Old Orchard Farm: agriculture, small scale
WWOOF is an international network of organic farms and people interested in learning from them. Volunteers work on the farms and the farmers provide room and board. We searched online for a farm where we could do wwoofing in Zambia, and that’s how we got to know Sebas. An uncommon character, with life choices strongly determined by his principles and ideology. Long talks, warm beer, a few bad movies and a lot of laughs were some of the ingredients of the 14 great days of living together and learning that we spent with him and the people in his life.
Should we sneak people answers to the exam questions, or give them the resources to pass it themselves?
Key concepts: organic farming | local farmers | empower | sustainable
Sebastian is named after the famous composer whose music his mother loved the most. He doesn’t compose music but instead, after thinking about what would be the best thing he could do to improve his country, Zambia, he decided to devote himself to small scale organic farming. His idea is to help local farmers produce, while being the least dependent as possible on synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and large equipment. He wants to empower small farmers to produce enough vegetables, fruit and cattle to be economically sulf-sustaining.
At the same time, he tells us that the way for land to be productive in the long term is for it to be treated in an organic manner, and that organic farmers have good harvests for a long time without having to spend money (on synthetic fertilizers, pesticides…), damage the environment, and threaten people’s health. One needs knowledge and practice of organic and sustainable farming.
After spending two weeks with him, we have a better idea of what agriculture and empowerment of small farmers entail, the importance of crop diversification and how farms can be efficiently run without sophisticated equipment, and by letting chickens and pigs loose as much as posible for their health. It isn’t necessary to give them antibiotics and their meat will be of better quality.
Agriculture and livestock are essential for the survival of humanity, and ever since the green revolution agriculture has been experimented with by injecting fertile soil with nitrogen and phosphorus to increase production. But as time and experience have proved, there are no miracle solutions. Nature is complex and for humans to think we have the answer to better production when the system itself has millions more years of experience, is yet another example of human arrogance.
While it is true that thanks to the green revolution, food production has been increased, soils are becoming less fertile and more dependent on fertilizers which are in turn a threat to the environment and human health. The alternative is to take care of the soil, maintaining its balance, alternating what we plant each year, and monitoring the acidity and proportions of its components.
Without going into the technical details, Sebastian achieves long-term sustainable production while, at the same time, taking care of resources. He tells us that there is no future without organic farming and we almost blindly believe him, having spent two weeks with him, and knowing that he’s been studying agriculture since he was 17 years old. He has experienced Wwoofing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) in Australia and has contracted with an NGO to experiment with organic farming. He has also spent 11 years doing this type of farming and making a profit.
The phrase comes to me that so many of the Africans we’ve met say: “slow but sure”, and its understandable that in the Western world where everything goes so fast, where we want anything and everything, where we expect immediate gratification, it’s difficult to accept that by doing thing slowly, and in this case, allowing time for nature to follow its cycles, everything turns out much better.
Wroted by Cristina Bajet.
Translated by Betsy Galbreath and David Charles Conlon
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