Maddy Harland explains how The Lush Spring Prize - a now annual event which rewards inspiring projects around the world with a focus on regeneration - has itself inspired a new £25,000 Permaculture Magazine Prize
The Lush Spring Prize… £200,000 in awards, winners from all over the world, profiles of fascinating people and projects, but what is it like to meet the winners in person?
Among the judges there are also friends and allies like Andy Goldring, CEO of The Permaculture Association (Britain); Daniel Wahl, an early pioneer of Gaia Education who now works with the Commonwealth developing climate solutions; Pandora Thomas, co-founder of the Black Permaculture Network, and Warren Brush, co-founder of Quail Springs Permaculture.
The prize-giving evening did not disappoint but it did surprise. I had expected a great celebration of deserving winners. But I had not expected to be so moved. Let me explain.
Firstly, the Prize was given to so many permaculture projects. We bumped into Josie Redmond from the Malawi Schools Permaculture Clubs. My daughter, Gail, who attended the ceremony with me, had volunteered for her after leaving school. What an unexpected reunion!
The project itself helps primary teachers in rural northern Malawi to run after-school student permaculture clubs. Each student works on an individual permaculture plot and collectively implements a whole school design.
Malawi’s climate has the capacity to grow a wide variety of nutritious edibles, but the focus is still monocultures of maize. Added to this, HIV and Aids has resulted in millions of orphans in the country so a project that grows healthy, nutritious food and is designed to be self-replicating and seed permaculture education into Malawi schools is vital.
I also met the two Bolivian women who set up the seed saving network, Terrena. They have a genuine passion for seeds and for freely sharing them. My kind of people! Because Bolivia has no access to organic seeds, and the tradition of seed guarding is slowly disappearing, they started a community seed bank and are now teaching farmers how to organise a Bolivian Organic Seed Guardian Cooperative.
My Stand Out Moments
The ceremony started with a statement from the Judges read by Andy Goldring and Precious Phiri, making it clear that the prize is serious about highlighting both good practice regenerative projects and the inequalities, political corruption and conflicts in the world.
At the ceremony, each prize winner gets a few moments to speak about his or her project. Every story was special but one of my stand out moments was hearing storyteller, Mohammed Sulaiman, speak eloquently about his people, the Sahrawi.
For the last 43 years, these traditional Bedouins have been forced to live in five ‘temporary’ camps in the Sahara Desert made up of of 100,000 individuals. They have very little yet they create small enterprises that upcycle waste materials, grow food and provide local goods to trade. They are supported by Jewels in the Desert, a Belgium charity that helps them grow food, restore their land and empower their youth; creating economic independence and capacity building in the most adverse of circumstances. This is a story of a people who still manage, in the most difficult circumstances, to live with dignity.
It was, however, the Nicaraguan prizewinners from the Center for Justice and human Rights (CEJUDHCAN) who stole our hearts and completely humbled us. Started in 2003, CEJUDHCAN secures Indigenous land rights and promotes sustainable land management with communities on Nicaragua’s Atlantic Coast. (CEJUDHCAN was part of the team that led the process granting legal control of native lands to natives.)
Armed settlers have frequently attacked the Miskito communities, so many feel unsafe farming at a distance from their homes. CEJUDHCAN trains Miskito women in bio-intensive agriculture so they can farm safely in the smaller areas close to their homes. The agroecology training and materials provide critical food security, allowing people to stay on their traditional lands while fighting for their land rights in national and international courts. Recently 50 people have been murdered for wanting to garden their land. No one is reporting the Nicaraguan civil war in the news and this is a shocking human rights scandal. It would pass unnoticed but for this prize.
Launching a New Permaculture Prize
Inspired by the reach of the Lush Spring Prize and its effects, I wanted to also offer something specifically permaculture-focussed and so at the end of last year, with the help of my colleagues and two generous benefactors, we launched a smaller prize fund, The Permaculture Magazine Prize. This has been expanded to £25,000 by Abundant Earth Foundation who have added a Youth £5000 category. The idea is not to copy Lush’s regenerative prize but to try and find projects that demonstrate how permaculture design is a key tool for steering and holding whole projects together.
Permaculture design is a bit like a holy grail. Once you get it, it is obvious but until the penny drops it can be a little hard to grasp. So I wanted to support projects that base their work on the ethics and applied principles of permaculture design and to publicise how they do it. This then can become a powerful educational framework for anyone setting up initiatives the world over.
I have in my mind images of derelict glass houses, community gardens and allotments coming back to life; of rich soils being restored to damaged land; of whole landscapes being consciously rehydrated by changing land management practices and tree planting; of innovative ideas being put to the test; of people being nurtured; of ecosystems being understood and valued; a body of knowledge, experience and proven techniques being freely shared. I see people coming together, learning new ways of cooperating, leaving behind the learned behaviours of survival at any cost, each a strand that weaves a more civilised and intelligent vision of a society that seeks to heal rather than destroy.
I know that these projects are out there. We have made it as simple as possible for you to tell your story. Please go to:
www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/permaculture-prize-2018 and bestow your gift of experience and good practice. Please hurry! You have until the end of June to apply.
Maddy Harland is the editor of Permaculture Magazine International and the author of Fertile Edges: Regenerating Land, Culture & Hope.