A look into Permaculture With Max Kitafula

October 2, 2019 3:39 pm Published by

Princeton in Africa Fellow, Ornella recently sat down with the Permaculture Manager at Ktiongo, Max Kitafula to discuss his passion for permaculture and his love of teaching it to any and everyone.

“Permaculture is a global solution.” Those are the words of Mr. Max, Mainsprings’ head of VETA and PIT, also known as our “Mzee wa Nature,” Swahili for the Elder of Nature. By now I am sure you have gotten a basic understanding of permaculture, so I will save you the elongated explanation. Simply put, Permaculture stands for “permanent agriculture” and is a system of farming that incorporates a mixture of different approaches and disciplines. The aim is, increase production and minimize input all the while taking care of the environment.  However, according to our wise Mzee wa Nature, permaculture is not simply digging and planting, it is a mindset; as we teach individuals about the ethics of permaculture we are opening up their minds and releasing the potential of permaculture to the world.

The impact of permaculture on our campuses is obvious. At Kitongo, we can clearly see the improvement of the soil, which was originally sandy and unsuitable for agriculture. On both campuses production has increased as well as the variety of our yields. But, let us consider permaculture beyond Mainsprings, let’s talk permaculture in Tanzania.

Agriculture is the backbone of Tanzania and in fact one of its biggest sectors alongside tourism. Within that sector, unfortunately, lies an unsettling irony. Farmers in Tanzania tend to be very poor. As Mr. Max explained it to me, farmers often have to sell their little harvest to provide for their basic needs, barely making any profit. Current agriculture techniques lack sustainability because the need, first, is to survive.  For Mr. Max permaculture is the solution. If it were up to him, every farmer in Tanzanian would practice it. “Permaculture is a more harmonious approach… and shouldn’t be ignored for a more successful agriculture sector,” he says. Permaculture can solve a lot of problems ecologically, economically and socially even on a global scale. Ecologically because a basic ethic of permaculture is a respect for the earth; if we take care of her, she will take care of us. Economically because it considers the necessity for making profit. Lastly, socially because permaculture requires working together, it is about what wehave, not what one person has.

Permaculture is still relatively new knowledge. It’s biggest revolutionary potential also serves as it biggest hindrance. Mr. Max explains that his biggest challenge to teaching permaculture is trying to change mindsets. There exists a burden of habit; people are reluctant to abandon their traditional farming practices. Luckily the permaculture farms at our campuses serve as visual testimony of its potential. Although people may come with their own habits and skepticism, still, the very apparent beauty of our landscape and freshness as well as the diversity of our produce intrigues them. We welcome all that are willing to learn, and certainly our Mzee wa Nature is all to eager to teach them.

Curious, I asked our Mzee wa Nature how did he inherit that name, he answered simply, “because I love nature and I know that nature is everything.”

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This post was written by Mainsprings