Monday, 5 January 2009

Basic Principles, General Land Management and Organic Farming - Day 1

Course Tutor: Norman van't Hoff
Organization, Catering: Silvia, Beate
Students: Beate, Brigitta, Burgel, Burkhard, Elena, Evelyn, Satya, Silvia, Tanja, Yuli, together with Balinese builders, gardeners and workers of the students who have property and ongoing projects on the island

Our first classroom was Tanja's and Gede's farm, Pegasus organic farm, in Kayu Putih Melaka. I don't have photos from this first morning session on the beautiful deck of Tanja's and Gede's house because I was shy to take them. Norman had been caught up in traffic, he arrived late and somewhat stressed. Nevertheless, he handed us out some notebooks and pens, he took out his white Mac and started shooting.

A new world was revealed in front of our eyes, although he assured us that we already know much more than we think we do. What permaculture tries to bring is new ways of thinking, based on a set of ethics and principles.

The Ethical Basis for Permaculture

  1. Care of the Earth

  2. Care of People

  3. Setting Limits to Population and Consumption

The 3 Questions we could ask ourselves considering any kind of action or project

  1. Is it Socially sustainable?

  2. Is it Economically sustainable?

  3. Is it Environmentally sustainable?

But what is sustainability?

Sustainability is the ability of current generations to fill all their needs and wants without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same.

And who is behind all these ideas?

Bill Mollison developed permaculture in Australia in the '70s. In his Permaculture manual, you can find the definition:

Permaculture is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems, which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. Without permanent agriculture there is no possibility of a stable social order.

By the end of the morning our heads were already buzzing with new terms, ideas, principles, guidelines, and perspectives, boosted by Norman's optimistic, yet pragmatic views and his charisma of conveying his enthusiasm to his students. We were asked to start making a list of plants we know or come across in Bali.

It was time for our first hands-on project: setting-up a compost heap in the farm. Norman explained the basics and we took over with Silvia supervising while he went to talk with the Balinese attendants (in Indonesian or in Balinese? Norman, in which language do you speak with the locals?). I think we did pretty well, although we came up with what Norman said it was an example of a not-so-perfect compost heap.

From this first day, there are some phrases that still echo like mantras in my head:

The problem is the solution!

Stabilize the land!

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