Although one could say that permaculture is a pullback in the world of technology where people rarely know how to use natural means in their day-to-day lives, a lot of people have and are still benefiting from the proceeds of permaculture, a science term coined by Australian Scientist Bill Mollison.
Permaculture is regarded as the growth of agricultural ecosystems in a self-sufficient and sustainable way. This form of agriculture seeks to develop synergetic (interaction of two or more substances) farming systems based on crop diversity, resilience, natural productivity and self-sustainability.
In Africa, it emerged in the mid 90’s through a Zambian-based Zimbabwean, Mugove Walter Nyika.
Mr. Nyika, who is also Southern Africa Regional Schools and Colleges of Permaculture Regional (ReSCOPE) facilitator, said the science of permaculture is informed by traditions, indigenous wisdom, applied ecology and the science of nature. This translates to living in harmony with nature and each other in a bid to maintain it.
He revealed that it has gone on to be implemented in more than 40 primary schools, secondary schools and colleges, who are also affiliates of ReSCOPE.
Additionally, as a result of school communities participating in his program, schools are improving in terms of the retention of learners, meaning the number of school drop outs have been on a reduction level because the learners have the ability to see the advantages of going to school as they are able to access knowledge and above all, the food that is produced on the school grounds.
However, the mindset of people has proven to be a challenge as many think schools are about making beautiful school grounds on meant landscapes and as a result they resist advices on the usage of the school land for producing food.
Mr. Nyika explained that people have become hand out dependent such that when they move around or invite people to be trained and participate in the program, they expect to be given allowances which are a rare commodity, hence the dependency syndrome becomes a problem as it was brought by other NGO’s that go about giving people handouts rather than empowering them with necessary knowledge and skills.
He further said another challenge that is related to people thinking that when they are being helped to reconnect to nature and to work with nature rather than against it, they think they are being taken backwards but yet for sustainability’s sake, there is need to live in harmony with the natural environment.
Nevertheless, in an interview with Lusaka star, National Coordinator for ReSCOPE Annie Chikanji stated that permaculture has brought significant transformation in many learning institutions.
People who have benefitted from this work have come to a realization that life is not just about exploiting resources, nature and just accumulating wealth, it is about living in harmony with the mother earth, all forms of life and each other,she said.
Mrs. Chikanji said that the program has had a huge impact on the mindsets of people towards all forms of life in respecting and conserving all natural resources whilst improving their own lives.
This has seen the participating school communities greening their environment, by learning how to take care of the land in a natural way, how to grow healthy organic food without destroying the soil, water and other natural resources,She said.
Mrs. Chikanji said that the program has also led to transformations not only in the mines but in the landscapes also, especially in areas that used to be bare and degraded; they have been changed into natural food forests which are very productive and are capable of producing a wide range of biodiversity.
The idea of using permaculture in the day-to-day lives of people is basically to promote sustainable living, in a bid not to compromise the ability of future generations to live their own lives well with abundant natural resources.
So permaculture tends to be about protecting the resource base so that people can continue to benefit from the natural resource base and to live it in a healthy state for future generations.
It also tends to be all about ecological sustainability so that the soils, water, air and other resources continue to be healthy for the present and the future generations.
What the permaculture programmers hope, is to continue achieving so as to have more communities benefiting from this work and becoming people who improve their quality of life without damaging natural resources that are needed to continue supporting the livelihoods.
Therefore, in the production of food, there is need to go organic and to use only natural inputs so as not just to have healthy food but also healthy soils which remain able to produce more healthy food. This can be attained in the absence of dangerous chemicals that are being used in the industrial approach to agriculture.