Monday, 29 October 2012

Participatory Research

It turns out that participatory research is not such an easy task.

All the investigations we do are expressly done to benefit the community and biodiversity - to work collaboratively with local healers and wild collectors and to produce outcomes which directly benefit them; offer tools and methods for the conservation of biodiversity and traditional practices; empower the people to tell about the role they play in conservation.

We are just there to interpret the story of the people an their relationship to nature. We look at it with researchers eyes, trained to be systematic and attempting to be as objective as possible. - (In-cognito?)

The interpreter has a role to play in the subject though. 'Any half-awake materialist well knows - that which you hold holds you.'

Here is another poem by Walt Whitnam 'When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer' - It speaks volumes to the issue of speaking about and trying to do 'science' with people.

When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Mekong Youth Alliance for Organic Agriculture and Agro-ecology Occupy Your Life Manifesto

I have just returned from the Toward Organic Asia workshop 'Mekong Youth Alliance for Organic Agriculture and Agro-ecology' on the Tha Thang Organic farm in Pakse Laos.

During the workshop young farmers from Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam collected their thoughts for a collective vision for agriculture and we drafted it into the following 'Mekong Youth Alliance for Organic Agriculture and Agro-ecology Occupy Your Life Manifesto':

We are the Mekong Youth Alliance for Organic Agriculture and Agro-ecology. We write this manifesto in support of happiness in a system of agriculture, which includes healthy and abundant nature, healthy communities and a thriving economy.

Occupy Your Life follows the general principles of the Occupy Wall Street movement but focuses on the regaining of livelihoods of young farmers. Taking back responsibility and reclaiming our role in food production, instead of outsourcing to supermarkets grow our own food and get close to our food source. We should reclaim our health and consume healthy food rather than relying on hospitals and medicine.

Innovative, young, small-scale, diversified farmers are the future of agriculture. In order to secure our agricultural future we need to preserve biodiversity and manage the landscape in harmony with nature, use waste wisely and ensure fair access to fresh and clean water, offer respect for people to work with dignity.

We need to build on the creative potential of youth to solve global crises. Small-scale farms that work in harmony with nature and are run by young farmers are the solution to many global crises in that they offer climate change adaptation and mitigation, stop erosion, create sustainable and healthy local food systems, keep young people in rural areas and prevent urbanization and stop the loss of cultural diversity and traditions. These small farms help to change the course of things for rural people by alleviating poverty and creating food sovereignty.


Nature is beautiful, that has a value in itself.

Forests are a source of food they are the mothers of rivers and they form the foundation of watersheds. They are an important source of medicine, culture, and spiritual fulfillment.

We need integrated holistic thinking and philosophy in farm design, utilizing synergistic relationships within farming systems and in harmony with nature.

Our health, and the health of our communities, depends on healthy soil. Farming should work toward building soil organic matter, preventing and controlling erosion, preserving soil biodiversity and respecting soil life. We should practice farming with a long term focus, using more permanent crops and poly cultivation.

We need to preserve the genetic diversity of seed and livestock through building and supporting regional connections for small-scale diversified farms.


Young farmers are redefining economy with respect toward the values of nature and society. We need to change the way we think about economy. We are part of an interconnected web of life - exchanges are more than just monetary units. We need to work together, focusing on cooperation and friendliness rather than competition.

We should strengthen networks and offer support for grassroots actions for farming with dignity, integrity and self-reliance and to promote a pro-farming society that makes wise use of resources including wastes.

We envision a world wherein the producer and consumer choose health and happiness; they should feel a kinship. People should eat healthy local food and get to know their farmer. Farmers should care for consumers and produce wholesome food. Mindful marketing community supported agriculture, and farmer's markets can support the relationship between the producer and consumer.

Small-scale farms should have access to fair and reliable funding, building up wealth for their families and in the farming landscape in the form of healthy communities and abundant biological resources.


Viable agricultural systems require strong communities, grassroots movements and young farmer networks. These communities form their own agreements based on self-regulation and open systems of management according to tradition and local knowledge. They agree on clear and pertinent rules to follow that help guide community actions and serve as a fundamental building block for food security and access to healthy living.

Traditional belief and wisdom gives meaning to life offering insights for living together with nature and creating ecological farming practices. Farming systems should have respect for culture and traditional belief and thereby see an intrinsic value in the landscape.

We need clear information sharing and transparency in education. Schools should serve to support and increase traditional agricultural knowledge. Young people should have access to information and training about farming sustainably.

Education is a fundamental aspect of small-scale diversified farming. It provides young people with opportunities for growth and personal development, cultivating not just food but people. These farms operate within a participatory learning process where farmers share methodologies and skills and help to convey the mindset of an occupied and active life.

There is an intrinsic value in animals. They deserve to be treated as friends and with respect and care. Food from animals is a gift. They deserve fair treatment, good health, and good living conditions. We need localized closed systems where healthy feed comes from a diverse farm and local community.


We should promote happiness as a fundamental pillar of life. Our lives are dependent on all other life forms, when eating we should be aware and thankful for the hard work of farmers and to the web of life and society that brought us the food. Farmers are amazing people in that they work so hard to grow our food and get so little in return. We need to create agricultural chains and systems that support and acknowledge the hard work that farmers are doing and help create good conditions for them to work with dignity. Through their hard work farmers bring others happiness while fostering their own contentment like roots in the soil.

We should take care of people in need and 'share the abundance' through fair resource distribution.


We support happiness in farming, including healthy and vibrant systems of nature, community and economy. We need to take back the roles of young farmers in food production, reclaiming right livelihood.

Young farmers are the future of agriculture, which preserves biodiversity and an occupied life. They practice natural harmonious farming and offer respect and dignity for communities.

We need small and slow solutions in agricultural development and design in order to deal with the global challenges we are facing. Innovative young farmers offer those solutions we should support them.

In a world where resources are dwindling young farmers offer an abundant agricultural future and wish to share in the bounty.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Rain and Poetry

Sitting now in a serious rain storm in the mountains of Luang Prabang, The thunder and lightning seems to be carving new mountains and the rain is turning the streets to rivers.

I'm sitting here reading poems and thinking about the amazing chance we have here in all this mess of life, all the happiness and sadness, to see and to hear.

Here is a poem I am spending some time with from Philip Whalen, another vagabond American moving through Asia.

Hymnus Ad Patrem Sinensis

I praise those ancient Chinamen
Who left me a few words,
Usually a pointless joke or a silly questionA line of poetry drunkenly scrawled on the margin of a quick                        splashed picture- bug, leaf,                        caricature of Teacher            on paper held together now by little more than ink            & their own strength brushed momentarily over itTheir world & several others sinceGone to hell in a handbasket, they knew it- Cheered as it whizzed by- & conked out among the busted spring rain cherryblossom winejarsHappy to have saved us all.