As populations swell and debates rage over food production and global warming, easing the constant pressure we exert on the Earth seems a daunting and confusing task. The rise of alternative, more conscientious ways of living that challenge corporate and government policies geared towards economic growth are springing up all over the globe.
As populations swell and debates rage over food production and global warming, easing the constant pressure we exert on the Earth seems a daunting and confusing task. The rise of alternative, more conscientious ways of living that challenge corporate and government policies geared towards economic growth are springing up all over the globe. One such place is the Ikhwezi Lokusa permaculture farm.
Located 15 minutes from East London, this farm is a model for sustainable living. A short drive from the N2 brings you to vivid green orchards and thriving vegetable gardens, a world far removed from the bustle of city life. Everything from the buildings to the fruit forests is geared towards a more sustainable and harmonious lifestyle that immediately comforts the soul.
The farm, which belonged to the Wigley family for 30 years, now belongs to a group of men–two former civil engineers and a student of Mandarin and Chinese philosophy. They have spent years dreaming of a place where they could combine their philosophies with a practical manifestation of a sustainable and eco-friendly way of life.
This shows in every aspect of the farm. The main building looks on to a garden filled with vegetables and flowers.
“In a nutshell permaculture is (the process of) using natural resources close to where you live and using them not because they are cheap and easy to access, but because the building and farming techniques preserve the natural surroundings,” explained Jandre Stroebel, one of the owners.
This way of life is more than just about the way you plant your vegetables, Stroebel explains. It changes the very model of mainstream life, from the way the buildings are made to energy consumption. Everything is geared towards lowering the carbon footprint and offsetting the impact humans exert.
Permaculture shouldn't be known as an alternative way of living but as a necessity, emphasised Stroebel. We have to live with the land and not against it.
More than a year after acquiring the land, the hard work these men have put into the farm is starting to bear fruit. Various buildings have been erected and they eat only vegetables and fruit from their garden.
It’s a long process, but it’s slowly taking shape.
“The technological era has become so overpowering and so easy to navigate that people are tending to move away from face-to-face communication where the human touch comes into play,” Luke Borg said. “It’s torn us away from each other. This farm is my beautiful place of solace. I come here to be quiet.”
The dominant form of industry farming across the world is known as monoculture, which uses pesticides and herbicides. Critics of genetically modified crops warn that they could present a hazard to biodiversity. In addition, they argue that the GM cultures increasingly used in monoculture haven’t gone through the processes that ensure they are safe for humans and animals. Permaculture, they argue, follows a natural process and requires little human intervention. Companionship planting, for example, encourages the pairing of plants that form a symbiosis, eliminating the need for pesticides and herbicides. For example, garlic planted around a vegetable patch deters certain insect pests. Another strategy is to plant colourful flowers, such as marigolds, to confuse and distract flying insects.
Conventional building practices result in a lot of wastage and the carbon footprint left by this industry is massive. Permaculture endeavours to use the natural resources of the surrounding area. Ikwhezi has a rich source of clay, so they have been making their own bricks for all the buildings.
The hope is to build an Earthship, such as that developed in Taos, New Mexico, with the three concepts of sustainability in mind; reducing, reusing and recycling. Essentially it is a self sustainable unit made of mud-packed tyres, where people live and grow their own food, have access to natural light and preserve heat without having to resort to electricity.
The farm doesn’t make use of municipal water. The dam, built around 30 years ago, holds around 220 000 cubic litres of water and the owners say it has never been dry. This is because the system allows rain water to flow from the N2 into a catchment area. It is used for watering plants, showering and cleaning.