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Using money to support activism

Inspired by the now annual Lush Spring Prize - which rewards projects around the world that promote social and environmental regeneration - Permaculture magazine editor and Lush Times columnist, Maddy Harland, explains why she introduced a similar prize for permaculture this year and announces the winners.


The Lush Spring Prize inspires me. Why? Because it offers hope to people working in difficult circumstances and helps them build on their good works. They are the kind of projects that might not easily get support from more conventional funding sources. The Prize brings people working on the very ‘edge’ together, and builds community and a sense of hope. Imagine if every successful business reinvested some of its surplus in doing good, instead of it all going to shareholders. It would change the world.


After the last Lush Spring Prize award I came home from the awards ceremony both inspired and, I have to admit, quite shattered. When I heard stories about how people are shot for growing veg or cooped up in a refugee camp for decades, it takes the meaning of funding to a different level. This is not just about regenerative development, it is about survival and the power of witness. An idea began to grow in my mind; could we at Permaculture develop a prize and make a difference, albeit on a smaller scale?


Sometimes life takes some incredible turns. Out of the blue, I was approached by a benefactor who wanted to gift £10,000 to permaculture projects. Then another benefactor appeared to match fund. Suddenly, I had £20,000 to showcase the very best examples of ecological, social and economical regenerative permaculture projects in the world. Like Lush, we wanted to shine a light on good people and good works in a world on the edge of collapse and climate crisis. I had no idea how to do this but I reckoned I’d work it out. Then Hannah Apricot at the Abundant Earth Foundation offered to set up a £5,000 Youth Prize. £25,000 had landed in my lap in just a few months.


Permaculture Magazine Prize


By the time the Permaculture Magazine Prize had closed June 2018, I had 152 entries from all over the World. The majority of them were deserving of support. It was humbling to read through them. It made me proud to be associated with the global permaculture movement and it made me shed tears. If the human race supported regeneration, rather than exploitation we would create a completely different global paradigm. There is no shortage of examples.


In the end, I had to shortlist down to 20 and the Judges had to choose a winner and four runners up. The Youth In Permaculture Prize judges had to decide too. It was pretty unanimous. The Ghana Permaculture Institute (GPI) takes the main £10,000 award for its extraordinary work with its farming community and beyond. GPI has, to date, trained 8,000 farmers in a range of skills including growing moringa (a highly nutritious nitrogen-fixing tree that can be used to make a variety of natural products from soap to simple medicines), beekeeping and how to set up indigenous tree nurseries and food forests. They have established a micro-credit system for the community and go into schools to teach children how to grow food and farm mushrooms for added income. They teach permaculture design and especially train women in backyard farming.


The four runners up are equally impressive and each will receive £2,500. They are:


1.   Albaydha Project and Albaydha Development Co., Saudi Arabia. This project is an example of agroforestry that can survive on less than 50mm of rain a year, while restoring shallow aquifers, sequestering carbon, increasing biodiversity, and honouring the pastoral heritage of the local people.


2.   Guba, Swaziland. By offering local people skills to create productive homesteads, learn methods and technologies to be self-sufficient and entrepreneurial, Guba is creating resilient communities for now and the future.


3.   Bentley Urban Farm, UK. A place of refuge and learning, with access to fresh, organic produce in a food desert where there are mulitple Take-aways on every street but not one independent greengrocer. Bentley teaches people how to grow, cook and eat fresh local food and builds community in a fractured society with high unemployment.


4.   Permaculture Provision Project, USA. Working with the local Navajo Nation, this project is creating fresh food in the 'Four Corners' and reviving indigenous food growing techniques and traditions. It is showcasing the need for permaculture across the USA.



Abundant Earth Youth Prize


The winner of the Abundant Earth Youth Prize is Millicent Anyango, who uses permaculture methods to feed orphans, school children and the homeless. Millicent grew up an orphan in Kenya. She now works at her orphanage teaching the children about fresh, nutritious food. The surplus food goes to the homeless project Millicent also works with. Her commitment to the next generation at such a young age is extraordinary.


The runners up are:


·     Tierra Nueva. After being devastated by hurricane Maria, John Lago Gonzalez turned his family farm in Puerto Rico into a showcase for permaculture techniques. A tree and herb nursery and waste collection system are already benefiting the community.


·     Felipe Vasconez grows fresh, organic vegetables high in the Ecuadorian mountains. He aims to create a shared space in Ecuador’s capital, where organic and permaculture producers from across the country can sell their produce whilst educating the Nation.


So that’s the story for 2018. What will happen in 2019? I have no idea but I already have a pledge for £15,000. We are working hard to make it even more. Money is energy. In the right place it is powerful and productive. I want to use money as a lever to change the world.



Maddy Harland is the editor and co-founder of Permaculture Magazine. She is the author of Fertile Edges – regenerating land, culture and hope – and The Biotime Log.


You can read more about these wonderful people and projects in Permaculture Magazine issue 98.


Photo caption: Ghana Permaculture Institute staff work hard to regenerate thousands of farms, the local economy and education system, using permaculture ethics and principles. There's is a completely holistic approach that is transforming lives.


Applications for the 2019 Lush Spring Prize close on 9th November. See



Money is energy. In the right place it is powerful and productive. I want to use money as a lever to change the world

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