The first thing we did after the pandemic reached our corner of the world was to take immediate care of all staff and students in the academy. But after a five weeks lockdown, adapting to the new situation we believe now is the time to take a look at all the Vincentians we work with in the communities.
Many of the potential effects and problems related with Covid-19 are impossible to predict, but this interruption of the “normal” everyday life has great potential because we pause and take time to consider. At the same time it is important to show people which are the most important values helping us to go through this life-threatening situation. Togetherness, community spirit, labor swap, and sharing – sharing knowledge, seeds, time and tools.
Maybe the society is ready to throw off the chains worn for many years, maybe people are ready to remove the earplugs and the eye masks, which they voluntarily put on, because they were falsely promised fortune and a life in heaven – a dream life showed on T V !
Eighty Home Gardens were created in the past two years and a half. All homeowners are considered our close community members/family; we worked directly with them, and our pedagogy was embraced in all of our interactions. Now it is time to go to them and show them that we care. We care about their feelings and their needs. We cannot help them with everything, but we can support them with positivism, plants, seeds, knowledge and inspiration.
"Share the surplus" is the third ethics of permaculture and exactly this style of farming is what we teach in our communities. Now we have the opportunity to speak not only about plants, but also about the importance of the locally produced food, about the dependency of outside imports and the beautiful reward of sharing with our neighbors.
We loaded the car with seedlings, and visited gardens in two of the neighboring villages. Eggplant, kale, peppers and herbs were some of the plants we delivered to the different households.
All people were very happy to see us and really wanted to hug us, so we needed to keep a distance from this type of affection. During our run we explained how much we wanted the same, but we shouldn’t, like we were old lovers. (In Saint Vincent it’s not announced as a stage of emergency and many people don’t follow the recommendations for physical distancing). They were smiling and we could continue with our talk.
The gardeners were showing us their gardens and asking us different questions from how to create the best conditions for growing eggplants to how long-time the lockdown would continue, and how worried we should be for our food supply. Some questions we could answer, some we couldn’t, but for sure we encouraged them to grow their own food, so they are not dependent on buying.
Viola was one of those who surprised us in the most – she didn’t want our plants, because her garden was fully planted, and new seedlings were already coming from her seed nursery table. She was one of those who didn’t have any farming experience before starting the program, and now she knew how to save seeds, how to set them in the nursery, how to mulch, prune, etc. She also started sharing the surplus she didn't need with her neighbors. She became one of those willing to help and spread the surplus and the necessary knowledge for a communal food growing system.
The action was very important for the community spirit and for the students who carried out the action. The community respond was great, even people who didn’t receive plants were thankful for the support.
The impact on the students' was tremendous as well, after this activity they started to think more about how we can support the gardeners and the food sovereignty of our communities.
Next action is already planned – we called the home gardens owners of two other villages and we asked them which questions they had and if they needed some of the seeds we had in excess.
The world is huge, and the help needed is everywhere. We need to work to secure a successful future for both our local and global community.
Producing our own food and moving away from supermarkets as much as possible is a respond to this pandemic from which we can benefit in the future.