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Farmer 101: Permaculture Tips for Farming Like Mother Nature | Leaf Probably

Permaculture has attracted a lot of attention lately to encourage farmers to work with nature rather than against it.

During a recent episode of Food For Mzansi’s weekly interactive discussion, Gather To Grow, on Twitter, our Audience and Engagement Editor, Dawn Noemdoe, and News Editor, Duncan Masiwa, discussed this method of growing in harmony with nature.

The experts on the podium were:

  • Ludwe MajizaPermaculture farmer and teacher from Eastern Cape,
  • Gerhard WeberOwners of Green Bio, and
  • Stephanie Mullinsby the Mitchells Plain-based NGO SEED.

Did you miss this live session? Don’t worry family, you can listen to the recording below. Meanwhile, here are some of the highlights from the lively discussion.

What is permaculture?

In the session, Majiza describes permaculture as a design science in which the farmer uses and works with nature, using as many natural elements as possible.

Ludwe Majiza started his small permaculture farm in his home village of uMkhubiso in the Eastern Cape. Photo: Food for Mzansi

Majiza points out that the three main ethics of permaculture are “Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share”.

Meanwhile, Weber gives a practical definition of permaculture.

He explains, “[it is about] Maximize your water penetration and water retention in your soil, and then have multiple crops of animals, integrations, vegetables, trees – especially production trees and fruit trees – all on the same contour line.

“[This allows] water [to] actually [run] Zigzag down your farm so you can maximize the water you have.”

Mullins, who joins the panel of speakers, explains that they teach permaculture in a more personal way, focusing on the cultural part of permaculture.

It does this by looking at the principles and ethics of permaculture and how people can incorporate it into their daily lives and live more sustainably.

ALSO READ: Permaculture: 12 Principles for Farming Like Mother Nature

Observe and interact

So, in case you didn’t know, there are actually twelve principles of permaculture.

They include; observe and interact, capture and store energy, generate a yield, apply self-regulation and accept feedback, use and value renewable energy, produce no waste, design from pattern to detail, integrate, don’t separate, use small, slow solutions, use and appreciate Embrace diversity, embrace edges and appreciate the marginal, and embrace and respond to change creatively.

During the session, Majiza emphasizes ‘observing and interacting’, which is one of his favorite principles of permaculture. “When you’re on your piece of land, when you’re among people, it’s important to acknowledge and interact with nature and be one with nature,” he says.

He suggests that it takes a farmer twelve months to really observe and understand his land. This way they can see how their land performs in the four different seasons and they will be able to farm more effectively.

Podcast: Becoming one with nature through permaculture

Earn a return

Weber says one of the biggest problems farmers face is getting a yield once they switch to a permaculture system.

“It doesn’t help you to have the nicest soil, but you have to sell your farm to your neighbor because you don’t make any money because all the raw materials you use go into your soil. You have to generate returns,” explains Weber.

He suggests starting slowly when transitioning to a permaculture system. “If you can afford to spare 10 percent of your land and restore that to a permaculture system, you’re on a much better footing than if you try to do it 100 percent in a year and don’t get a return,” says he explains.

Meanwhile, Mullins says that all principles are interconnected, one cannot exist without the other.

“When you look at ‘Observe and Interact’ and ‘Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback’, it basically means asking one to talk to the other. So when I use self-regulation, that means I’m also talking to ethics.

“When I use self-regulation, am I using self-regulation in the sense that I am using my energy wisely? Do I accept feedback? Am I growing the same thing and it just won’t grow in the space I’m in?” she explains.

ALSO READ: Sowing New Futures Through Permaculture

Use and value renewable sources

Permaculture can mean many things, but at its core it is about connecting with your environment and your community. Photo: Delivered

When it comes to the principle of “using and valuing renewable sources,” Maliza says it refers to renewable sources from elements like plants, animals, and earth. It is important that farmers value the use of renewable sources and value everyone’s contribution.

Majiza also values ​​item reuse. With the “produce no waste” principle, it is important to look for ways to reuse.

Meanwhile, Mullins reckons that “produce no waste” can also be used with the revenue generation principle. She uses the example of using the weeds in your own garden for compost or making a weed tea for liquid fertilizer instead of throwing it away.

Unfortunately, permaculture farmers don’t have it easy with market access. However, Majiza says certified organic retailers are likely to be less reluctant to accept produce from farmers who produce the permaculture way. He says steps are being taken to ensure permaculture farmers’ products can get to market.

Don’t forget to join the Gather To Grow live sessions every Wednesday at 6pm @foodformzansi on Twitter. Next week’s panel discussion will be about registering your farming business.

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