Permaculture in Palestine

I have to hand it to ghirbaal. He entitled a recent post that mentions biodiversity Don’t You Quote Hobbes at Me, Nature Boy. That piqued my interest enough to go and take a look, and it proved a fascinating read. ghirbaal seems to be based in Jordan, and was reporting on a permaculture conference that he had been to in Marda, a village in Palestine. Marda is the site of an experimental permaculture farm. That’s interesting in itself, but besides the point.

ghirbaal gives a very clear account of what permaculture offers and the rationale behind most of its design principles.

I appreciate the ease with which permaculturalists acknowledge and celebrate the historical precedence of and continued ability of mankind to productively interact with his environment (while recognizing the destructiveness of some of the later instantiations of this ability). Mankind is likewise bound to the networks of ecological connections, though with a degree of flexibility, which permaculture tries to mobilize. And, personally, I likewise appreciate the sense in which permaculture design tries to break down the boundaries between the house and the garden, and explore ways in which they can fruitfully interact with each other, such that the house can become inseparable from the garden, and vice versa.

It seems to be with the realpolitik of permaculture that he (?) finds the greatest difficulty. The questions of scale and of focus are the big problem. Can permaculture ever supply the amount of food that might sustain a culture rather than a family? Moreover, can permaculture adapt itself to a society in which the individual dwelling, nestling in its carefully designed and tended permcultured acres, is not in fact the way most people want to live?

I’m not going to attempt to summarize the rest of the argument. I’ll just say that there are some thought-provoking ideas (if Israeli settlements were more sustainable, would that increase or decrease international support for them?) that are well worth exposing yourself to.

Uganda releases new soybean variety

A brief report on says that Ugandan scientists have released a new soybean variety known as MNG 8.10. The variety is resistant to a soybean rust (presumably not Asian soybean rust, or they’d be making a much bigger deal about it) and gives a yield of up to 2.5 tons per hectare.

That’s great news for the breeders and for Uganda’s soybean farmers. Just one churlish question; who will be eating the soybeans? Livestock in Uganda? Livestock in some other country? Or hungry Ugandans?

Hope will always grow

In Muzya, you find that rare blend…that elusive, intangible, yet unmistakable quality of a community that every development project dreams of working with…

I’m a sucker for first-person accounts of the stuff I sit in Rome and read about, and Thulasy B.’s blog Stories from Zambia never disappoints. This time she’s talking about a community that, against the odds, is proving a greater success than the ones that aid agencies had targetted. Thulasy would be the first to admit that it is hard to draw any generalizations, let alone predict which communities will be like Muyza and which will wither like maize in a drought year. No matter, as long as here are such communities, and at least some open-minded aid specialists, life will improve.

Heritage Roundup

Rebsie Fairholm at Daughter of the Soil has a long post about Association Kokopelli, the French outfit fined for unfair practices because they dared to sell seeds of varieties that their customers actually wanted. ((In some small way I prompted the post, which is nice.)) Rebsie gives some of the history and some of the delights of Association Kokopelli, and suggests various ways in which people can support them. She also raises the spectre of Kokopelli going under again, and of the many varieties they have and make available going extinct.

People who have varieties from Kokopelli can certainly swap them, as suggested. But I’m wondering about a couple of other ideas. First, is there any chance that the Global Seed Vault in Svalbard would accept a black box safety duplicate collection from Kokopelli? Possibly not. But then, what is the extent of duplication between Kokopelli’s list and the list of Seed Savers Exchange. I have no idea. But I do know that SSE’s list is fully computerized, and I would hope that Kokopelli’s is too. First order of business, then, would be to ensure that SSE has all of Kokopelli’s material.

Of course, names are a tad tricky. They always are. Rebsie asks, “Where else but Association Kokopelli can you get Venus’ Nipple tomatoes?”. That depends. Might Venus’ Nipple be the same as Teton de Venus? I doubt it, but you never know. Here in Italy a breast is often una tetta. Not too far from that to Teton. Or is it? Ot it might be plain Venus, which in Europe is available at Vent Marin. And I found that through Tomodori, which seems to aggregate tomato seed offerings from around the web.

One of the beauties of SSE is that seed savers and gardeners can use the autumn catalog to order direct from one another. What makes this possible is the size of the catchment area. The vast majority of SSE members live in the US, and they can use US postage stamps to send out their seeds. That makes life very simple. Europe needs a postal union to make a continent-wide exchange workable. Until then, all we can do is encourage gardeners and seed savers everywhere to swap varieties, keep good records and, in Rebsie’s words:

Sow your heirloom seeds with pride and raise two fingers to the EU seed legislation and the big bloated corporations who feed off it.

P.S. In other heirloom news, Chef Robert shares his love of raddichio, while Rebecca Pastor continues Becky and the Beanstock, an examination of heirloom beans.

P:P:S: Olives and Artichokes, a blog by some transplants from Wales to southwest France, also comments on Kokopelli.

Local to where?

One of the great dangers of the internet is that it makes everywhere seem like next door. So when I stumbled across Local Harvest my first thought was, “Not to here it isn’t”. But that’s needless nitpickery. The fact is, southern Europe is still sufficiently diverse that one doesn’t really need a service such as this to locate a decent source of locally grown food. I can go to my local market and ask where the produce was grown and get an answer. But I also know that this is becoming more and more of a luxury. So perhaps it would be nice for the many and varied farmers and farmers’ market schemes across Europe to come up with something similar. There’s something in London, but it isn’t nearly as inclusive as it makes out. May as well get started with it now, before we really need it. Or maybe there’s already something similar out there?