Beware of advice from organic gardeners from temperate climates as it may or
may not apply in your situation, depending mainly on elevation. There are
factors other than climate, such as photoperiod, that can drastically affect
gardening when transplanted from the temperate zones. Tropical situations
are different and soil management techniques are very different. Moreover,
in workign with people who live in a crisis situation, it is almost necessary
to have experienced living without enough of anything oneself to understand
the psychology. There is absolutely no room to experiment because even small
failures are catastrophic. The psychology is far more complicated that that,
but conviction that the world is a place of scarcity is at the center. This
can result in behavior that seems "irrational" to someone who can afford a
pair of shoes, let alone two pairs.
Generally, with exceptions for very high elevations, tropical gardening
requires that something be growing in the soil all the time, preferably at
multiple levels. Thre are also exceptions for arid circumstances, mainly
because this becomes impossible even though still desirable.
The circumstances you describe for these folks affect about a quarter of the
world's population. Another half of the world's population are just a little
bit better off. And the United States, with under 5 percent of the world's
population, uses from one half to two-thirds (depending on whose estimates
you read) of the world's resources. Obvioiusly, no more than 10 percent of
people can live like we do. If we change here, we can buy a lot of time and
alleviate a lot of misery for good people elsewhere. Meanwhile, it is
necessary to disabuse the myth that people can achieve our levels of
consumption because there just isn't that much stuff on Earth. This is very
difficult for those of us who come out of this Sodom of consumerism. Our
credibility is not very high, whether deserved individually or not. It is
necessary to expect such skpeticism in working with people trying to survive
on less than enough to survive. Hopefully, your experience as a journalist
has made you emotionally strong enough and given you a vigorous ego in order
to deal with the many stresses involved in trying to help in such
Again, we can supply some of the information components and some leads on
training that may help you with this important work. There may be other ways
in which we can support your work down the road, including internships, etc.
Please email me personally, not through the mailing list, if you are
For Mother Earth, Dan Hemenway, Yankee Permaculture Publications (since
1982), Elfin Permaculture workshops, lectures, Permaculture Design Courses,
consulting and permaculture designs (since 1981), and now permaculture
training in an email classroom. Copyright, 1996, Dan & Cynthia Hemenway.
YankeePerm@aol.com P.O. 2025, Ocala FL 3447-2025 USA.
We don't have time to rush.