August 2017. Food for Thought
Originally, which is to say well over ten years ago, I had a dream to generate my own “development project”. That is to say, to use the skills that I had gained “in the field”, to evolve a longer-term project in which I would be able to involve myself for the foreseeable future.
After so many years working for larger institutions, my overriding feeling was that it needed far longer and a far greater personal commitment to seeing Community Mobilisation programming evolve. Longer than I had been prepared to give in any of the field offices I’d
worked. Longer than any donors I’d encountered were prepared to guarantee in funding. Longer than agencies were prepared to offer in commitments to the incremental, process heavy and potentially unforeseen directions that community based programming requires.
Ultimately I wanted to see if it was possible to use tourism as a dynamo to open up community dialogue and problem-solution analysis. To use tourism as a donor institution. To introduce an industry that had as it’s aim a model of economic development that had community development at it’s core. That saw social improvement as a major pillar, as capital. That provided financial benefit, but emphasised social benefit as well.
There are times when I listen to myself and think that I’m just filled with hippy bullshit. That a dream of seeing such a model work, not just at a local level, but which would also have an objective of modelling and opening up debate at a political level, within the region and why not, the nation, that such a dream is just that, dreaming.
But so what. I have a dream. And if you don’t have a dream, how can you make a dream come true. I’m paraphrasing here…. Dr King. Capt Sensible!
And that is my dream, but it’s evolved. It’s evolving.
Originally I had thought that the goal of this project would be to promote economic development through a model of tourism that emphasised community participation and involvement. Of having a specific aim of sharing the opportunities open to economic development with the introduction of a new industry within a community. Increasing stakeholders and partners.
Spreading economic opportunities and linking this, though the use of a “community
chest” of funds generated by tourism, to a community analysis of how these funds and other community resources, could be best used for the benefit of this community. To generate a model of Community Based Tourism, that could inform discussion and policy for the region.
In many ways that is still the framework upon which I want to work, but my focus has evolved somewhat and now I see an opportunity to link this process not only to an independent process of community
problem – solution analysis, within a currently very de politicised community who have no means or tradition of communitydecision making, but to link this to Community Based Climate Change Adaptation and Agro – Ecology.
My sceptical voice is now screaming at me….. Dreamer. Joker. Hippy. Punk? And yet, why not? This isn’t a one day, one year project. This is, if I can get the dynamo to work successfully, the next ten years, or more. Why not?
But it’s become bigger than that. Like the onion, it’s skins peel away to reveal something else below and now I see the great opportunities open through agro ecological farming and modelling this within a region that is marginalised through the growing dependency upon an illegal monoculture and the emphasis upon chemicals and pesticides to fuel that growth. I see the opportunities to link government policy to practice within this region…… but of course there is such a major learning curve and of course, I simply can’t do this alone.
And I can’t do anything until I complete the infrastructure upon which it will be based.
The Farm. One model that offers more food for thought comes from Josh Trought: The Community-Scale Permaculture Farm: The D Acres Model for Creating and Managing an Ecologically Designed Educational Center and linked to that Jeff Lowenfells: Teaming with Microbes. An Organic Gardeners Guide to the Soil, as well as Eliot Colemans’ New Organic gardener. All of these are back ground reading. Teaching aids for a very steep learning curve. But they are there, and they help…. tho’ I need to find another source than The Evil, Amazon. More challenges!
Of course it’s imperfect, but it’s happening and, as I eluded to in my previous entry, I am already able to see the importance of introducing “Appropriate Technologies” in to the mix. Rainwater harvesting. Grey water systems. Composting. Soil nurturing. Perma culture. Employing locally. Listening to and being informed by local knowledge and expertise.
I’ve been amazed at how far and quickly growing my own food has influenced my thinking. Just having the small garden that we were able to develop with Hector and Diana is not only providing me with food to eat now, but is also pushing me to think of how this food can be preserved and once preserved, how this can offer not only increased value to traditional food preservation techniques, which are already at risk of “technocide”, but offers Loubar an opportunity to build upon these local skills, to generate a new income opportunity, outside of kif, which is of itself dependant upon greater protection of the soil…Agro ecology.
I left the farm last week armed with bags of food; tomatoes, peppers, melons, chillies, garlic, onions, aubergines, figs. Just a fraction of what is already available, but much of which is already rotting because I don’t have the means or wit to use it.
Here in Fez, with the assistance of Pam Corbin’s “Preserves” and a quick search of the internet, I’ve made; Orange, fig and ginger chutney, chilli pepper jelly, pickled onions, figpote, harissa, fig mostardo, tomato ketchup and passata. My fridge is now filled with conserved food though I’ve barely touched the surface…and I’m not even a novice.
My point is that the opportunity to develop an organic garden, to have a
restaurant that is fed from that organic garden, that uses that produce not just fresh and through a multitude of recipes, but through locally produced preserves and through this, to an expanded economy based upon process, education and an evolved produce.
That emphasises local, traditional knowledge and techniques. That promotes appropriate technology to do so…… I am desperate to build our feran now! All this opens new opportunities to the community, though I desperately need a “gardener” who is interested in cooking and a cook who is interested in gardening.
At a local level, as I say, this is exciting. But it’s now more than that. I’ve frequently alluded to my hope that this might offer something for Finn as well as questioning why it is that I don’t want to base myself in the economically developed north. I’ve known for years, decades, ever, that I don’t believe in our socio economic, human centric model of development. I felt greater affinity to PNG farmers who talked of the spirit world, the spirits of trees or animals or The Earth Mother. And as I’ve spent more time up here, I’ve felt a greater connection to Nature. I felt right here. Wrong “at home”.
And then I read Paul Kingsnorth’s Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist, and finally I heard someone else express what I felt. That our whole paradigm was wrong. That our human centred, progress fuelled, economy driven society was an illusion and that I felt more at ease with so called “less developed” societies that had stronger links to the land. To Spirits. To Nature. Had always felt like this. So now I also understand why this approach. This re learning the centrality of nature. Why this stepping out of our consumer, materialistic machine, is exactly the right thing to do and the right example to be offering Finn.
I know that ultimately this will have no impact upon the terrible challenges he will face in his future. But I also know
that it offers him an alternative paradigm, alternative skills, alternative philosophies that will be difficult for him to access in UK and not only do I believe in what I am doing for its own sake. But I believe in what I am doing for his.
These are early days and of course, the road is long. But if I am following what feels right, then this is a good path to be heading off on.