Permaculture for food security and sovereignty
The permaculture vision of food security and sovereignty is one of communities full of food gardens, larders full of preserves and seed ready to go into garden beds irrigated by harvested rain and storm water and fertilised by the recycled wastes of the dysfunctional industrial food system often through egg laying birds turning over deep litter and food forest jungles (akin to those of the chook’s ancestors, the SE Asian jungle fowl). It extends to the public land with community gardens, fruit and nut tree orchards, avenues and food forests, grazing goat herds managing weed scapes and converting the surplus biomass of our leafy suburbs to dairy products, and rotational poultry and pig systems cultivating the arable fields of urban and peri-urban agriculture.
Permaculture colonises the higher density urban spaces with wicking beds and roof top gardens, aquaponics systems using an abundance of salvaged tanks, pipes and pumps, and occupies the dark cool space of basement car parks with repurposed shipping containers producing fungal delights growing on wood wastes from the leafy suburbs. This permaculture vision easily incorporates the need to harvest the exuberance of past plantings of large fast-growing evergreen trees, to allow sunlight to sustain more productive food plants, attached greenhouses, north facing glazing and solar panels. The wood abundance becomes the structural materials, fuel and fodder, and fungal substrates that sustain the retrofitting of our suburbs and peri-urban super suburbs to achieve their potential to become our most productive and beautiful agricultural landscapes.
While a large part of the action will continue to be with intensively cultivated ecologies of garden and farm, the permaculture vision has always involved the harvesting of the wild plants and animals from both the margins of our cultivated spaces and the wider commons that once were the source of sustenance for indigenous and traditional peoples. Especially in times of hardship marginal species, spaces and commons have been a resilient backstop that fed and healed people when crops failed, natural disasters struck, or political power plays and conflict disenfranchised and displaced people. There has been a revival of interest in wild foods, from the bush tucker of aboriginal people to the culinary secrets of common weeds and feral animals brought by our European forebears as well as those known and used by more recent migrants from Asia, Latin America and Africa. In Australia many migrants continued to harvest wild foods not only to supplement the food budget but also to maintain cultural connections, long before fennel and horta (Greek green) were available in the supermarkets. Today permaculturists are at the forefront of an explosion of interest in harvesting and cooking common edible weeds.7
Permaculture strategies to increase food security and sovereignty focus as much on changing our food consumption habits towards what is easily grown locally, abundant and especially undervalued or even despised. Weeds and feral animals often have such a bad reputation not just because we are the proverbial affluent spoiled brats who can pick and choose from the world’s food larder, but because traditional people survived by eating common and wild foods in times of hardship, and many who experienced that hardship were left with bad memories generalised to the food that sustained them. The middle-class children who’s protein source was mostly rabbit during the Great Depression, resulted in rabbit meat being considered inferior food; a legacy that has only faded in recent decades as that generation passed on.