Greetings from a warm and rainy Malawi. I’m taking an opportunity to reflect and to thank the beautiful people that made it all possible.
One of the biggest highlights for me in 2017 was attending the International Permaculture Conference and Convergence (IPC#13) in India. It was my second IPC, having attended the one that was hosted in my country Malawi in 2009. IPC#9 in Malawi was my first introduction to international permaculture and made me realise how global this amazing movement is. As Malawians, we welcomed the world to Malawi. As a young permaculturist, I learnt a lot, and the experience made me appreciate permaculture more, and it made me even more of a believer.
To get a chance to attend my second IPC in India, was extremely special. The location itself, India, made it even more remarkable. India, best known for its diverse culture, great food, and beautiful colour truly delivered. There are a lot of similarities between India and Africa that made the location more relevant for me. Both have tropical climates, both were European colonies and religion plays an important role in both places, just like culture. Like Africa, Malawi in particular, a large chunk of India’s population depends on agriculture for a living but the production systems are unsustainable and not able to feed the rising population. Much of the food grown also gets destroyed due to inadequate storage systems and poor infrastructure.
Towards Healthy Societies
With the theme ‘Towards Healthy Societies’, the Conference had subthemes aimed at honouring the role women play in agriculture, promoting permaculture as a social responsibility, promoting action in grassroots Permaculture and revitalising traditional farming practices. The conference drew a large number of local farmers and was attended by people from over 60 countries. I was really moved by the guest of honour Dr. Vandana Shiva who talked about the role women play in agriculture and about the importance of saving our own seed. Her definition of ‘GMO’ to mean ‘God Move Over’ summed how biotech giants, because they want huge profits, are taking control of the whole food production chain, and putting the people’s health and financial wellbeing in danger. The seed issue has indeed become a war that we all have to fight guns blazing.
I will try and not go into too much detail describing the various projects that were presented, but I would definitely encourage everyone to visit the IPC website for all the presentations, including mine. It was inspiring to meet other people working with children and youth and to share resources and experiences. On the last day of the convergence we all took a leap towards forming some sort of network for children in permaculture.
Throughout the whole conference and convergence, it was clear the role permaculture is playing in the many different societies around the world. It was also clear that more sharing and more networking needs to be happening in between the IPCs to share the amazing work and amazing stories. I personally noted that the other continents had managed to set up national convergences and continental conferences but Africa so far had not yet managed to do so. Towards the end of the convergence, all Africans and friends of Africa took a leap towards establishing some smaller national and regional convergences in Africa.
Women in Agriculture
After the inspiring time at the convergence, I joined the farm tours. Here the theme on women in agriculture really took an important role. Most farms visited had a strong woman taking the reigns to grow food. As a young woman I was inspired to see them managing large and small farms alike with lots of success. I learnt a lot of skills in the process, such as making traditional yoghurt, ghee, traditional seed saving using dung, and a bit of pottery. The women were always very willing to share their skills and their amazing food.
In conclusion I would like to thank the Permaculture Institute of Germany for funding my great Indian colourful adventure of a lifetime. I thank you for giving me the chance to share ‘our’ story, the story of Permaculture schools in Malawi with the world. I shall always be grateful. Many thanks to the IPCC, FIPC for coordinating and fundraising and making the adventure possible. Tonnes of love to the Aranya family and the volunteers who worked tirelessly to make us all comfortable.