One of the ethical underpinnings of the permaculture design movement is that of ‘fair share’ of the resources. That means when someone has extra, they share it with people around them. I thoroughly enjoy doing this with garden produce. It gives me the chance to pay it forward, which often affords me the opportunity to discuss why I grow organically, the importance of building soil and so on. It also feels good, no great, to me when I give something to someone. Today I paid it forward with tomatoes. I gave some to my landlady. She is after all the one who said I could garden in the first place. My downstairs neighbor got some too and was happy to be making a sandwich with them for him and his daughter. I also happened to be out in the garden when the postman delivered the mail. I asked if he liked tomatoes and he said how much he loved them. I gave him four and a hot pepper. The look on his face was priceless. That may well have made his day and I think that is really, really cool. It’s so simple and so effective a way to build community.
I love the idea of paying it forward and have ever since seeing the film by the same name. The idea is also part of how Heifer International does its wonderful work with small farmers in countries around the world. Donors can choose a variety of options to purchase livestock, from honeybees to bunny rabbits to milk cows, that is then donated to a family in need in a foreign country. The person receiving the donation is then directed to share the off spring of the donated livestock with a local community member to help that family improve their food security. Paying it forward effectively doubles Heifer’s efforts in the communities in which they work. How cool is that?
My idea is to pay Permaculture forward through education and the financing of permaculture projects in areas that really need them-which is EVERYWHERE. The biggest obstacle many people who take a Permaculture course and then want to start making a difference is money. So many people who want to go back to the land are impeded by this arbitrary intangible thing called money and it’s ludicrous. Yet there is SO much money out there that people are doing NOTHING with. I would love to see the Permaculture Paid Forward Project (PPFP) get off the ground and make use of some of that stagnating money for permaculture projects around the world. As David Holmgren said in a recent interview with Scott Mann of the Permaculture Podccast, “We need working permaculture models” to show people how effective it is at creating a food and ecosystem security that fosters biodiversity. The idea would be to provide both permaculture design education and seed money for projects in areas all over the world. Participants/recipients would then pay forward their knowledge, seeds, labor and so on in their home communities and bioregions.
Imagine permaculture design courses being taught FREE of charge to local residents all over the planet by a paid corps of dedicated permaculture teachers coupled with real world, boots on the ground bioregional knowledge from farmers, professors, and indigenous peoples in the areas where PPFP works. I once saw an episode of a nature documentary from the BBC (there are so many good ones they do I cannot remember the specific one). In it it detailed the wonderful work of a farmer in Ethiopia who was taught how to forest garden (though they did not use that term). The farmer was so pleased with the changes in his land and in his family’s food security that he taught the techniques to farmers throughout the surrounding area. It literally moved me to tears to hear about it. That’s the exact kind of thing I want the Permaculture Paid Forward Project to do. Money is the tool to make it happen. Show me the money…I have big plans.