Of Children, Photographs, and The Economics of the Future

Image of chldrenWe passed playing children on our way to visit the last crop field. These children are typical in appearance to what you may imagine from photographs you’ve seen – barefoot or with sandals, dusty, carrying water, mud huts behind them, etc. As I looked at this scene and took a picture I became aware of the extreme misunderstanding that pictures alone can lead to – given the absence of a context. The fact is, these were the farmer’s children and this was his homestead, and, for all practical purposes, we were standing on his “front lawn”. I asked if I could take a picture and, as always, told yes.  The children were curious, as kids always are, and I greeted them in Ndebele which only garnered silent stares. I’m not sure if they didn’t speak Ndebele, or it my pronunciation was so bad they didn’t understand it, or if they were just too mesmerized by this dork with a camera – probably at least two of the three.  At any rate, their dad is a leader in the village and a participant in the program, and someday, you and me, and the rest of the developed world, are going to look to them for guidance. How did you restore the land?  How did you save paradise?

The herd becomes like a bank. The planned grazing is the management.

Their dad’s crop field had the rotating kraal and you could see the manure and hoof impact. It looked healthy and ready for the rains. The kraal was made of sticks, like most, but also had metal wire. That was the first I’d seen of that.  I would like to see how these structures are dismantled and moved.  This is added labor, which fixed kraals (stockades) obviously don’t require, but it is balanced by the reduction of labor moving manure and tilling land, and of course, it leads to much healthier soil. There are added benefits which animal owners are discovering as well, such as the free time and comfort of mind they get when their cattle are managed in a herd with others. One community member said they now have time to start another business.  It’s sort of like daycare for your cattle, but much more so. The collective management of the resource not only makes lives easier for individual families, it heals the land that their haphazard cattle management was destroying.  It is ingrained here that wealth is measured in cattle, and these are guarded like gold, so the idea that they could be collectively managed is new.  It takes trust, but most of all, it takes a goal. What do people want for their community? The herd becomes like a bank. The planned grazing is the management. The food and healthy soils are the dividend, and the interest is a desirable future.  Why wouldn’t you invest? Have you ever wondered where the phrase “stock market” came from? What happens when you add the word “live” to the front? Soil is the economics of the future.

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