12 Principles of permaculture

These are the 12 principles of permaculture as described by David Holmgren. ((ref: http://www.permacultureprinciples.com )

1. Observe and Interact

As we do not live on the property this is an on-going requirement so that the knowledge that is gained can be integrated into the plan.  The entire project is a learning experience in trying to understand the community and how to gain their trust and to try to find their real needs.  We have been involved for nearly two years and yet remain more on the outside with the community with trust slowly being built along the way with several individuals.  However, if we can even make a sustainable difference in a single person’s life, then the other failings/slow progress, do not seem as severe and limiting. The community and the relationships within that community in the context of South Africa and it’s past are extremely complex, however, we believe that we can overcome these through a common following of Jesus Christ.

The observing and interacting goes further than just the community members and also applies to trying to implement the project in the most efficient and effective way.  Again the physical environmental permaculture is closely intermingled with the social (relationship) permaculture thinking.  We have already been handed the key with the simple instruction- Love your neighbour, and if followed correctly overcomes the complexity of these inter -relationships.

There are strong winds, most noticeable in winter and these are a danger to some of the more flimsy structures such as the crèche/church building. Thus the eradication of the exotic trees bordering on this structure, should only happen if there is an alternative solution. On the positive side a wind driven generator does seem to be a possible sub project to be built and tested at a later stage. By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation. The planting of a small vegetable test garden allowed us to ascertain the interest and sustainability and commitment of individuals in the community. However, the lack of an immediately available water supply highlighted the friction caused by members of the community seeing the water used as detrimental to their own supply. Thus at this stage the garden has to a greater extent been abandoned.  This is despite providing a Jojo/Lasher wheelbarrow water- carrying combination which we assumed could be filled at the river. Again an alternative needs to be found and the salvage of the borehole is imperative not only to the growing but also to all planned building as well. The limitation of severely restricted water supply was highlighted when the container foundations were being put into place.

2. Catch and Store Energy

By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need.

A noticeable form of energy is a spiritual energy that is in abundance in this small poor community. The church facilities are simple and spartan , however, an extended praise and worship service is held regularly every Sunday. The atmosphere is tangible and the Love of the Lord very apparent.

This love extends beyond the borders of the Cradle Ark and at each Outreach/workday we have had volunteers (not even part of the community) coming some distance to assist with various tasks, even those requiring a lot of physical effort, for no reward other than to help their fellow man.

On the physical environmental side, for now we focus on four experimental, sources of energy come to mind, these being the Paine mound compost heap, the exotic trees and the rocket stove combination, the solar power, solar furnace and the biogas sub-project.  Each component fits neatly into the bigger project but all are harnessing various elements provided by the Lord to make the most of His abundant provision. Food energy is stored in the larvae and worms.

3.Obtain a yield

As a Christian the words “ obtaining a yield”has a broader meaning .

“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” (Luke 10:2)

We do not see it as, merely a physical yield but rather the return on making an investment in the community and their awareness and love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Whilst we have seen various obstacles, that we have had to circum-navigate in this project, the most exciting part has been the continual hunger for the Word. The initial church – Yaka Na Denga under pastor Jesta Mulaudzi, grew quickly. However, the congregation at the Cradle Ark was scaled down significantly following some significant, unexplained conflict between the church and the community. The new church, The Eldorado Apostolic Church, formed under pastor Matthew Nyanngumbe, has once again started to grow.  The supplying of Bibles in the various languages, donated to the Cradle Ark and the excitement and gratitude of those receiving them, has been at the heart of encouragement and renewal in the commitment to seeing the project through, despite some tough obstacles.

However, the spiritual yield always needs to be accompanied by the physical worldly yield. An actual physical yield is required for those living on the plot. This will be in the form of edible produce or alternatively can be in the form of training, a job and subsequent remuneration. The belief is that the spill-over effect of producing a more focussed, less needy, less volatile community will also be a yield of the project. Implementation has been very slow following the sabotage of the borehole but the positive support of the container sub-project, has improved the momentum although this is always tempered by the pace and quantum of available funding.

4.Apply Self- Regulation and Accept Feedback

We need to discourage inappropriate activity and self- degradation/sabotage  to ensure that systems can continue to function well. The purpose of the project is long term sustainability and there is a fine line between helping and guiding and the community becoming reliant on hand-outs and having false expectations.

The borehole which was filled with broken glass can be seen as immediate negative feedback. The interpretation of the feedback is that the whole community still has not understood that the project is specifically for the benefit of the community. Once again observation and interaction has given us some sort of possible explanation of what seems to be a completely senseless and self- destructive act.  We have taken steps to try to make sure that this does not happen again, as we believe it is a specific individual(s) that have done this, rather than the larger community but effectively no matter what sort of physical barriers we can create to stop a similar incident occurring, we need the full support of the community to make it clear that this is completely antisocial and unacceptable behaviour.

The two current hypotheses are:

  • there is some sort of criminal behaviour taking place on the property and that any success of the project would unmask these activities and thus remove the perpetrators income flow.
  • The perpetrator firmly believed that the project was some sort of attempt to remove the inhabitants from the land they are currently occupying under the guise of a self -feed initiative  and the destruction of the borehole  would stop this process from unfolding

A continuous supply of free, top of the range soccer balls, has become an unrealistic expectation of some members of the community. “The entitlement “ and complete lack of understanding of the quantum and source of funds, has meant that a “weaning process” had to be implemented. The result of the non -supply of new balls and the suggestion that the players requiring a “name brand” ball club together and buy their own, has resulted in a shift away from the almost continuous usage of the soccer field. This is unfortunate and efforts will be made to resuscitate the interest and focus, as it is healthy alternative to other entertainment available. It is also a common interest across all community members, across all beliefs and ages of the community. Likewise the interest in the basketball hoop has waned along with the soccer but we will keep encouraging with various initiatives. A suitable, low budget, sponsor, would have an impact on this decline in interest.

  1. Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services

The Lord provides abundantly and all it takes is to harness the resources which are everywhere and surround us all the time.  Firstly there are numerous people who are desperate to find a job, living on site. The ideal is thus to be able to utilise this resource for most of the tasks being performed that require labour.

The ability of the worms to reproduce rapidly and to be limited, only by container size and food provided or alternatively the growth and rapid life cycle of the BSF means that there are renewable resources which we can benefit from. The “valuing” of these resources means that they have to be properly cared for within relatively tight constraints, for them to renew at their optimum rate.

  1. 6. Produce No Waste – “Waste not, want not”

The integrated design and interdependence of the different ideas that we are trying to implement means that there is very little that is wasted as each component “feeds” off the other as well as feeding into the other. The final stage of the model would mean that every bit of water in the cycle is used as efficiently as possible .

The detail of the interactions and linkages/relationships are detailed under the Cradle Ark prototype tab Phases 1 -5. These are detailed enough to expand this concept without a detailed, expanded, explanation being recorded here. We will attempt to utilise all possible resources and even plan to separate the urine at source, with a urinary Diverting Toilet, and to try to utilse this as a specific fertiliser in the duckweed growing pond.

  1. Design From Patterns to Details

Whilst the overall end goal is laid out the more detailed what next, has not been cast in stone and remains fluid. Thus we know we have certain requirements and will try to meet these in the most efficient way possible. The idea of having an aquaponic or even aquaculture leg to the project, leads to a problem of the varied temperatures faced by the fish (or BSF or plants) which results in a required heating and/or cooling solution. Only practical implementation and monitoring will show how successful the solution is and whether the underlying resource, should remain part of the model.  At this stage we know that heating is required but not exactly how efficient the heating is. In theory we currently have at least four potential solutions but as we get closer to an end product, we might find that duration of that required temperature or the exact temperature requirement will suit one solution above the others or a combination of solutions or even an additional solution we haven’t yet thought of.

A lot of the alternative ideas and developments are being tested off site, simply because of convenience, time factor and the cost involved in getting backwards and forwards to the Cradle Ark.

The honing of ideas from the patterns to detail is happening but again in a less rigid more ad hoc nature as time and budget allows. The ideas that are not easily tested off site will be kept till a later stage when more development of the plan has taken place and only then be instituted.

The other part integral to the “pattern to detail change”, is that the “community buy- in “, very much drives this process.  We are aware that water is paramount to everything that we do at the Cradle Ark.  The community has also given the go ahead to try to tackle the borehole salvage. However, the threat remains that who-ever, sabotaged the borehole with broken glass could do so again. Alternatives include rainwater harvesting, utilising the water from the river or a combination of all of these.

  1. Integrate Rather Than Segregate – “Many hands make light work”

By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other. We will provide intermittent, part time employment initially and develop this into an individual helping on a more permanent basis and thereafter more individuals focussed on selected areas of interest. The support of the project will also use this principle and accept all suitable funding and assistance from other organisations.

  1. Use Small and Slow Solutions

Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and produce more sustainable outcomes.

As a result of a severely limited budget this principle has to be applied. Thus “produce distribution” will make use of a local stall and mobile selling will be from specially adapted “cargo bicycles”. These are simple and slow ideas but they should allow for other communities to copy them successfully. In a society where there is a massive unemployment rate and limited skills a back to basics approach seems a much more feasible and self sufficient route.

  1. Use and Value Diversity – “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”

Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides. Multiple products will result in a diversification of risk.

  1. Use Edges and Value the Marginal – “Don’t think you are on the right track just because it’s a well-beaten path”

The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.

  1. Creatively Use and Respond to Change – “Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be”

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9

The direction and longer term goal of the project  has been established but the twists and turns , and obstacles arising along the way mean that the project is dynamic and adaptable in the smaller pieces.

We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing and then intervening at the right time. The mistrust due to the history of the country and previous exploitation of people, makes it very difficult to maintain and establish a strong bond of trust with the community in the short term. However, we acknowledge the mistakes that were made in the past and try to build anyway.