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Permaculture vs. Poverty

 
Posts: 200
Location: Augusta,Ks
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They more or less are all the same, poloticians i mean.

However that does not mesn good csn not be done. Change starts at the bottom.

Wether ya think ya can, or think ya csnt, yyour right. Someone famous said that, not me
 
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Location: Glasgow, Scotland
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Well, I gave my elevator pitch today to my donors. I'm not sure anyone grasped it very well - hopefully the few pages of background I also gave them will help - but there seemed to be an appreciation that I was thinking bigger than just a few window boxes and raised beds in the city. I also saw a few big smiles at various points (particularly when I mentioned Geoff Lawton's project in Jordan) so there may be some space to work. Now, since I was giving a pretty rushed pitch and no-one could possibly understand every potential facet of a large-scale project like this, I want to slim the concept down to absolute bare bones, almost like giving a "talking points" sheet to everyone who might want to talk about it. Any suggestions? I'm thinking it could look something like this:

1. Permaculture is a system of food production (and ultimately a way of life) that seeks to work with nature to constantly increase productivity and wellbeing of all life rather than conquer nature and deplete our precious natural resources.
2. As a fundamentally self-sustaining and permanent system, permaculture is particularly suited to addressing problems of food insecurity and poor diet, income insecurity, meteorological and climate crises while also providing a beautiful landscape that is available to the community.
3. Ancillary benefits could include community development through shared control of the land, work experience and training, development of support businesses within the community, building solidarity and links with other other communities wishing to pursue the same goals, carbon sequestration, water, energy and biodiversity conservation, flood prevention/defence (and more...?)
4. Our site could also be used as a training facility for development agencies (e.g. Christian Aid, Oxfam etc.) to learn permaculture principles for use in international projects. (This, I think, will be where I show them the Greening The Desert video.) Other parties which might pay for training could include local schools and colleges, farmers, researchers (and more...?)
5. Initial start-up costs may be high. Land purchase, initial consultation and training, recruitment of staff and volunteers, equipment, earthworks, seeds etc. can all cost quite a lot of money. Even establishing the legal structures to manage the land could be very difficult. Of these, land is the most expensive, but if financial support could be structured as offering security on a mortgage rather than as a large lump sum, a large plot of land might become much more viable financially. Additionally, even if the project is a complete failure, the land can always be re-sold to recover some or all of the financial losses.
6. Ongoing costs should continually fall until eventually the site becomes more or less completely self-sustaining, provided sufficient people are able to offer labour. Over at least the earliest years of the project, that labour will be provided by community volunteers and trainees from partner organisations. Payment for training could be the major part of how some partner organisations support the project.
7. The principles of permaculture state that surpluses all kinds should be reinvested. This should apply to any financial surplus from the project. Cash could be distributed in the community as a dividend or held in trust for the community to spend on the common good, however they wish to define that. Some could be designated for investment in more land and ideally some would be dedicated to helping spawn similar projects in other communities.
8. Support of various kinds from all kinds of public bodies, charities and others may be obtainable for the project, although marshalling a wide range of supporters may become a major additional effort.
9. The approach is inherently experimental as it may take a long time to properly understand and rehabilitate the land and longer still to adapt fully to whatever changes are made, but great success can be achieved relatively quickly. It is also demonstrably successful over the longer term, as demonstrated by people like Masanobu Fukuoka and Sepp Holzer. (I think I'll insert links to a couple of short videos about these two here as well.)
10. A project like this can meet the goals of any number of organisations with a wide range of interests. It can be a major community development tool due to the governance model I have suggested. It can help deal with poor diet and poor physical and mental health. It can provide a level of affordable food security for the community. It can help generate income for the community and create new business opportunities for individuals. It can help stabilise and improve soils and water tables while protecting against major flood, drought and wind events. It can provide training to large numbers of people wishing to use the same principles in other communities at home and abroad. It can be a major means of not only reducing the community's carbon footprint through its produce but of sequestering carbon in the accumulated biomass in the soil and plants. Above all, it can do all this at a lower long-term cost and in a more permanently self-sustaining (or even self-enriching) way than many other projects.

Can anyone think of any other important info a sceptic might want to hear or any other obvious objections that might come up that I should prepare for?
 
pollinator
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Location: Denver, CO
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There are always naysayers about Permaculture versus chemical farming feeding the world. I am not sure if this is relevant to your situation.

I like your signature.
 
Kenny McBride
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Thanks Gilbert. You gave me the idea!
 
gardener
Posts: 856
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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I would shift focus away from selling "permaculture" and talk more about how your system will provide more benefit for "the client" with less effort.

In essence you are stacking social service functions.

Entreprenurial skills
Diet and nutrition and well being
Work ethic and seeing the benefits of hard work
Exercise and mental well being
Importance of local food production in future economies
Natural places as inspiring community resources
Ecological systems as metaphors for how to live (this is permaculture)

I'd encourage your to refine and build a convincing argument of the power of your core system, over talk of future expansion. If you can develop a 5 year business plan that shows costs declining due to self-reliance.
 
Gilbert Fritz
pollinator
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I agree with Paul; maybe the word Permaculture is not a very useful one for your purposes. When I advertised the Saint Isidore Society as a "Permaculture" group, I got very little interest. It was much better when I started calling it an "Urban Farming Group."
 
Posts: 244
Location: Caerphilly, Wales, UK
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Using examples of successful permaculture projects from around the UK might be a good way to demonstrate the viability of the kind of project you're talking about in Glasgow. As mentioned, Locavore is an obvious one. However, there are many more that you could include such as Karuna, Organiclea, Cwm Harry, Incredible Edible towns, Transition Towns. They might be a bit more 'real' for the people you're presenting to; the climates and growing conditions aren't too dissimilar etc. Urban projects from around the world - for example the Green Bronx Machine and the like - might be more relevant than Holzer in Austria or Lawton in Jordan.

Facts and figures are always good if you can find them.

I would echo Paul and Gilberts thoughts on the use of the term 'permaculture' too. Anything that smacks of 'hippy' or comes across as being unconventional is going to put people off - even among like-minded groups in my experience.
 
Kenny McBride
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I think one of my goals here is to convince international groups that a relatively small project to help people here can train people to use similar principles anywhere. And for what it's worth, I don't see Holzer as a hippy figure at all. He's a slightly romantic figure in some ways, but mostly he seems like a very smart farmer. Showing real commercial viability in a poor climate as well as potential in more desert climates is kind of an important strand to what I'm trying to promote.
 
Sam White
Posts: 244
Location: Caerphilly, Wales, UK
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I don't see him as a hippy either! He's pragmatic and a great observer. However, over the years Holzer's ideas have met with resistance from the Austrian government who are apparently more concerned with conventional agriculture than the methods that he uses.

While your vision is admirable, perhaps focusing upon what your project can do for Glasgow first would be more conducive to a successful funding bid? Start relatively small, prove the concept, and then seek additional funding to expand the project once you can convince funders to part with their money. I guess it boils down to what your backers' objectives are.
 
mick mclaughlin
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Well, not sure what politics are like in Glasgow, but fairly sure bureaucrats are the same everywhere.

The thing to remember is most will not only expect you to fail, they will want you to fail.

I gotta be honest, does it really make sense to purchase property to start a project with? There may be land sitting somewhere that is not in use. I know there is an absolute plethora of that type land here in the states. Making this a win-win for bureaucrats is the best option. Try to find a negative for someone , and turn it in to a positive. We all what to make great things happen fast, but nature does not work that way, and sometimes it is best if we remember that. I would strongly caution against biting off a huge chunk.

Small really is beautiful.

I also agree with others, that it does not matter what one calls the method. Doing, is what matters.
 
Sam White
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mick mclaughlin wrote:I gotta be honest, does it really make sense to purchase property to start a project with? There may be land sitting somewhere that is not in use. I know there is an absolute plethora of that type land here in the states. Making this a win-win for bureaucrats is the best option. Try to find a negative for someone , and turn it in to a positive.



This is a very good point. Rehabilitating contaminated land for the purposes of community food production is something which the Welsh Government is looking funding so perhaps the Scottish government are looking at this sort of thing too? They must be a lot of derelict land and/or contaminated in Glasgow - the local council will have a register probably. Again, Locavore are involved with this kind of thing so probably worth contacting.

Do any large construction firms have a charitable/social responsibility agenda? If they're sitting on land while waiting for more favourable economic conditions before building then perhaps they'd be receptive of a temporary community garden? Raised beds/containers can be moved if necessary I suppose.
 
Kenny McBride
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Location: Glasgow, Scotland
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There are lots of other little groups around the city growing things. There are already connections building up between them and we're already working on doing more things together and keeping poverty near the top of the agenda. This idea/proposal is about doing something bigger that can extend and demonstrate the concepts on a different scale with the hope that they are taken on to much more damaged lands and communities around the world.
 
Posts: 1113
Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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"Poverty" is a funny word. The way the government defines poverty is a pretty luxurious standard of living. Our family lives way below the poverty line but we do not feel "poor" as we have plenty to eat (we farm), a home (very small), heat (wood from our land) and enough money to buy luxuries like occasional chocolate, a used computer, books, etc. There is a lot of good in life that is free or cheap. People seem to expect too much. We eat very good and organically because we raise it. It is cheaper to eat well than to buy processed foods. We also don't have TV - can't get it here. I hear people complain that land is too expensive to buy but they're looking in the wrong places then as there is plenty of cheap land. People complain that houses are too expensive but we built ours for $7K closing it in in two months with our own labor. It is all doable. There is no dichotomy of "Permaculture vs. Poverty".
 
Gilbert Fritz
pollinator
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Maybe "Permaculture versus URBAN poverty" would be a better term. There are plenty of poor people in Denver. When all you own is your clothes and a sign "please help" any land is too expensive. Even if you have a minimum wage job, five kids, and a horrible apartment with gunfights on the other side of the wall— any land (and the infrastructure to go on it) is too expensive.
 
Kenny McBride
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I never saw it as a dichotomy. I think it's a no contest. Poverty loses in the first round when people have access to land and the skills to get the most out of it.
 
Walter Jeffries
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People always have the choice to move. Our ancestors fled pogroms, repeatedly, through great hardship and against laws that forbid them from fleeing. People are not really trapped in the urban areas. They merely choose to stay there. It is much easier now than it was ~50 years ago for Jews fleeing Hitler, 100 years ago for other groups, 200 years ago, 400 years ago... In the USA of all places one does have the choice to move. Anyone who wants to escape the urban poverty cycle can do so.
 
Kenny McBride
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I would argue that urban poverty creates its own wee ecosystem and has survival strategies built in it. Uprooting yourself and moving elsewhere to change your situation is possible, but it's comparable to transplanting a plant. If it's not done carefully with appropriate support and nourishment in place, it fails in any number of ways. We should be careful about assuming anything about the circumstances and capabilities of people in marginal situations.
 
Walter Jeffries
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Kenny McBride wrote:After, let's say five years, what kind of per acre yields might you expect from a well-planted site? Are we talking enough to feed one person? Ten people? Twenty?



We have a productive farm based on a lot of permaculture methods. In our case a lot of what we produce is coming from livestock because that is what we do and that is what our land is good at - we're in the mountains. Ours is a swiftly sloping farm. Our land is very good at producing pasture which our pigs and chickens turn into eggs, lamb and pork. The people we feed (e.g., our family, our customers) eat a lot of meat and there is also a huge number of berries and other fruit, wild greens and cultivated roots, greens and other veggies. Field crops like wheat and such that require flat lands we're not such a good place for - thus trade and commerce.

---

Real life example:

I farm. We sell some to individuals but mostly we supply local stores and restaurants so I don't really know how many people eat our farm's products.

I can easily and sustainably do 10 pigs per acre - proven for a long time. Almost all their food can come from our farm, all of it with a little more patience (e.g., they take nine months to get to market weight rather than six). I think with the past decade of experience at this I can boost that to 20 per acre if I wanted. Along side them per acre we also have a few dozen chickens, couple of sheep, some ducks and geese in our case. This is easily sustainable. They grow more slowly since no corn/soy grain commercial feed but it is doable all from our land.

10 pigs/acre/yr
x 5 acres
----
50 pigs/year (add the other animals but I'm ignoring them) (In reality we have more than 5 acres and more than 400 pigs)

A pig is about 200 lbs of food after slaughter (eat everything on the hanging carcass - most of that is edible - add the chickens to make up for any inedible parts you don't like but don't be picky, you're doing permaculture, right!?)

That's 200 x 50 = 10,000 lbs of pork a year (Hanging Weight)

A person needs about two to three pounds of pork a day (that's a need, not an option. Everyone needs pork, especially bacon. ) which is about 912 lbs/yr (major paleo diet!). This could be easily half that if you're eating berries and other things so the number below for people per acre could be higher by that same ratio.

Thus that's about 10 people that can be supported on five acres getting ALL their diet from those five acres which is about two people per acre on a very rich meat diet. (delicious)

If you also ate some berries, veggies, etc you would be able to take advantage of the incredibly rich growing conditions created by those livestock and diversify your diet supporting probably two to four times that number of people. I can grow quite a bit of other stuff on those same five acres - I just don't sell any of it.

If you are willing to farm more intensely than I am then it is probably better again.

---

Based on my experience it is doable and is sustainable but this would take more intensive farming than I want to do. It would look more like something out of the Asian or Andes mountains than we do now but then again, we too terrace much like they do but I don't want to do it that intensely.

One concern I have is that there is a point where you are competing with the wildlife for the food. By our creating fields we have increased the biodiversity and amount of food and wildlife on our land. At the rate we take from our land the amount we have increased is more than what we take. However if we went to the theoretical maximum the wildlife would suffer for it. Correct with that in mind.

Farming is a nutrient export business and you have to be careful not to send out too much. Having slaughter and butchering on-farm increases the carrying capacity of the land because the offal, the guts, gets returned to the compost and the land. Legumes like alfalfa, trefoil, clovers all suck nitrogen out of the air fertilizing the soil. Considering changing society so they don't throw heavy metals and pharmaceuticals down the toilet and everyone saves their valuable poop and pee to return to the land - that would help.

Note that I have a lot more than five years invested building our farm infrastructure and many years of experience so my numbers might not be representative of where you could get to in five years but they are where you could get to eventually - maybe you can do better. However I doubt that someone starting from ground zero of knowledge would get there in five years. It takes a lot of time to learn, build infrastructure, get permaculture plantings going, perennials, etc. What we need is for it to become the cultural norm so you learn from birth.
 
Walter Jeffries
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On a similar note, this puts the sustainable world population of humans at about 50,000,000,000. That's 50 Billion. Note that is based on only using land that they (UN) considers good. Our land is not in that total. We are too rocky, thin soil, mountainous. If you included land like ours and more extreme the sustainable human population would be a higher figure. We need more people because more people means more minds thinking about how to solve big problems like getting colonies on other rocks and out in space and take all the other species with them. Have kids. Teach them well. Maybe one of them will save the world.
 
Kenny McBride
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Thank you Walter. That's an incredibly useful set of information and insight. Obviously the details will be different for us, but as an example it gives me a way to start shaping a story people can buy into.

I agree with you about the education process. To do this right, I want to get schools, churches, community groups and businesses involved. The goal will be to train people to convert the city into growing space too, but at current population densities and land available to ordinary people, that's a bit further off. And it can always serve as an exemplar, to show what can be achieved all over the country, sharing that knowledge with other communities and spreading that training overseas too. At present there are lots of small projects but few showing what can be done with a bigger site. I think until people working in development can see how that scale might work, it's hard to convince them how a step change in addressing food security might work.
 
gardener
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As an example of the differences of each place, when I was last in Glasgow, many years ago, all the guys I talked to kept telling me that they were socialists. If you have a socialist government, I would think they would be very much in favor of turning public property that is currently unused into vegetable/food forest area. I think your idea of how much food can be produced is highly dependent upon what kind of skills you can work with. If you can include fruit trees, you will be more productive. Berries should do well in the area. If you have people that can figure out how to grow edible mushrooms that will be even more productive. Including them all together in a food forest would be very productive and help the soil and wildlife in the long run. Your output is dependent on your potential inputs.
John S
PDX OR
 
Kenny McBride
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Ha! Socialism is a pretty loaded word and means very different things here than it does Stateside. In reality, most of our politics is the same old neoliberal BS with a dusting of social policies to keep us from rioting. I think people generally would be in favour of this kind of work, but politicians are centralising more and more power all the time. The City Council is starting to look at a "sustainable food policy" though and I'm going to be involved in some of the discussions around that, so maybe I can start to feed these ideas into it.
 
Posts: 82
Location: Cranbourne, Victoria, AUSTRALIA
forest garden urban chicken
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Two words.
Chickens.
Rabbits.

Or, meat and manuure.

All from "waste".
 
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