On the 6 – 11 November, 2018, Earthlore facilitated an Agroecology Orientation Course specifically for small scale farmers. The course was held at Enaleni Farm in KZN, South Africa and was led by Farmer and Agroecologist, Richard Haigh. The participants were accompanied by Earthlore’s Method Gundidza.
A summary report of the course in the words of Richard Haigh and Method Gundidza follows below.
Course content covered during the 3 days at Enaleni:
* An AE approach- healing the relationship between land, animals, plants and ourselves
- Plants and animals have stories, names, language, customs, songs and dances associated with them
* Working with what we have, where we are and where we are at within ourselves
* Understanding our ‘strength’ as small-scale farmers
- Small Scale farmers are autonomous and manage and control their own resources and this makes them resistant to unfavourable Government policies and standardisation
- They are people with local solutions to global problems
* Working with animals, plants, foods, seeds, people that connect to us
- It is easy to grow crops but difficult to rear animals. Many CSOs support work on seed and plants but not on livestock farming. Yet animals are very useful in crop farming and offer an easy reprieve for farmers in a crisis as they can easily be converted into cash at any stage of growth as opposed to crops that will be sold only after harvest. The value of animals is also higher than crops
- Small scale farmers safeguard through keeping, growing, selecting and celebrating our agrodiversity and this includes animals and plants and even wild areas at times. This is unlike mono-cropped production areas and industrial food systems. Small scale farmers therefore have a very critical role to play in ensuring sustainability
* Sharing our knowledge through practice of presence and being
* Exploring the connectedness of all farming components and small-scale farming
* Exploring plants: traditional crops and seeds, selecting, sorting and sharing, planting, storing and processing, GMO threats, household medicine
* Exploring animals: miracle of milk, handling and husbandry, welfare and humane slaughter specifically of small livestock [A 2-minute clip used by Melaine Joy in her Ted-talk was used to sensitize participants to standard animal mutilations in animal husbandry.]
* Exploring food: traditional and ‘modern’, varieties and breeds, energy and nutritional values, cultural shifts, on farm transformation of meats, milk: processing and preserving surplus, bread and cordial making.
* Generating income: Choosing areas of focus, differentiating your product, finding a market, developing links with others
- Packaging of our farm produce is very critical
Richard Haigh uses a participatory approach that includes a daily reflection and a morning check in, as well as sharing of experiences.
Summary of the power of agroecological small-scale farming
“In the process of being present in our farming (working the land, plants and animals) we, ourselves, co-evolve and our senses become “tuned in“ to what we are seeing and listening to, doing and co-creating, and in turn we grow our inner capital and our ecological capital. As we become more present, our autonomy develops in our ability to conserve, recover and safeguard species and grow our agricultural diversity in place, in situ. Our linkages between components strengthen as well as our non-reliance on outside policies and the agendas of others and industrial inputs. This is transformative and liberating and gives us the ability to persist. An agroecological approach to farming enables local solutions to many global problems in FOOD and we are able in our unique positions as farmers to express these originally and creatively and in a way that others can witness for themselves and this can inspire adaptations and sharing at many different levels; knowledge, seed, animals, lessons learnt and the deep appreciation of our connection to all things. As Blake says ‘All that Lives is Holy’.“ Richard Haigh Agroecological Farmer
Participants went away with
Orange fleshed sweet potato tubers
Air potato tubers (Dioscaria bulbifera)
New Zealand spinach runners
Lambs quarter seed /imbilikicani
Heritage maize x3 varieties
Pepper bark iSibaha fruit
Vitalis climbing bean seed
Appaloosa bush bean seed
Flat White Boer pumpkin seed
Spaghetti Squash seed
Green Hubbard Squash seed
Animals (some participants)
Light Sussex eggs x4
Potchefstroom Koekoek Champion eggs x6
Breeding stock of Buff Orpingtons (2 hens/2 cockerels)
Feedback/ Actions from individuals
Richard Haigh: It’s not often I get an opportunity to work with ‘real farmers’ for a few days. I feel you have understood what we do here, thank you. The enthusiasm and excitement has entered Enaleni and while you will leave here and head home, you leave us a positive blessing. Thank you for that. My action is to retry planting millet varieties and find ways of fending off the birds. I’ve had almost 100% crop failure in the past. I’m thinking of a dense planting of finger millet, foxtail, pearl and proso that I will put a net over. I’ll try your suggestions of a millet seed bed. I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with the word ‘chengeta’ -to look after!
Obed: I was amazed seeing such a huge diversity of vegetables and herbs all sitting in one place. I am going to set up a very small garden but with a mixture of veggies and herbs too. I will up my game on working with traditional chickens.
Varaidzo: I will increase my traditional chicken population which I thought was big but now I see I am playing. I would also like to grow lots of wild fruit trees around my home.
Sifiso: Will embrace a mixed cropped garden which I have tried before. I leant more ideas and actually saw how to do it from someone who has done so successfully. I will be baking my own bread at home using the recipe I learnt here and actually practised doing.
Sara: I was amazed by the diversity of wild medicinal plants eg. intelezi/tschanibezwe, isibaha, ushoba etc on this farm…I like these plants so much as I am very traditional too. I will plant more of these when I get home. I will also use onion flowers to spice up my food as I learnt and did here.
Xolani: I will make my own coffee from the Palm fruits like I saw here because we have plenty of the palm trees. I do have a garden but will endeavour to increase the diversity in it as I saw in Richard’s garden.
Gogo Mhlanga: I hope to get the traditional maize and the wild medicinal plants and grow and multiply these.
Ladislous: I have learnt that as a small scale farmer I need to give more attention to my seed and soil. I must copy the good things I saw here except Richard’s name. Wherever I go I consistently look out for new seeds so that I increase the varieties on my farm…here I love the pig variety I saw so that I add to my kraal. There are many other good things here but the pig was my main highlight and I go home to work out how I can get this pig on to my farm back in Zimbabwe. Please can we all think about ways to support me to do this?
Method: I liked the idea of camps which rotate hosting plants and animals at different times of the year…resting the land and the plants rotationally was the highlight for me. Mixed cropping of herbs, traditional medicinal plants, crops and especially traditional veggies in a small garden was amazing for me. I leave this place with a clear mind of how I will develop my own land back home. It was not easy for me to come here as I had other competing demands elsewhere but I leave this place with absolutely no regrets whatsoever….The happiness of the animals, birds and plants in this beautiful place will forever remain in my imagination. Thank you so much Richard for being such a torch bearer to all those who advocate for agroecology and as you say “…Enaleni is a living example of agroecology.”
EarthLore Foundation Course Reflections
“I wouldn’t say that I reflect on a course as such but I must say that you have real practical examples of how to create alternative economies based on powerful local solutions and initiatives…straddling the dilemma of combining love, compassion and connectedness to animals and plants and our ecosystems in general while creating a powerful local economy. We go to countless meetings world-wide talking and trying to imagine new alternative economic models and, for me, this is one such practical example to share widely as a case study.
I hope that we can make it a tradition to bring a group of farmers to your place at least once annually if at all possible. Your methodology of living the experience rather than talking about it is very powerful.
Lots of appreciations for sharing your valuable seeds, animals and plants with the farmers. I hope that we will support the farmers to propagate and multiply these varieties for themselves and their greater communities at large. You would only share because you felt the connection and the confidence that it isn’t a waste to do so, as you said above.
Lastly I can confirm that all seeds of plants and birds that you shared with the participants made their way safely to all the farmers’ homes including as far as Zimbabwe.
All the best and keep shining “ Method Gundidza, Programme Manager, EarthLore