Student News

Notes from Abroad: Tanzania #10 — Everything Is Intentional

Christina Kopp – March 15, 2014

Lucy Lytle ’15 reflects on permaculture and what we Americans might learn from it:

Until today, our team has been working in small groups of three or four. Each group has been focused on one of the four pillars of JBFC: refuge, agriculture, health care, and education. We have been working with matrons, hoeing dirt, weighing and measuring students, and teaching classes. Because today is Saturday and the girls didn’t have class, although there was a lot going on, our schedule was much looser. The rainy morning switched our schedule and therefore consisted of hanging out in the girls dining hall making bracelets, braiding hair, and some soccer when it started to clear up. In the afternoon we teamed up with some of the JBFC girls to work on a grey water project together. The goal was to plant trees behind the school dining hall and dig a spiral canal that will allow the grey dish water to water the trees. The trees that we will plant will help remove some of the toxins that do exist, but the soap used to wash the dishes isn’t very toxic. Today we split up in two groups and made great head way. One group carried chicken manure down from the coop to the site while the other group dug the canal. Because today was more relaxed, it allowed significant time for reflection. The work we did this afternoon got me thinking about permaculture at JBFC and globally.

 Today Chris Gates defined permaculture as making nature work for you, with the idea that nothing is waste. I used to think of the phrase ‘make something out of nothing’ in relation to service, but my interactions with permaculture thus far have changed my thinking to ‘make something out of everything’. As it rained the first day, I was bummed about the weather. When it rained today I questioned whether or not the rainwater was being captured or stored. It turns out right now this isn’t happening.

 I’ve learned here everything is intentional. Moving the animals from the waterfront farm to up the rocky hill both allowed for more available planting land by the water and makes the farm area more fertile because gravity brings the animal waste down the hill with the rain. Planting rows of trees with roughly thirty feet of vegetables growing between them both allows for each tree to have a maximum and equal amount of sunlight and the roots that grow under the vegetables create more fertile soil for the vegetables to grow in. The more I think about permaculture at JBFC the more I think about permaculture globally. If it seems so advanced and successful here why isn’t it happening to this extent in America and other first world countries? Is it because permaculture is necessary in a developing country as a part of sustainable development? If so does that mean first world countries shouldn’t bother with permaculture?