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One of the venues at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival
Six years ago, I went to my first Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City, CA. At the time I was there representing festival sponsor, Patagonia. During one particular film, Broken Limbs, I was hit with an a-ha moment..."I had to take these films around the county." Eight months later, I quit my job at did exactly that. Over the next five years, I watched 1200 or more films as tour manager using the stories presented on screen to inspire audiences nationwide.

I went back to Wild & Scenic today as a spectator and had another one of those moments. I chose one of the seven venues and arrived just as the film, From the Mara Soil, was starting. I felt my way through the dark hall to a vacant sit against the back wall. The film's message quickly became clear, "sustainable food systems are possible anywhere."

Using subtitles to translate his heavily-accented English, the native dread-locked, Tanzanian spoke directly to the camera and said, "In Tanzania, we don't have a dictator, we don't have war. We just have poverty!" With conviction, he continued, "we must change the way poor people live."

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Tanzanian permaculture at Kinesi Orphanage
For years, Tanzania has been gripped by the inherent woes of its harsh environment making them dependent upon global support. Permaculture and better management of their natural resources is turning the tide. People have mostly eaten rice and beans because a short rainy season makes it nearly impossible to grow vegetables. At the time, vegetables had been grown using western, monoculture methods which left the soil dry and a nutrient deficient. Permaculture is demonstrating that the lack of rain and hot sun are not the problem, it is the farming practice that were wrong. Now they harvest water holding it in ditches next to their crops, they interplant a mix of vegetables to cycle nutrients in the soil and employ dry farming techniques which utilize ground covers like straw and green manure to insulate the soil keeping moisture locked in and conserving the precious, collected water.

With the help of Global Rescue Alliance, small villages are evaluating everything they do through a new lens...solar ovens are replacing indoor, open-fires for cooking; and wells are finding the rain from the rainy season water trapped in bedrock near the ground surface. Instead of feeling like victims on a hot continent, they are finding ways to grow and cook food by harnessing the the sun's energy and the water delivered once a year..

Every growing region comes with its own host of constraints, it is a matter of working within those constraints to figure out how to stabilize a community's food security. In Tanzania, it requires working with the sun not against it. In the mountains, it requires working with greenhouses, low tunnels and cold frames to extend the season or better yet, grow all year long.

Tanzania, however, is acting out of necessity and survival. In America, we just go to the supermarket. Our survival is not as visceral or palpable. Any vegetable we want is available anytime we want it throughout the year. Western cultures have little incentive to change because we are disconnected from the repercussions of our broken food system. Ironically, developing countries could be more sustainable if they so chose because they can adapt faster to sustainable farming methods and be rewarded immediately with better health, improved lifestyle and a more resilient community.

American communities, however, don't have to be victims of their inequitable food system. They too can be empowered to take control and address their own food security needs and build a stronger local economy in the process. It starts with community!

maggie
1/30/2012 05:59:22 am

....and utilizing a local economy we begin to recognize the ingenuity in people..people learning ways to farm their own food, knit their own mittens, and create their own renewable energy...keeping more money in our wallets so that we don't have to be a slave to 'the office' and we can feed our souls! :) Great Blogs Susie...I am completely on the same page. :)

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