“Permaculture is an ethical design science that mimics nature to supply all our human needs, whilst benefiting the environment,” Geof Lawton.
Permaculture is an evolution of consciousness, a journey that improves not only our relationship as humanity, but also guides us to live in harmony with the environment around us.
In short to improve the life of the earth and the life of the people.
The Permaculture concept created by Bill Mollison in the 70s is grounded on three ethics, care for the earth, care for the people and fair share.
To promote the set out principles, in transition from conventional agriculture to Permaculture, the Richmond Vale Academy offers a 72 (minimum) hour Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course, which is now accepted by universities around the world as credited.
The RVA explains the course syllabus, “The course covers sustainable living systems for a wide variety of landscapes and climates. It includes the application of permaculture principles to food production, home design and construction, energy conservation and generation, and explores the social and economic structures that support a culture that cares for the planet and all its inhabitants.”
In this article Shavorne Clarke, a graduate of the Richmond Vale Academy’s Permaculture Design Certificate course (2020), shares her story, including her passion as a climate change activist and journey into the heart of Africa to Malawi.
Clarke works in the division of sports and culture, “I normally work with grade k, grade 1, 5 and 6 - also doing after school sporting activities during the week and Saturday (on hold due to Covid-19). What I mostly do besides teaching the sport is that my team and I, teach them about soil erosion, deforestation, and pollution. Keeping the environment clean, backyard gardening, eating healthy local non organic produce. Managing such age groups isn't easy, yet the end is rewarding. What they learn, they take to the upper grades including secondary schools and their various homes.”
Clarke says of the PDC course, “It's an eye opener. It helps one to grow crops through out the year using different methods, such as the moon, month and the distance between each crop.” She explains the local dilemma, “The challenges of ensuring food sustainability in SVG are too much importation of various foods that can be grown locally, harmful chemicals and also deforestation.”
The adage “let your food be your medicine and your medicine become your food”, comes to life in Permaculture practise, as food becomes the real gateway to solving the world’s hunger and nutritional problems.
This is against a background of world bodies such as the UN warning in a report released last year, in which it raised alarm that, “undernourishment remains a global crisis with statistics of 690 million people in the world being undernourished in 2019 – that’s 8.9% of the world population.”
The report further stated,“this figure could exceed 840 million by 2030, if current trends continue. Factors increasing global hunger include economic slowdowns and extreme weather events.” The world body further warned that without efforts to reform global food systems, its target of zero hunger by 2030 will be missed.
Consequently, many young professionals like Clarke are designing their own home gardens and growing their own food with benefits that include diverse nutritional value, use of available resources and harnessing of local knowledge systems of their biodiversity.
“Right now school is out, however, I am trying to create a garden using some of what I learnt at PDC,”explains Clarke.
To live in a more sustainable way, Clarke is designing her own home garden, where she will plant a diversity of herbs, vegetables and fruit trees, “I am planting sweet peppers, lettuce, tomatoes. I am in the process of getting a few sweet potatoes, dasheen and plantain slips to plant.”
She further explains, “It also helps one to become an architect, in designing the map of the land (garden). It will become an outside lab that adds to the land in a positive way by following the principles of the PDC.”
Our food growing methods can also have a huge impact on climate change mitigation. Explains Clarke, “Climate change and food sustainability both have something in common. Climate change comes about when we don't take care of the earth. The weather patterns change, which have long term hazardous effects caused by man's experiments.
“Where as if we don't plant trees with strong roots using less harmful chemicals and pesticides, then food sustainability won't last long because of soil nutrients, such as the earth bugs would die out, leaving the soil loose, unhealthy and weak,” she warns.
Going further into her work as an activist, “the particular aspects of Climate Change that I have been engaged in is to encourage others to plant more trees with strong roots to replace those that have been cut down; this would help prevent soil erosion. Those trees provide more oxygen, home for birds, more shade and cool breezes.”
“My level of activism in trying to tackle food sustainability is by being an example. In the sense of planting plants for beautification and fruit trees such as pawpaw, avocado, sugar apples and mangoes, with strong roots to help prevent soil erosion. Also the making of beds to plant crops such as lettuce, celery, cabbage and the planting of other crops in open spaces.”
Clarke explains her trip to Malawi, one of the poorest countries. which suffered a high prevalence of HIV infections, necessitating a global response in support and solidarity.
“My purpose in Malawi was TCE “Total Control of the Epidemic”. My mission there was to see how best I could put what I learnt at RVA into motion by going to certain parts of the rural areas to show them how to use both male and female condoms, the importance of backyard gardening, proper nourishment and team building. How HIV/AIDS is transmitted and its treatment.”
However, something stood out. What I saw was nothing I ever encountered before. It was heart wrenching. Orphans (ages 3 to 5) sitting outside under a tree, in an open space on a bamboo mat being taught. Therefore, I took it upon myself with the permission from superiors to go ahead with my plans. To make a long, educated, adventurous, productive, and an exciting story short, a school was built with the roof being a polling with the colours of Malawi. The children were given exercise books, pencils, cups, spoons, plates, balls, story books, and a garden tin can to water their peanuts and corn gardens to use as an IGA to support the orphans who were cared for by the elders of the village.
Because of my experiences in Malawi and what was taught at RVA if any chance presents itself to go back there, I would go.”