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Convergence Day 2

Wadi Rum, Jordan

© Christopher List Photography

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Day 2 dawned and I spent my breakfast chatting to a likeminded Brazilian cacao farmer, who lives on an eco-village community, has his own food forest and wakes up every morning with a swim at the beach! Talk about an idyllic life, one I’d love to have!

Maarten Stapper: Agriculture and Technology is stuck in a rut

Then onwards to the next set of presentations, beginning with Maarten Stapper's convincing presentation Agriculture and Technology is stuck in a rut. Martin Stapper


Watch the excellent video recording below to find out more.

Ted Bonner: Weaving a Moral Ecology - the story of Ayouba

Ted Bonner’s Weaving a Moral Ecology - The Story of Ayouba (click the link to download the 3mb pdf) then took place and we learnt about the difference between ethics, morals and principles, covering some of the principles of permaculture.

Ted covered some of the history of America, with its history of bloodshed, slavery, ethnic cleansing and human rights abuses, before bringing us to Africa’s Liberia (whose name means Liberty). We discover that America took a piece of land from the native people, created and sent freed slaves back to Africa to live there. This process set off 133 years of problems.

Today, this country of Liberty has accumulated some dubious global rankings, including the fact that 80% of Liberia’s people live below the poverty line, the country receives the 3rd largest foreign aid as a percentage of Gross National Income (GNI), it has the 3rd highest adolescent birth rate, 3rd highest intestinal diseases death rate, 4th highest infant mortality rate and the 3rd lowest GDP.

It is also rated the worst country to live in as a child, with rape as common as child soldiers.

We then heard the story of Ayouba Kamara, a 32 year old Mandingo Muslim who volunteered at Everyday Ghandi’s for 18 months to learn permaculture.

Ayouba, a Mandingo, worked side by side with Lorma’s (warring tribes in Liberia) in the gardens of Everyday Ghandi’s. The Everyday Ghandi’s compound in Voinjama - Liberia’s first demonstration site, provided the space where warring groups could slowly and safely increase their trust.

Everyday Ghandi’s also rehabilitates child soldiers with a programme called Future Guardian’s of Peace, where these children work in exchange for schooling, a loving home, and photography training enabling them to document their own and each other’s healing and to appreciate nature by seeing deeply.

Ted warns that one should never plan or insist on what must be done. He calls this 'symbolic violence', disempowering the very people we are trying to help by our actions. Rather we must let the community decide - listening, hoping, and helping where we can.

He quotes Nell Noddings:

“[Caring] is that condition towards which we long and strive, and it is our longing for caring that provides us the motivation for us to be moral.”

Narsanna Koppula's Tribal Women in Permaculture

I then attended Narsanna Koppula’s Tribal Women in Permaculture presentation. Narsanna told us about Permaculture, India and the work they are doing.

He began with the statement: “5000 women make a faster and better swale than a bulldozer”. He’s planted 1 million mango trees, still fruiting after 16 years, has worked in 75 villages and worked with 5000 women farmers. Perhaps Narsanna’s most fitting quote for the sceptical world we live in is “Learn by doing, believe by seeing”.

Bill Mollison and Narsanna met in 1987, and planted banana circles for the global gardener documentary, the first to bring together various countries.

He tells us a bit about working in India, where farmers have about 0.5 hectares for a family of five, while some farms are 10, 000 hectares. Women in India store seeds in their homes, sell or trade them within the community. Some of the issues include limited water - in Pradesh he works with women who harvest water from rock.

He tells us about working with banyan trees which have edible flowers, planting multi-functional leguminous plants, using rainwater harvesting, soil conservation, enhancing tree cover, biomass generation, recycling, organic wastes, composting and mulching.

Song is used to spread knowledge or ask for volunteers.

Narsanna tells us that every house has a vegetable garden (Gangamma’s Mandala beds) growing papaya, citrus, mango and marinaga trees while tree-based farming is used in tribal farmers lands.

Practices such as biodiversity, rainfed agriculture, rice intensification, cow-based farming, nutrition plantations, live hedge planting, agro forestry and companion planting, vegetable gardens and nurseries as well as intercropping, saving seeds, water resource management and encouraging sustainable livelihoods with pisciculture (fish farming) and horticulture ensuring food security far into the future.

Narsanna believes that not even one speck of land should be barren - your soil is your food security!

Bill interjects with characteristic bluntness: “People say we should ask the government what to do. We in permaculture say that the government can’t feed themselves or us”.

Narsanna also told us a little bit about Permaculture India’s future plans including an increased focus on women and children. We need to provide safe food that is organic, as well as provide food security, he says. Intensifying the natural resource based livelihood issential, he continues, and we are planning an e-based networking project for the large-scale dissemination of permaculture.

“The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own children”.

Bill Mollison, Narsanna Koppula

© Christopher List Photography

Cathe Fish: Functional, Sustainable Kitchens

After Narsanna’s inspiring presentation I decided to attend Cathe Fish’s presentation on functional, sustainable kitchens (click link to download the 21.5mb PDF). If you’ve ever wondered about solar ovens, how to make one, whether they work or what kind of food cooks best, you’ve got to check out her presentation.

She started out by outlining some facts including that two billion people rely on wood for their daily cooking fuel. Some of the issues surrounding this are that women walk great distances to collect wood, and cannot walk alone because of widespread rapes.

More than two million people die every year from smoke, more than from malaria and tuberculosis combined, and nearly as many as from HIV. Children also walk for wood and water, sometimes up to seven hours a day.

A simple solutions is functional, sustainable kitchens, where the sun’s energy is used to cook food - keeping the house cool in summer, resulting in tastier and nutrient dense foods. She introduced us to Barbara Kerr and Sherry Cole - founders of Solar Cooking International, whose solar cooking tips and ovens have inspired people around the world.

Taking us through some of the models used in destinations around the world, Cathe also gave us the link where we can learn to build our own!

From rocket stoves and hayboxes to the eco-friendly justa stove, Cathe compared the advantages and disadvantages of each method, and even introduced us to solar water distillation and fridges running off solar energy.

We discovered natural refrigeration methods used by our ancestors, food preservation methods, and even innovative recycling methods used in the garden. All in all, a presentation well worth attending.

Ryan Harb: Permaculture at US Universities - UMass Amerherst Case Study

Ryan Harb, Umass Amerherst

Meanwhile, Ryan Harb gave his presentation on Permaculture at US Universities: UMass Amerherst Case Study.

The Chief Sustainability Specialist at UMass Amerherst, Ryan facilitated one of the first student-led permaculture gardens, converting traditional grass lawns into productive, edible, educational and ecologically-designed landscapes.

Ryan was recently honoured by the White House as a Champion of Change for his work at UMass.

© Christopher List Photography

Find out more about Ryan's work by watching the video below!


You can also download the presentation - Permaculture at UMass Amherst and other U.S. universities (click the link to download the 4.9mb PDF).

Roberto Perez: Cuba, from collapse towards sustainability - the evolution of Agriculture

Roberto Perez’s presentation then began, entitled Cuba, from collapse towards sustainability: Evolution of Agriculture (click to download the 8.8mb PDF).

Roberto Perez

Roberto, always an inspiring, passionate speaker, took us through the history of Cuba, and some of the issues the country faced.

These included a high dependence on external inputs (fuel, machinery, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, long distance transportation, increased urbanisation, deforestation and land degradation, and a disturbing reliance on imported food (more than 70% of food supply imported).

© Christopher List Photography

With the collapse of the East Block, Cuba was faced with a sudden reduction of purchasing capacity, fertiliser imports, pesticides, animal food, export market, sugar price, oil and GDP, resulting in a crisis that had far-reaching implications.

Luckily for Cuba, these proved to be to the country’s benefit. The government and the people pulled together with free farmers markets, urban agriculture, redistribution of land, while other measures included decentralisation, self-employment and double currency.

Of course, permaculture had a large role to play. Today, Cuba has trained more than 800 people, hosts over 100 demo sites in 6 provinces, has over 170 trained trainers, published many books, publications and videos and has over 350 permaculture designers in the country. Cuba has its own eco-village and offers an accredited permaculture design course. Of course, Cuba will also host the IPC13 in two years time!

Roberto took us through some of the challenges for Cuban agriculture, concluding with the quote:

Over the last 20 years, Cuban Agriculture proves that is possible to have a multistakeholders Agricultural System that can sustainably produce food for millions, satisfying basic human needs, is not profit-based and is environmentally friendly.

Scott Pittman: The Elephant in the Room

I also attended Scott Pittman’s intriguingly named presentation, entitled “The Elephant in the Room”.

Scott Pittman

Scott talked about the need for a unifying Permaculture Design Course, and the need the permaculture code of ethics to be applied thoroughout the world: care of the earth, care of the people and fair share, which means the return of all surplus things.

I was thrilled to discover that Scott believes (and practices) that permaculture teachers should allow anyone who has attended a design course to gain a deeper understanding of permaculture through unlimited attendance at future courses.

© Christopher List Photography

Repeat students would only pay their accommodation and food costs - a principle that I believe has great merit.

He also spoke of the need for protocols, community involvement, support/assistance, crisis response and raised some concerns about hierarchy and regulation.

Scott Pittman IPC10

“We are a powerful and large organisation that acts like a knitting club”.

Martin Stapper: Biological Agriculture - A third way

Next up was Martin Staapens' presentation of the ability of regenerative agriculture with Biological Agriculture: A third way. Check out the video below:


Sunset drive

We then rushed off to join some South African friends for a drive in the dunes at sunset.

Desert drive Wadi Rum

© Christopher List Photography

We took some amazing pictures, gazing awestruck at the glory of Wadi Rum and it's vast impenetrable silence.

We also met up with a Bedouin, who offered us rides on his camels at sunset. We had to decline, though it seemed they did a brisk trade with the rest of the group.

Bedouin on camel,  Wadi Rum

© Christopher List Photography

Returning for dinner, replete with more head spinning conversation, I felt nearly frantic to meet and talk to everybody I ran into.

But it would soon be time for another full day so I scheduled an interview with Brad before breakast, and then parted ways for bed, falling asleep the moment my head hit the pillow.

Join me tomorrow for the day 3 of the convergence, which covers the intriguing talk on investment opportunities for global earth repair work and ecosystem restoration, biochar and the carbon cycle, water and transformation in dryland systems and planting seeds of hope in occupied territories, using Marda Farm as a case study. You'll also find out about what you can do for International Permaculture Day.

Return from Convergence Day 2 to Eco-friendly Africa Travel

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