Shashemene – For decades the Rastafarian community, in their spiritual home here, had not been taken seriously and Ethiopians have even termed them as ludicrous.
By Inter Press Service (IPS), by Sonny Inbaraj | 11.11.2003
But all that is set to change with the efforts of a Rastafarian non-governmental organisation (NGO) in promoting alternative farming techniques and youth development programmes.
“We want to break the perception that we Rastas just sing reggae music and smoke herb (marijuana) all day. We are serious development workers,” says Ras Kabinda, a convenor of the Ethiopian World Federation.
“Now is the time for nation-building. We have to stop all the idle talk and get things moving,” adds the Dominican-born Kabinda who moved to Ethiopia in 1992.
“It’s one thing to talk about Africa and fantasise about it but when you come home and see the conditions of the youth here you realise you have serious work. We need to have serious training programes for them,” he stresses.
Shashemene, about 220 kilometres south of the capital Addis Ababa, is the spiritual home of the Rastafarians, or Rastas, and there are about 100 families settled here. The late Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie, granted some land in Shashemene, a market town of about 60,000 people, to these devotees in 1948 to satisfy their desire to return to Africa and have a place to settle.
Selassie’s dynasty, according to legend, can be traced back to the Biblical times of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Rastafarians believe Selassie, or Ras Tafari, was the long-awaited Messiah from the House of David, as prophesised in the Old Testament, who would gather them from their lands where they were oppressed and bring them to Ethiopia, which they considered as home.
The Ethiopian World Federation currently runs two schools in the Shashemene community – one for primary students and the other at junior secondary level.
There are plans for a demonstration farm on a 500-hectare of land. Also in the pipeline is a computer centre for about 200 students under the auspices of the Haile Selassie Institute of Higher Learning, a branch of the Federation.
“We’re trying to get the government to grant us 500 hectares of land. We want to demonstrate to Ethiopian farmers that there are alternative ways of doing things,” says Kabinda.
“We want to set up demonstration farms and work with the youth – the raw materials are already there and we want to transform the farms into food-centres,” he adds.
The project has the blessing of the Shashemene Municipality and the organisation is now waiting for a response from the federal government.
Information technology, according to Kabinda, is also one of the priorities of the Ethiopian World Federation.
“We found a donor willing to bring in 200 computers and we’re talking to the Ministry of Education to facilitate the paperwork,” he says.
Adds Kabinda: “There are very few opportunities for the youth here. They have no means of expressing their ingenuity and creativity.”
Rastafarianism, often associated with the poorer black population in Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean and West Indies, is not just a religion but also a way of life. Rastafarians believe they have a strong obligation to speak out against poverty, oppression and inequality. The dreadlocks on a Rastafarian’s head symbolises rebellion of the system and the “proper” way to wear hair.
Marijuana is used by Rastafarians for spiritual and medicinal purposes and they are vegetarians, only eating natural food cooked without salt, preservatives or condiments. Alcohol is taboo, and so are coffee, milk and soft drinks.
Unfortunately, the ways of Rastafarians have been misunderstood in Ethiopia and many of the younger generation of Rastas have been forced to cut their dreadlocks in order to ward off stares and giggles.
But the Ethiopian World Federation’s Ras Kabinda believes the time has come for Ethiopians to learn from the Rastafarians.
“The country cannot be every year having a famine. There must be something wrong and there must be a cause and that cause must be identified and overcome,” he points out.
The Ethiopian World Federation is advising farmers, thorough its agricultural projects, to stop practicing the mono-crop system of farming and inter-crop their plots of land with vegetables, fruits and legumes.
“People here only know the mono-crop system — if you walk through the village you’ll see nobody planting vegetables in their garden — not even one fruit tree,” says Kabinda.
“So we’re trying to emphasise to them that they need to plant vegetables like cabbage and carrots and fruit trees because the children need those vitamins and minerals in vegetables and fruits for their brains to fully develop,” he stresses.
The organisation is also stressing to farmers the benefits of growing legumes like pigeon-peas.
“Pigeon-peas are a good source of food even in the dry season. In Ethiopia, nothing grows in the dry season but if you plant pigeon peas and interspaces it among the land, these legumes will enrich the soil with nitrogen and give four crops a year at the same time,” says Kabinda.
Kabinda also hit out at the heavy use of chemical fertilisers and herbicides by Ethiopian farmers.
“Chemicalisation of agriculture is a drain on the economy because you’re buying imported fertiliser and the fertiliser has a leaching effect on the soil,” says the Rastafarian. “That means it degrades the quality of the soil and in 10 to 15 years, the soil fertility will be zero. This is not a sustainable method.”
“Ethiopia has hundreds of thousands of cattle and there’s enough animal manure that can be used to replenish the soil. Why can’t these common sense methods be promoted?” he asks.
Kabinda says Ethiopian farmers need to seek out their traditional farming methods, before the introduction of high-yield varieties and chemical fertilisers to the country, for answers to their present predicaments.
“We need to sit down and study the situation, as Africans, what the methodology our people used to use since time immemorial that used to give us maximum yield,” Kabinda says. “We have to question why we are using chemicals and high-yield varieties when there are obviously side-effects.”
“As Rastamen we are pro-Ethiopian. We don’t want to see our brothers and sisters in poverty. We don’t want to see no hungry babies. It’s not the way of our people at all. We want to see everybody on an equal footing.”
Localising food production is the way of the future for food security. Collecting swapping and growing localised strains of vegetables ensures food for everyone. Join up with other keen gardeners to share local knowledge and save seed. You will find that you only need a dozen or so localised varieties to ensure enough food to sustain your family. As you gather knowledge and skill at making compost, saving your seeds and cultivating your garden your confidence will grow. It is not difficult. Good seed gives reliable results and along with knowledge of soil building will ensure food production with high nutrient content.
Learn how to make good compost. There is plenty of literature on the subject and enough resources around you. I am a great advocate of gardening with no budget, more through necessity than want and I gather grass clippings and mulch from all manner of sources. Most of my neighbours throw piles of grass clippings on the back paddock and I collect it and add it to my compost pile. I noticed a big pile of mulch today and you’ll be sure I’ll be going back for a bag or two.
Vegetable matter, leaves, seaweed, comfrey, yarrow, liquified animal manure and cardboard can all be added to the compost. Look around you for sources of compost material.
Obviously living the country as I do it is a lot easier to find material, however living in the city need not deter you. They still grow trees in the city and with a little imagination and research you can find ingredients for your compost. Dont waste any vegetable matter.If you see any neighbours that have vegetables growing stop and chat with them. Maybe you can swap seed. It is a great way to cross the multicultural gap and meet new people.
Gardening is a healthy addiction and will reward you with nutritious beans and greens for your soup pot and tomatoes that taste like they did in grandmas salad.
Australian flora is full of medicinal plants and the weeds that we find annoying can actually contain astonishing medicinal properties. Things like nut grass and farmers friends
The Australian Aborigines have been cultivating this knowledge for 40,000 years and are of course no strangers to these bush medicines.
Alas today only a handful of people remain who have the extensive knowledge of Aboriginal herbal medicine and while the men know all the plants, it is the women who know the details of their respective uses.
I wouldn’t advise anyone to try these at home as the complexities of dosage and application is best left to the experts. This information is here to make people aware of the incredible diversity of medicine growing around us and the importance of preserving remaining tracts of original native habitat for future generations.
These plants are for human beings as a gift from nature, not to be exploited by genetic pirates and so hence we all have to be aware that the humble gum tree growing in our backyard may have some secrets that can benefit all humanity. Here are a few common Australian plants you might recognise:
Young leaves are bruised in water and the liquid drunk for the relief of headaches, colds and during general sickness.
The volatile leaf oil, obtained by steam distillation has been used for coughs and colds and externally for neuralgia and rheumatism, also as an expectorant during colds. Oil of niaouli formerly used as a vermifuge.
Rough Tree Fern
The Aborigines at the roasted stalks of young leaves as a tonic after any kind of disease.
Yellow Hibiscus, Cotton tree, talwalpin, maband
The inner bark and sapwood are heated in seawater or freshwater and the infusion used as an antiseptic for pouring into wounds. The wound is then strapped with the bark of the same plant.
Hoop Pine, coorong, cumburtu coonam
The resin has been used in the treatment of kidney complaints and in stricture causing urine retention: a solution of the resin in alcohol is prepared and twenty to thirty drops are given in a single dose in some water. Three to four doses are said to be sufficient for a cure.
She Oak, Beachoak, dalgan, wunna-wuuarumpa, muwarraga
Bark is an excellent astringent and is useful in chronic diarrhoea and dysentery. On Groote Eylandt it is used as a mouthwash prepared from young twigs by soaking in fresh or salt water.
Also said to be used in China (where it is not native) as an astringent.
U.S. approves take-over of seed company.
Ottawa, June 6, 2007 – On June 1, 2007 the United States Justice Department gave the green light for Monsanto’s $1.5 billion takeover of the world’s largest cotton seed company, Delta Pine Land (D&PL) — the US company that developed and patented the world’s first Terminator seed technology.
Terminator seeds are genetically engineered to be sterile after first harvest and were developed to stop farmers from saving seed.
“As the biggest seed company in the world, Monsanto stands to gain the most by incorporating Terminator technology into all its seeds, thus forcing farmers to buy new seed every year” said Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.
Monsanto will now own Delta & Pine Land’s greenhouse tests of Terminator seeds and rights to its Canadian patent on Terminator granted on October 11 2005. D&PL has long vowed to commercialize Terminator, targeting rice, wheat and soy in particular.
To Take Action email Canadian Biotechnolgy Action Network
U.S. approves take-over of seed company
Are you a seed saver? Get into your own seed production. The head creator gave us the seed so we could do our own seed collecting and become our own seed cleaners. The seed of life is ours for sharing with our brothers and sisters. Mango seed, Avocado seed, Papaya seed, mustard seed, carrot seed, bitter greens. We have a rasta garden and this spring we have had rain and the rain has made the seed shoot up. Radish, tobacco, blue sage, sunflower, chilli, amaranth, marigold, lettuce, tomato, eggplant, pumpkin, beans, parsley, basil, fennel and mustard. All without any effort at all except a couple of vital things, compost and good seed sowing and saving practices.
Most experienced gardeners know that a good compost means a good soil and hence good vegetables. Vegetable scraps, grass clippings, animal manure, comfrey, seaweed, fish emulsion, ash. (No eggshells or citrus peels). There are so many books and articles on compost making it’s not funny. If you have good compost you have good vegetables. A plant is only as good as what it is growing in. Makes sense. It’s a cycle. Plants are nutrients so their waste breaks down into nutrients and the whole lot is recycled again.
Good seed, good seed sowing mix, the seeds will germinate. You can’t imagine the bounty from a few seeds. For seed sowing you get two thirds course river sand one third compost. Drainage and water holding capacity. The only trouble with compost is all the seeds in the compost, so laying the compost out in the sun will kill the weed seeds but give you a nice mix that will hold water. Try it, lay the compost out on the pavement on plastic in the hot sun for a couple of days, then mix it in with the sand. You only need enough to fill a couple of polystyrene boxes from the fruit shop. Then sow your seeds to a depth of one third the diameter of the seed. Small seed sit on top and larger seed goes further down into the mix.
Spring is here in the southern hemisphere. The time is now. Get a few containers and have a go. You might think it’s a lot of effort when you could go down to the vege shop and buy them, but the food we grow heals us. It is much more potent than any shop bought vegetable. Most of the vegetables in the fruit shops are inferior, except certified organic and that’s expensive. They are bred with the multinational in mind. Profit at the expense of nutrition.
Use the rest of your compost on the garden. Do you know that one shovel full of compost will feed a whole fruit tree, so you dont need much to activate a garden. The more the better of course and once you get to know all the seeds that start popping up out of the compost you can cull, and let the ones you want to grow remain.
Dont be discouraged if the seed doesn’t come up first time. There are a multitude of reasons why seed won’t germinate. It has it’s own internal clock. When the temperature is right and provided it is mature when harvested and stored properly, it will grow. The Seed Savers Handbook is a great resource for anyone looking to learn.
Start with the humble bean. Link up with open pollinated Seed Savers and Seed Saving Networks all over the world, they are working hard to keep the genetic diversity of vegetables alive so we can grow our own food, save our own seed and keep the cycle going in a perfect harmony the way nature intended.
Jah Bless One Love
Revolt Aint a Revolution
Why are we fighting each other
Trying to overthrow our brother.
Why are we still saying freedom
Still freedom cant com
We have to learn things from Ancient History
To help buil a new society
We have to remember Nkrumah and Garvey
To build our own economy
Now a revolt aint a revolution
Coup is still not the solution
We have to plant some food on the land
Agriculture is the key for buildin a nation
Why are we measurin progress
As determined by the West
Why are we still saying yes
To all their industrial mess
We have to overstan the times we are living in
And remember where we have been
We have to remember what happen in slavery
So as not to repeat that history
Now a revolt aint a revolution
Killin leaders is not the solution
We have to buil schools in the community
to get rid of illiteracy
Why are we listening to these preachers
Who pose as moral teachers
Why are we still saying amen
To the very thing that put us in this pen
We have to return to Ancient philosophy
And reveal all of earths mystery
We have to live by our own spirituality
To determine our own destiny
Now a revolt aint a revolution
Foreign aid is still not the solution
We have to overstan Afrika for the Afrikans
to buil a new nation
Why are we discussin problems
With people who refuse to solve them
Why are we still beggin for freedom
While looking down the barrel of a gun
We have to seek Shaka an Hannibal
In these times of aggression
And understand what was their mission
We have to advance to victory with truth and rights
Knowin that right ust overcome might
Now a revolt aint a revolution
Building nuclear weapons is not the solution
If something is not worth diein for
Its not worth living for
But if it takes war to free us
Then is just WARRRR…….