Old Man Wisdom

I really hate aid arrogance. You know the sort – educated whitey from the West decides that he/she knows best, and is going to these poor ignorant uneducated brown skins to HELP them. The audacity! We’re actually going to go teach them, when we know nothing of their region and our own society is so disordered… What a terrible joke! 

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These thoughts and feelings were confirmed by the visit of an old man from the village. He is, in fact, the man I bought the chickens off of in the previous blog entry (see https://permapai.wordpress.com/2013/06/09/bamboo-chook-nook/ ).

Well he comes over to check up on the chooks, takes one good look at what we’ve done on the land and breaks out into a massive smile and gives us a big thumbs-up (universal) and a “YEEEAM!” (best translated as ‘yes! this is completely awesome!’)

Well, it turns out that he knows all about food forests. In the Shan State in Myanmar where he comes from, they had a large very productive food forest. He said it was so productive they would eat with full bellies and still sell 2000 baht worth of surplus produce every day, regardless of the season! This is a massive sum of money in these parts. He kept walking around exclaiming that in 3 years everything will be big and productive and we will be laughing, very rich, very healthy and very comfortable – sounds good to me!

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He proceeded to demonstrate his tree-planting and fertilizing technique. His planting technique was much like ours. His fertilization technique we had never done, but which we are now using on every tree. His method is as such: around the already planted tree dig a moat-like trench about a hands-width deep. Fill this with manure or compost. Cover with topsoil and mulch. This prevents the erosion of your fertilizer and encourages it with each rain to seep directly onto the feeder roots. Very clever indeed!

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Volunteer Amanda, practicing Lung seu style fertilizing, filling the trench around the tree with cow manure.

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After fertilizing the tree, the trench is covered with topsoil and mulch, as though nothing even happened…

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Lung Seu’s tree planting method with a lychee (picture above).

This old man was the biggest support I have received in the last two and a half years of this project. Foreigners tend to come over and point out what’s missing. This old man came over with encouragement and the knowledge to show us what we could do even better! This kind of support is really helpful and encouraging. We have very much been running on faith, turning to books and videos on youtube to confirm our belief in the success of food forest systems. But for an old man from this area to come with 50 years experience insisting with enthusiasm that this will be amazing is more confirmation than I could ever receive from a synthetic modern-day cyber-world. 

Encouragement such as this is truly the greatest support. A nice change from the many sustainability snobs who come around wondering why our work does not compare with the work of 20 year old established ecovillages. This old man, Lung Seu, offered a hand of friendship and encouragement first, and criticism and judgment last. This was highly refreshing and greatly appreciated.

So, as a final note: we can never didactically teach anyone anything. We can only learn and share knowledge and skills together in a collaborative rather than competitive spirit! How’s that for aid approach in aiding yourself and others all at the same time!

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