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Nepal Semester Student's Catherine Von Holt's photograph of the Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu.

McCabe’s Reflection on Permaculture

McCabe Ballance

February 1, 2019

During my time at Hasera, I have further cultivated my interest in small sustainable farming. I had an epiphany earlier this year of changing my major and gravitating towards a life where I could physically see the fruits of my labor. The satisfaction I got when I began working construction was something I had not felt in a while and the idea of a self-sustaining farm brings many of my interests together. The opportunity to work with animals, the land, and community organization sounds very fruitful to me. Learning the principles of permaculture here at Hasera has inspired me to attempt the practice back home, as we were walking through the farm I was imagining how I could install these systems in my home. The idea of permaculture has really made an impression on me and I am now interested in taking this up as my ISP to further refine a plan for when I go home.

As for the viability of permaculture in Nepal, I still have not seen how it can be profitable for the general farmer. Here at Hasera, it seems that the main revenue stems from the educational programs that they offer not the crops that they produce. This leads me to believe that permaculture is more of a lifestyle practice rather than a means for economic mobility. A Nepali family that may not be farmers by trade could be inclined to adopt bottle gardens and begin composting as a way to mitigate food expenses and waste production, but I find it hard to see a large scale farmer transitioning to a pure permaculture set up. That being said the lessons on seed selection, alternatives to pesticides, and community organization are very valuable for any type of farmer. Nepali farmers should look to adopt these practices in order to gain autonomy from large scale seed producers and chemical companies. This will allow local farmers to defend themselves against seed patents and lessen the chance of chemical borne illnesses.

It may seem that I am contradicting my argument, so let me clarify. Nepali farmers would benefit by adopting tenets of permaculture but specialization in crops may still serve farmers well. By specializing in a “cash crop” (of their own seed) a single farmer will be better suited to make deals with the already existing food distribution infrastructure.

Where I see permaculture taking off is in individual small “farms” where people become food and energy dependent from the existing food and energy infrastructure (this ironically would hurt pure farmers). For example, I see permaculture exploding in urban areas; apartment complexes coming together as a community, utilizing rooftop space like a miniature farm to feed the occupants of the said apartment. In these situations, the “farmers” would be lawyers, teachers, policemen, or whoever lives in the apartment and their products would not be for profit but for sustenance.