by Kevin Mascarenhas
I met Joshua, the director of Better World Cameroon (BWC) at the Ecovillage Design Education (EDE) training at Sieben Linden Ecovillage in Germany back in September 2013. I was so impressed with Joshua, his passion and commitment, I was determined to find a way to support the BWC project. We spent many late nights, swapping stories and sharing our life’s journeys. Through this engagement, we dreamed up a roadmap to support BWC reaching it’s ambition to become the Bafut EcoVillage for 2020.
Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has – Margaret Mead
To make the Ndanifor Permaculture Ecovillage Project (NPE) truly self sustaining, we needed to create something beyond an education and training centre for eco literacy. We recognized the wonderful work already done by the BWC team through the summer work camps and wanted to build on this. We understand that a social enterprise could be the economic “engine” at the heart of BWC.
We see the potential to harness the creative talent of the youth while alleviating poverty. At the same time, we can address such global concerns as brain drain to the city, food sovereignty, food security and mitigate for unpredictable effects of climate change.
Upon returning to London, I met with Robert Simpson, a long supporter of BWC and CSA UK network director. He recognized the strengths of my strategic plan by introducing me to Ndanifor Garden Trust (NGUKT) board president Malcolm Green, who has fund raised for the purchase of land to create the permaculture demonstration site. Together, we teamed up with Steve Mangan and Jo Sugrue, Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) fund raisers to develop a workable proposition to connect a local farmers cooperative to NPE to supply a high value product into the global fair trade market.
We have named the project EcoVillage Fairtrade Initiative (EVFI),
“For the alleviation of poverty within indigenous small farming communities, growing High Value Agricultural Product (HVAP) using permaculture techniques”.
My view is that all citizens of the globe have a right to a fair income for work done and that this precept should be recognised as the norm and not the exception. I believe there is a rising consciousness amongst the global North of the associated issues and there is a willingness to pay a fair price to purchase goods grown in the global South.
We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Preamble, The Earth Charter
EcoVillage Fairtrade Initiative
is a framework that can be replicated by any ecovillage that is part of the GEN network. The model is to set up (as existing for BWC) a permaculture hub of demonstration, education and business enterprise. We select an appropriate HVAP that will be processed by a workers cooperative of BWC, and then supplied into the global fair trade network. This organisation is managed and administered by BWC which takes a profit for the HVAP processing. Together we will build a network of local farmers who grow and supply the product and they make a fair income in return.
What is really exciting is the holistic benefits that this model offers using permaculture thinking and design. We create a financial income, raise quality of life and health of local people. We conserve soil, raise fertility, capture and store water, translate all waste streams into valuable nutrients and build biological capital. All this makes for a more resilient and vibrant community that can support local people, regenerate the local ecology and generate a surplus income that can be ploughed back into the community. Truly a “win”, “win”, “win” scenario!
The first step will be to create a baseline quarter acre plot at Ndanifor Permaculture Ecovillage to quantify the yield of an average selection of local food crops typically grown by local farmers. Then along side this we will plant up the same crops but this time reduce the planting to intercrop our HVAP crop. This comparison will enable us to assess yields and demonstrate the viability of the overall project. The BWC team are already working hard with Elke Cole, our natural builder extraordinaire to set up the land based infrastructure. Through our funding stream the team will be able to recruit additional resources to manage and support this ongoing enterprise while still generating a surplus income that can be reinvested into building more infrastructure.
The UK team is now busy generating funding proposals to realize the vision. In parallel, we are researching high value plants suitable for this venture and setting up the fair trade supply channel.
This is a exciting phase of the project and we feel sure that the seeds of hope planted in the work we are doing now will bear lasting fruits in the years to come. Please send us your blessing and we look forward to sharing good news in the near future.
“Towards a Better World Cameroon”
Kevin Mascarenhas is the owner of Natural Flow– Conscious Design into Abundance in Great Britain