The answers are blowing in the wind…

My last post was about my visit to a biodigester in Morgan bay.  It is an ingenious way of making the most of organic waste.

This is a 3 min video, I made on the fly, which gives you more of an idea of what got me so excited.  Organic waste really is a great untapped source of renewable energy… Unfortunately, it is not utilized more or taken seriously enough.  Maybe we are not desperate enough yet..

Morgan bay is in the Ciskei– close to the Kei river.   In the Ciskei and Transkei – on the East Coast of South Africa, many poor rural communities have no electricity or proper sanitation.  Children sometimes have to walk to school hungry.  David Oldfield and his organization Finishes of Nature is implementing a project at schools around the Eastern Cape, building Biodigesters and planting organic GMO free gardens.

Educating people about the importance to collect heritage seed is another important task in this area… Last time we stayed with David we met an amazing woman who was working on distributing and helping locals recognize the importance of heritage seed.  Here people still rely on their crops for food.  Tribal farmers use oxen and horses to plough small fields for their families.  They rely on the elements for survival.  Good rains and a healthy eco-system mean food for the family.

Sadly,  many  families in this area have been torn apart as fathers have had to leave  for the city to find work, only returning home to their wives and children once or twice a year.  Often they take mistresses, and tragically many have been returning home ill to die.   AIDS and TB are so common in the Eastern Cape that rows of freshly dug grave mounds with very modest markers lie like achingly barren crops of sadness on the outskirts of every settlement.  By the way, this is where Mandela comes from, his family home is inland but within this district.  He grew up here and returned home to this beautiful sad poverty wracked area after his political career.  He has done a lot of  awe inspiring work. and his legacy lives on.  (The questions we must constantly ask are who is managing the legacy and what are they doing with it?)

If i were a visitor dropping in from another time and place, I  might look at those graveyards and presume that there must be a war going on.

It is a war.  A war against the most punishing and relentless poverty.  As predicted by the scientists who saw this coming, the poor third world tribal people, living according to the old ways close to the earth,  are the most vulnerable people in the time of Climate Change.  Although they have so much to teach us about how to survive in times of crisis.  How to bake bread in an earth oven, with no easy source of wood to feed it.  They are the ones who know where to find water in the veldt.  They are the ones who know how to hunt and which berries to eat.  They know how to make a house out of basic materials like reeds and grasses and survive with little to no money in winter.  What would whities do if we found ourselves having to do all that all of a sudden?

They are the ones paying the price for all the comfort and cake and easy heating and convenient living that makes life in the first world so comfortably numb.  Ironically, to add to their unsuspecting woes, large international companies, are coming in with the pretense- or ideal- (not sure which it really is, but I am a little cynical) of creating “food security” in these places by offering them  Genetically Modified seeds- like the magic beans offered to Jack in the fairy tale about the beanstalk. (Poverty stricken boy is instructed by his widowed mom to take the last family asset to market- their only cow.  Along the way he trades it for some magic beans, which he plants- they grow into a massive plant-which he climbs.  He finds himself having to confront a man eating giant in the sky, but overcomes him and returns with treasure.)  (Interesting parallels here with the story of Jack in the beanstalk and the giant multinational man- eating company distributing the seeds..hmm.)  Sadly little Jack in the South African story and his mom do not realize that they will have to pay more cows for seed the following year.  I am not sure that they realize either that they will not be able to collect the seeds and replant them as they have in the past. Nor are they aware that science has proven that eating the food they have grown from these seeds undermines their immune systems, create allergies, has shown to cause kidney and liver damage and as a result would exacerbate the symptoms of AIDS and TB.  They also are not aware that their staple diet of maize porridge to go with the beans, is made with GM maize as South Africa is the only country in Africa which has allowed GM crops to be grown and is being used as a foothold for the company distributing the seed.  It is said that around 80 to 90% of the maize crops here are now GM, and most maize porridge products available-  are made with between 50 and 80% GM maize.  This maize is still in an experimental stage.  They are therefore part of a huge scientific experiment, being conducted by a giant who own the patent to the “magic beanstalk” and who wishes to gather as much treasure into his coffers as he can.

Which is why the solutions being offered by people working in the rural areas, creating food gardens, heritage seed banks and alternative energy soluitons like biodigesters are so important at this time.   It is all up hill for individuals and organizations doing this kind of work.  They are not getting a lot of sponsorship or government support.   Keeping a positive attitude can be tough for these warriors of the environmental struggle.  But the rewards are deeper and more meaningful than money, I am sure. May the tide turn soon.  But in the meantime, lets hope they soldier on.  It’s a lonely road. David and Golliath have been seen battling out before.  May the best man win.

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