The health center permagarden is not just about behavior or attitude change toward improved nutrition or a different way to dig. Adopting this model means taking a risk. Risks, when on the losing end, not only impact you financially but also effect your own health, your family, your quality of life, and your resiliency. It's not just comfort in the familiar but safety - you've farmed a certain way over and over, and you know what results you can expect from it.
When talking with some of my community members, nutrition and a balanced diet weren't defined by which categories of food are needed in the right amounts, frequency, and quality for an individual. Nutrition is defined by the amount of money you have and what you can buy. What you make, your ability to farm, and what you get from that farm determines how you eat and what your body "needs." My community relies on subsistence farming - people live off what they plant in their fields. Doing something different than what they know already works doesn't just mean potentially wasting their energy and resources, it means they can't feed their families at all.
The rewards the permagarden offers are large: opportunity for improved nutrition through better access and utilization of food, improved family income through sales of excess food, and landscape resiliency by soil enhancement and water management. Even the small 9 square meter space can create this opportunity and increase yield by 600%. Yet despite these potential gains, asking some of my health staff and other people in the community to consider using these ideas - not asking them to completely give up the way they do things now - was met with a lot of skepticism.
Seeing is believing. The beauty of a demonstration garden is that each day the garden grows is another day where that risk doesn't look so large. Change is risky, but sometimes, taking the chance can prove to be even more rewarding.
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