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Salah Hammad, Empowering The Urban Gardener

Permaculture expert Salah Hammad talks agro-ecology and eating off the land with our eco-correspondent Abdur-Rahman McCausland. The Eco ...

Permaculture expert Salah Hammad talks agro-ecology and eating off the land with our eco-correspondent Abdur-Rahman McCausland.

The Eco Muslim: As-salamu `alaykum (peace be with you) Salah Hammad, please introduce yourself to our readers.

Salah: Wa `alaykum salam (and peace be with you) I’m a Permaculture/Agro-Ecology Practitioner, Educator and Consultant.

Permaculture can be defined in countless ways, but for me it is: The design and maintenance of productive food systems and habitats that have the diversity which will create stability and by mimicking the resilience of natural ecosystems.

I’m a member of the Permaculture Global community, which is the biggest online permaculture community in the world + www.permacultureglobal.com.

And I work with the Permaculture Research Institute in Australia and Jordan and our website is
+ www.permaculturenews.org

The Eco Muslim: What inspired you to build a career in permaculture? Is it easy?

Salah: My product is empowering the urban gardener, the small farmer and the enthusiastic youth with permaculture and agro-ecology ideas and principles which will make their life more diverse and abundant.

My inspiration were the small farmers in Palestine and Jordan who are struggling in the face of industrial agriculture to keep their land, to keep their families on the land, and to keep their communities dependent on the land they lived and farmed on for centuries.

These struggles are not unique to Palestine and Jordan or to the Muslim World (maybe Palestinian farmers have a unique struggle with the occupation), but in general the struggles and difficulties that small farmers face are shared by small farmers and peasants all over the world. To do something that can change their destiny we should think in global terms and work towards reaching the tipping point that will get this small idea of working with nature and not against it become a global norm.

The Eco Muslim: An 'Urban Farmer' is a great visual for our cities. What are your own aims for permaculture?

Salah: Our intention is the sustainable design and rehabilitation of land, habitat and landscape according to the methods and principles of Permaculture. But this is achieved through the education of people and the demonstration of what is achievable by working with nature, its patterns and its intrinsic characteristics and its constants, such as water, wind, and the sun which is the source energy driving the ecosystem.

The Eco Muslim: Is it easy teaching people about living off the land? What challenges have you faced?

Salah: Fear of change! Farmers know that what we are doing is common sense, obvious and fool proof because it's how their grandparents and ancestors used to farm and live. But to make that decision to change takes a lot of courage.

That’s why starting small is the secret, “start at your backdoor and expand from there,” is what we tell them and that’s how they can be convinced, because they are not risking much and growing their understanding, diversity and abundance at the same time, bit by bit.

The Eco Muslim: You mentioned educating people about permaculture. Can anyone get training, whom do you cater for?

Salah: Whom do we not cater for should be the question! Permaculture principles, ethics and ideas are applicable to every human being on earth, everyone benefits from this and everyone can benefit his/her family, community, country and the earth.

The Eco Muslim: We read from your site and you've been hosting permaculture design courses for a few years now. What positive/negative response have you had from green and non-green folks alike?

Salah: There’s always the positive and negative. We teach and demonstrate a system that looks for the positives, that’s what we concentrate on and try to nurture.

The world is full of negativities, in terms of the environment, the climate, and what is happening to the earth everyday. If we concentrate on that we will not achieve anything. We say: go garden, and most of your problems, and the world’s problems, will be solved.

Above all this though, we have a strong feeling as Permaculturalists, that the tipping point is very close. People all over the world are seeing the effects of climate change, of polluting energy resources, of land degradation, all showing on the price they pay for their food, their water and their health. People are looking for a way to get out of this cycle, and slowly but steadily permaculture and agro-ecology is becoming considered as the only healthy alternative.

The Eco Muslim: We love a background story, so please tell us, which ‘green’ famous faces have you worked with...!

Salah: Bill Mollison the co-originator of Permaculture, pictured right, (Facebook.com/fatherofpermaculture) and the man who transferred permaculture from a subject and idea into a movement that is being taught and demonstrated all over the world.
Geoff & Nadia Lawton, permaculturists at heart

Now working with and under the leadership of Geoff and Nadia Lawton in the Permaculture Research Institute in Australia. This leading institute is demonstrating through on the ground application what permaculture can do. We run Permaculture Design Courses (72 Hour internationally known course) and internships to empower students to go and teach, apply and demonstrate what can be done.

The Eco Muslim: What is your greatest achievement and what do you think this is due to?

Salah: There’s a saying that goes: “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between he does what he wants to do.”

My education and career in the corporate food industry opened my eyes into what we eat and drink, how this food is grown and then processed and how this food industry is affecting the small farmers and the land all over the world.

Growing most of my food and encouraging people to grow their own food is a passion that I found, and spreading the ideas and the knowledge that permaculture and agro-ecology is based on is the only ethical decision I could make to ensure a healthy life for the generations coming.

The Eco Muslim: We love learning how green-Muslims like yourself connect their faith to the environment so please tell us, what do the words ‘Sunnah’, ‘eco-muslim’ and ‘Khalifa’ mean to you?

Salah: Allah created us as Khalifa (stewards) on this earth, and the Khalifa should only act upon Allah’s wishes. Allah’s wishes are for us to prosper on this earth and insure its progress for the sake of the generations coming. The actions of the human race has never been as destructive to the earth as what is happening in our life time, now. The Qur'an and Sunnah are full of teachings that make all Muslims Eco-Muslims without intending or noticing that they are and we will only be fulfilling our roles as Khalifas on this earth by sharing and showing the world what we can do, everyone at his/her capabilities.

The Eco Muslim: Usually, Muslims focus more on lifestyles that are Halal (lawful) than organic or ethical. What do ‘ethics’ mean to you?

Salah: For me an ethic is a belief that you apply in your life on an everyday basis.

Care for Earth, Care for People and the Return of Surplus or Fair Share are the ethics that Permaculture is based upon. For me as a Muslim, it made so much sense when I heard that since that is basically what Islam teaches us. Practicing and teaching Permaculture meant I’m living my Islamic beliefs and applying them everyday.

The Eco Muslim: What 3 pieces of advice would you give to aspiring green Muslims?

Salah: Start thinking what’s your favourite vegetable and start growing it, even if in a pot on your veranda and maybe feed it some home made compost.

Stop feeding the Devil. Practically all the multinational food retailers, manufacturers and fast food chains are considered the Devil for me. Find local food growers and small farmers, be it Dairy, Vegetables and Fruits, Meat or Honey and Herbs and get to know them, start buying straight from them, support them and spread the word to your family, friends and neighbours.

Take time to observe nature and its beautiful patterns, and reconnect with it. We’ve lost this connection since we started living in cities.

The Eco Muslim: That's some really easy steps for us to take God willing. Finally, how would you encourage folks to have healthier lifestyles?

Salah: The same as above, grow some of your own food! Yes you can! Even if on small scale Then go and volunteer helping organic farmers, grow a patch at your mosque, and reconnect with the food your consuming.

Shukran, thank you Salah Hammad.
Peace, love and wholesome jihad.

+ Enrol for the Permaculture Design Training course in Jordan this April, at the Strawberry Field Eco-Lodge and farm (Ethiopia)

Images
+ Bill Mollison, The Love & Haiti Project
+ Geoff and Nadia Lawton, Permaculture News

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