Background to the Sustainable Home/ Small Farm/ Ecological Farming
This visual was done after Pierre de Jager described it to me. Pierre worked as a missionary in obedience to a call from God to come to Zimbabwe in 2006 to 2012 at a time very few people were coming into this country. Pierre met and worked with the founders of "Farming God's Way"or "Foundations for Farming"as it is now called. He set about teaching and facilitating rural farmers in southern Zimbabwe to grow 10 by 10 metre, high yeild mainly maize patches or small fields. The principles involve planting the maize seeds at a specified distance apart in straight lines but digging a hole for each plant and filling it with nutrients in the form of manure and humus rich soil so that the plant is essentially given it's food for life. Additional hand watering of each plant, as well as heavy mulching not only conserves the water and prevents weeds growing, but raises the soil microbe profile of the land so that it improves with every planting. This low land, low water method proved highly appropriate to rural Matabeleland and Pierre set up over 300 farmers growing high yeild maize patches.This method has revolutionised rural farming where it has been practised, greatly increasing yeilds
'Growing' a Nation of Orphans
The owners of the farm on which he was living asked him to help feed a local orphanage. He did regular trips to and from South Africa bringing back truck loads of maize meal and other food stuffs. He began praying about the feeding of orphans knowing that there must be a better way than spending hours at log-jammed borders. Tasked with giving spiritual guidance to an organisation working as medical personnel setting up clinics Pierre embarked on a week of prayer and fasting. He had given a lot of thought to integrating orphans into families and training the families in good farming practices..
A picture came into his mind of a typical cluster of round huts viewed from above and at first they were on bare land. When he looked again the same huts were surrounded by paddocks (as above). He recognised the grain and vegetable patches he was used to teaching,(this was to be very significant as the much higher yeilds provide the 'engine room' that makes the sustainable, 'closed circuit' possible), but now he was seeing not only vegetable patches but the paddocks of a small farm including livestock namely goats.
During the week of prayer he kept on seeing goats again and again. Knowing that goats were in many ways a scourge in Africa, especially environmentally as they impact the land so severely eating almost anything, he asked for a time of prayer before feeding back his findings. He asked the medical personnel what had come to mind during this time of prayer. One doctor was honest enough to share that he saw goats in pens, and another pharmacist said he also saw goats but his were jumping around in rocky outcrops. Pierre was relieved and delighted as he told the men he too had seen goats in respone to his request for guidance. He told them of the small farm with paddocks surrounding it. These goats would be paddocked and supplementary fed on the chicken grass bedding with it's chicken manure. (Chicken manure is 78% nutritionally intact.) Goats that are paddocked do not do damage to the environment. They can be paddocked around rocky outcrops which occur in abundance in our part of the world. Paddocks can be rested. The beauty of this model is that with a few additions, namely power needs derived from solar or renewable sources and water harvesting, not only are the full nutritional needs of the family met, but by assisting them to harvest food and giving them alternative power almost all their needs are met within the sustainable home or small farm. They would need nothing further from their surrounding environment.
Orphans need nurture in family, engagement and nutrition
Pierre himself had grown up as a boy on a small holding in South Africa. His father died when he was 15, but because he had watched his father he was able to run the small farm for his mother. He realised children learn by being involved in day to day tasks and in turn learn good farming practices from their parents, often becoming productive people themselves. Orphans need to be put into 'families' where they will grow up learning how to become productive people. If those who teach and facilitate families to become organic, self sustaining small farmers can also impart their love and value for the surrounding natural environment, then there is a strong chance the families will also embrace these values.
Pierre may not have known fully at this time the huge benefits this model of a sustainable homestead or small farm supplies in terms of both preventive health measures (keeping people from becoming sick) and nutritional health measures (treating sick people through diet). It is proven that a diet high in whole, raw food and less stress means even HIV patients can maintain a high CD4 count. Even if it drops it can come back up if they follow a diet high in raw food, raw oils, raw milk, whole grain, and vegetables. The best way to address HIV infected people, and all people, is to empower them with knowledge about how to grow a vegetable garden and how to eat raw, cook with water instead of oil add cold pressed oil to cooler food. Drinking sufficient pure water, and getting exercise, sunshine and rest as well as nutrition are the truly self-sustaining mechanisms they have at their disposal to keep themselves alive and productive. It is not the HIV virus that kills, but the opportunistic diseases taking advantage of a depressed immune system. ARV's weaken the virus, but raw food builds the immune system which ultimately fights the battles for the body. Preventive health measures can save a country inestimable costs. They relieve the pressures on medical institutions so would seem to be a better use of any country's financial resources.
Because it is both organic, and is a closed system (the grain and vegetables feed the chickens, the chicken bedding feeds the goats and the goat manure feeds the vegetables) it would provide benefits to the environment, mainly because it provides people with their most important needs. This lessens the chances of them having to source food and fuel from the surrounding environment. This 'hands off' approach in itself is well recognised as one of the best ways of preserving the environment. What had seemed to come as a feeding solution towards subsistance feeding of orphans had also provided solutions to both health and environmental issues further down the line. Pristine habitats untouched by man could remain untouched with all their incredible bio-diversity of life - a resource which provides recreation and it's own healing therapy to many, many people.
If more environmentalists could make the connection between implementing sustainable ecological farming developments to serious environment preservarion we would see a shift in the use of a lot of valuable time and money being spent.
Ecological farming and the engagement of people is the way to go to save our beautiful African environment. Both environmentalists and health workers need to look at this holistic approach
People need to 'buy in'.
The approach to implementation must not come from the outside. People need first to be asked what their needs are as a community. A trained 'facilitator' would go into an area using existing social or even political structure to find out first what the people saw as their greatest need as a community. By guiding them toward their most pressing need they could agree on the solutions needed. Because the Sustainable Home or Small Farm solves many of these issues, health, food, the need for small enterprise, it more often becomes the first step toward solving a communities problems. It can be reinforced by being taught not only in the schools, but in the clinics and in the churches. The system would require a social services aspect to assist with the integration of orphans back into families and society. It promotes a sense of community wherever it is implemented. Farmers are encouraged to assist each other on planting and reaping days. The emphasis is on getting the people themselves to do the farming, teaching and health working. This empowerment is primarily from imparting the knowledge for these skills.
This succinct chart of the Sustainable Homestead or Small Farm is not to underplay the magnitude of the vision with the obvious logistical challenges involved in it's implementation, it is rather a visually simple chart that can make us all see the Sustainable Home/ Small Farm as an achievable goal. It is designed to enthuse all of us 'would be' carers and growers that we too can run a sustainable home, raising productive, happy children. This focus on what is possible is what we can work toward, even if it means starting with a vermicompost heap and a carrot patch, that is a move in the right direction! Everyone can join in caring for orphans and enjoy the 'green' side of sinking carbon and upping oxygen and generally enjoying getting our Africa going!!