,
who are doing very well. They are selling pumps on one
hand and wood chips on the other. It is a happy circumstance
for some people, but a catastrophe for the Earth.
Most people, however, aren’t doing very well at all. So we are
losing soils and increasing desert at a simply terrifying rate.
And that is without any plowing for agriculture. You ask if the
analysts of the multinational firms are aware of these problems?
No, they have degrees in economics and business management
and all sorts of irrelevant areas.
Mining is also a major factor in salting on a local basis, and
has accounted on its own for the loss of whole hardwood forests
in areas of Western Australia and no doubt elsewhere.
Mining brings up a lot of residues which are evaporated on the

Highways, Cities and Wells

The largest single factor in Britain causing loss of soils is the
construction of highways. It is also a major factor in America. In
Britain, I think that there is a mile of highway for every square
mile of surface. And highways are being rapidly extended on the
supposition that you will never need the soil and that highways
will enable you to increase energy use. Highways account for
the permanent loss of soils, as do cities.
Cities are located on the 11% of very good soils of the Earth.
Canada is an interesting example, where cities are liable to
obliterate the top quality soils, without any other factor, and in
this decade, leaving agriculturalists to move on to less sustainable
situations. At the same time, we are calling for at least sustained
production, and in some cases an increase of production,
on the soils that remain. As the loss of agricultural soils is
largely due to the excess application of energy - mechanical energy
and also chemical energy - then the fact that we are attempting
to sustain productivity on the remaining soils means
that the rate of loss must increase due to the fact that we use
more and more energy on less and less surface.
Other factors work for loss of soils. In the arid southwest of
this country, there is a sort of cut and run agriculture in which
you sink a bore [drill a well] and pump up semi-saline water to
annual cultivated crop. You keep this up for four years. By then
the surface is heavily mineralized and you must seek another
area and sink another bore, which results in a sort of carpeting
destruction. You can see it. There are two or three good years,
then returns fall below economic level. The soils are usually
glued together with carbonates and they give up. pH rises by
about two points per annum. You might start at pH 8 and rapidly
go to pH 11. It is then that you pull out.
PDC Pamphlet I, An Introduction to Permaculture, Page 4
We look now at wind deflection of soils. This has brought
about failure of the inland soils in America. There are soils blowing
out to Los Angeles and falling as red rain. Soils from Central
Australia marginal areas fall on the cities as a sort of finely
diluted mud, measurable at 12 tons per acre per day. Wind is
a major factor in soil loss. The drier it gets, the more wind becomes
the factor that we look to.
We don’t have to look any further than the soil, or any further
than the forest, to see a finite world. I think we can say
with confidence that we don’t have a sustainable agriculture
anywhere in the world, or a sustainable forestry.


Let us move now to water. Even a decade ago, somebody
said that water would become the world’s rarest mineral. The
water table everywhere is now falling rapidly. These are very ancient
systems we are playing with. Many of them are about
40,000 years in evolution. No longer is there any way you can
get cheap surface water. If you could, Los Angeles would buy it
and use it. A major factor in this is the way we seal everything
over in cities and towns. We don’t get any recharge of soil water.
We seal over huge areas with highways. We don’t return
water to the water table at all. As soon as water is in a river or
creek it is gone. It is on its way to the sea, or it is evaporated on
the desert salt pan. The flowing river is not really a very useful
thing. It is on the way out.
There are two very critical areas for water. One is within cities.
The other is on the edge of deserts. Both are running into
real trouble. Encroaching deserts are killing some millions of
people now in Africa. It is visible from the air as migrations of
herds and people out of the Sahara.
One of the dangers has been the long term disposal of atomic
waste in the deep waters. Some of these are beginning to
seep through the Sacramento Valley. You had better start
counting the radioactivity coming in the water table in Maine,
New Jersey and California, and, I have an idea, in lots of other
places as well.
Industry has simply used deep bores to put dangerous
wastes into the water table with the result that large areas of
this water table have become unpotable. I think Boston has
ceased to use its ground water. And you’ll never be able to use
it again. There will be no way you will ever clean that foul water.
In many towns and cities now, water is running at 700 parts
per million dissolved salts, which is at about the limit of the tolerance
of the human kidney. At 1100 parts per million, you
would experience fainting, accumulation of water in the tissues,
all sorts of problems. Most deaths from that commonly occur
in the cities, in Perth and Adelaide in Australia, in Los Angeles.
In all these areas, perhaps, we shouldn’t be using water for
drinking. It’s ok to shower in, although in Atlanta, the chlorine
alone almost asphyxiates you when you shower. PCB’s are a
cause of sterility. I think about 20% of American males are now
sterile by age 20.
The fact that water is becoming a scarce resource is manifestly
ridiculous, because roughly half a million gallons fall on
this roof right here annually. But you could be very short of water
here soon unless you build tanks or surface storages to
catch the water.
Now, of course the loss of trees has a pronounced effect on
this increased scarcity of water in cycle. The water is not cycling.
We are losing water on the surface of the Earth. I think
that 97% of water is locked up at all times and only 3% goes
into any cycling at all. We are reducing that very rapidly.
There are yet other factors. There is industrial pollution.
There is a desperate scramble for energy sources, whether
they are wood, coal, oil or atomic power. These are all really
dangerous things to use in terms of the general life system.
We are going toward real trouble. The danger is mainly in the
end result - what comes out of the process, what goes up the
chimneys. But in the case of wood, it is also the fact that you
destroy a tree.

By Bill Mollison - An Introduction to Permaculture

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Youth and sustainable agriculture

Lilifontein school permaculture project, Cinsta.

 Youth and agriculture

Our friend Kerry, knowing what she did about perm culture and having made contact with a local school in her area decided to set about establishing a perm culture garden at the school. Lilifontein school cinsta, is known to be quite forward and innovative in  extra activities provided by the school for the children. One of these extra innovative activities is spending time with Kerry in her on site perm culture garden, and getting in touch with ground issues.

This is one of the first main stream schools that I’ve heard of that offers anything remotely to do with practical sustainable agriculture. This for Kerry was one of her greatest reasons for starting the project, that and a love for nature and care for the earth. Once a week for a period of about forty five minutes to an hour, the learners from their respective grades go to join Kerry in her garden, and learn about the sustainable agricultural practices of permaculture gardening.

Permaculture is not just about gardening and growing plants and food. Its about growing sustainable futures for whole communities through environmentally conscious design principles. Implemented in housing designs, in zones incorporating large scale farms to small apartment balconies. Permaculture is the solution to so many issues that we inhabitants of mother earth seek answers too. In this thriving school in Eastern Cape, learners are being taught the answers to a sustainable future.

What the children learn in these short periods with Kerry is invaluable skills and information, practical and theoretical knowledge of how to create and sustain their own food, income and livelihood. To grow food organically without pesticides or petrol chemicals you need a good understanding of the soil and earth organisms that you working with. This is where your biology comes in, for the understanding of the earthworms to the millions of microbial organisms and how they function in their environment is how good healthy food is grown. Geographically one needs observe the soil structure, feel whether its clay, sand or silt and then work with your biological understanding to create the optimum environment for your produce. Geographical knowledge teaches the know how of site mapping, working out co-ordinates for designs with relation to weather patterns, gradients and seasons. Maths for technical proportions, art for ascetics, history for past crops grown in the area and ground economic skills for transporting your produce from earth to plate.

This is just a basic idea of how fundamental sustainable agriculture can be to an aspiring school and innovative learners concerned with their environment. What’s surprising is that most people seem to think agriculture is not an art, or not a science and perhaps herein lies the crises with modern day agriculture. Over the last sixty years the injection of black gold or oil has transformed small scale hands on and family run farming into machine driven, oil guzzling agricultural industry.  It has created a great separation between the earth and the eater. The oil is rapidly running out, and our consuming ignorance about this limited resource is fast becoming apparent. We have grown such a dependency on oil that without it, life as we know it would be unrecognizable.

At Lilifontein school they have seen the importance of teaching the children the skills they need to learn today to save tomorrow. The model set up at the school is simple and almost all of the resources needed to set up the garden have been donated by parents or sourced free from the surrounding farms and area.

After the garden is designed, created and planted, the produce grown can be used by the children or sold for income. A small turn over of capital would be used to buy more seeds, tools or build a small chicken coup or stall from which the daily traffic of parents could purchase fresh organic vegetables and eggs grown and supplied by their children. The turn over of a school stall would benefit learners interested in economics and business, and budding entrapaneurs could fine tune their ideas with social market days and home made products like jams and dried fruits. All these elements of a communal school garden encourage a sense of community and bring people together.

These are simple skills all people benefit from. Real skills to provide them with the tools they need to live in a healthy society. Empowering them with the knowledge they need to fulfil their most important needs as people. Shelter, that is consciously designed to be integrated harmoniously in nature, good food and a healthy society, to share, work and live in. All these needs should be normal agenda for children to grow up learning, if not taught by their parents, then the institutions we call schools. With these skills people would never feel they could not feed themselves, house themselves and live in a sense of community with others and nature. Nature is abundant, and there is more than enough for everyone, provided the right attitude and management of the earth is encouraged through projects such as these.

Kerry’s work is a shining example of how we can make positive and necessary changes in our schooling systems. Changes that will benefit not only the learners, but the future generations and our home, planet Earth.

It’s a great job to have at the school, and Kerry would love the help of any interested parents to join her in furthering the school permaculture project. Any parent or interested teacher could start a project like this at any school. Good luck and green on!

The Garden of Plenty

“The sun never sets on your work, and every hour of the day we are on the line with our bodies. Take heart, you are never alone, and you are building. Every week, there are more permaculture courses than I have given in my life time; you have made me irrelevant and for that I am grateful.

If you keep teaching, as you have been, your numbers will grow exponentially, and you will be a force in all areas of life. A force for common sense, goodwill, humane value, positive solutions, earth care. It is the only thing in life worth doing; all else is worthless. As you go to sleep every night, think of your friends, who may just be waking up; as I often think of you. When at times, you are impeded, frustrated, or seem to be getting nowhere, remember at the same time many of us are advancing elsewhere. In total, we always advance, always learn.

Many of us are academics, many of us are tribal. As a group, we stand as translators between modern and traditional knowledge, and combine both. Value all cultures and languages, they encode the memories and values of all people. Our strength lies in our unique attributes, joined by our shared values. We are of equal value between ourselves, deserve equal respect.

Words by Bill Mollison, from his autobiography ‘Travels in Dreams’

Just recently I started reading Bill Mollisons autobiography. It has been so inspiring, and given me even more enthusiasm, even more compost atop our forest of dreams in fruit trees. Ever day Justin and I wake facing the rising sun, up we get to go replant the Garden of Eden.

We have been super busy the last while, its left me little chance to up date our forward farming blog, so I felt with so much going on it would be great to catch up with everyone.

About three weeks ago we starting planting a food forest in Hogsback, Eastern Cape. Still breaking out the back door of winter, we have had to contend with some heavy frosts, strong winds and a few freezing nights. The farm is a back packers called Terra-khaya, and the owner Shane was inspired to go ahead with the food forest after meeting us in July and watching a Jeff Lawton DVD on growing a food forest.

So with over 150 fruit and indigenous trees and other plants to go in a space of 35 meters squared, on a steep cleared slope on the side of a heavily invaded black wattle forest, we have our work cut out for us. And what wonderful work it is, and what an incredible place to be planting our first (of many) food forests. Loki went to Queenstown to collect most of the fruit trees, apple, pear, apricot, quince, mulberry, figs, peach, almond, young berries, goose berries, plum, pomegranate, chestnuts, along with a magical melange of flowers, groundcovers like mint, geraniums, cow peas and creepers, shrubs and herbs!

We have been super blessed to have the help of two of Shane’s staff, Patrick and Jacob, they have been amazing in landscaping and shaping the slope. Giving us some more muscle to move and create this amazing space. We are so high up here surrounded by the formidable Amatole mountains, that some days we become completely engulfed in clouds, and it seems as if we are in a space less cottony white world.

Before coming here we had the privilege to meet a really inspiring lady named Kerry and her beautiful blue eyed baby boy named blade. Kerry has spent the last while teaching permaculture at a local school in Cinsta, near East London. She has created a garden in the school grounds where the children can come and learn about permaculture. This could be the most valuable thing they learning in school. From the ground all the way to the market environment. This ideal system encompasses such a diversity of life skills, from sustainable agriculture to commerce and trading, Its surprising that not all schools have a small model garden to learn from.

We are so happy to be able to do this project, to learn and to teach and share what we know. Hope everyone is well and continuing to explore what we have been shown.

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Love and light

Gervaise, Justin and Baloo