21 February 2010

How Permaculture Helps with Occupation

For our purposes, here is a working definition of what permaculture is:
Permaculture is about designing ecological human habitats and food production systems. It is a land use and community building movement which strives for the harmonious integration of human dwellings,microclimate,annual and perennial plants, animals, soils, and water into stable, productive communities. The focus is not on these elements themselves, but rather on the relationships created among them by the way we place them in the landscape. This synergy is further enhanced by mimicking patterns found in nature. Source

In Palestine, permaculture is gaining a foothold. This doesn't surprise me in the agricultural sense since I know that Palestinian farmers were making the "desert bloom" long before Israel was a gleam in the greedy eyes of some Zionist. Yet the movement is so much more than about cultivation of the land. In Palestine, permaculture is used as a form of social change, community building and of healing what is left of an abused Occupied Territory.
For example, Green Intifada, post dated December 17, 2009:
These pictures are from a tree planting event we did at Ra'ed's land near the village of Um Salamoneh. This land is threatened with confiscation to make way for a cemetery for settlers. Ra'ed contested the confiscation in the Israeli High Court and won a ruling that he can keep any land that he has 'developed' by December 31st this year. He has 90 dunums (9 hectares) of land. Of this, any left undeveloped will be confiscated by the Israeli state under Ottoman Land Law, which allows the state to confiscate any land left fallow for a period of 3-7 years.

Bustan Qaraaqa donated 50 trees to Ra'ed and spent a fantastic day planting them with him and his family.

About a year ago, Green Intifada contacted an American seed breeder that I know asking for donations of heritage seeds. The response was positive, many willing to help within the realm of agriculture but I am not sure what has happened, my friend promised to let me know about it but no news yet.

Another example: the story of Awad Abu Sway, Coordinator of The Wall and Settlements, Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture and how he is trying to persuade farmers to cultivate their land in order to stop settlement expansion. While Abu Sway is not a permaculturist, his campaign to plant trees on fallow land echoes the concept, low maintenance, low water, trees that help to cultivate land while proving that that the land is not abandoned, solving several problems with the minimum of effort. Source

This is not to say that Israel finds this peaceful movement to be acceptable:
At five in the morning on 8 November 2000, Israeli troops invaded the Sustainable Development Centre in the West Bank village of Marda, tearing doors off their hinges and smashing windows. They destroyed seven years of work on the permaculture project. During the two-and-a-half hour rampage, the plant nursery, seed bank, agricultural equipment, computers and files were all wrecked. A good article on the brutal reaction here.

What happened to Ra'eds trees in Um Salomoneh remains to be seen. Yet this one act goes beyond planting a tree. Its about taking ownership of ones property and rights.
Permaculture has more potential than this. Much more. I dream of how it could be applied in Gaza, to heal the poisoned land and to bring self controlled food security to the population, within the blockade, despite that blockade.