In my final blog on my trip to Thailand and Myanmar, I would like to express my deep gratitude to the amazing people that touched my life and allowed me the honour of touching theirs. There are three enormous lessons I’ve come away with – shifts in both my mindset and my actions that will help me to be a better director of Grow Inspired and a better citizen of my community and the world. I want to share them with you too.
Myanmar has been such a humbling experience for me – to be in a country where most people live from hand to mouth, and there are no proper streets or systems for processing rubbish of any kind. We can only reflect on what vast opportunities we have in our own countries already, and how we can better utilise them, working together to make a better place.
The kindness and smiles of the people of Myanmar have touched my heart and soul in such a special way that it has become my second home. What inspired me most though was their innovation – their ability to look at a problem and see the solution.
How incredible the way things come together when you are building a soil revolution like Bokashi Myanmar, using all available resources.
For those of you that aren’t familiar, Myanmar doesn’t have soil to grow food – all they have is sand. Some of the projects I participated in were finding ways to develop soil beds from nothing and with minimal cost, so that these passionate and self-sufficient people can grow food to sustain themselves from what is around them.
The skills and innovation of the people are even keeping traditions alive – I loved watching as a bamboo shelter for the Bokashi bins was built by just using a machete (and a very skilled hand!).
Waste products like coconut husks, sugar cane fibre and leaves that are normally burnt were instead collected and recycled with food waste to make deep, rich compost to grow fresh food.
It is inspiring and innovative that you can simply rent a piece of land and create a soil factory there – innovating somewhere from nowhere – a place that can now be used to process food waste and teach people how to grow food. This is so much more advanced than New Zealand, where local councils have been saying it will be against the law to collect food scraps from another place and process them!!!! Narrow-minded madness and an example of where an existing system or institution gets in the way of innovation, rather than supporting it.
One of the things I loved most was teaching at the Yangon international school about Bokashi and how to grow food. The kids were enthralled – to see their eyes light up when they learned they could eat all kinds of food from the garden! Something we take for granted, but for them, it was a gift. It was a change in attitude for this next generation, as most of them have grown up thinking of food scraps as dirty trash. Remember that a simple change in attitude can start a revolution. If only we could inspire more kids to understand what value our waste has and how to grow their own food from scraps with Bokashi.
I have taught in New Zealand schools too and held children’s workshops from time to time, but would love to see schools putting this on the national curriculum. I can’t think of a life skill more worthy than learning how to grow our own food and use our own food waste to do it.
In Myanmar, a #soilrevolution has started and hotels, companies, expats and the locals are all in support of this and willing to be part of it for the greater good. They are making soil where there is sand and growing clean healthy food. Life is simple and beautiful. It is turning attitudes from ‘everything is trash’ to ‘this trash has value for a better life’.
SHARE TO CHANGE AND CHANGE TO SHARE
I have never met people more open, willing to share and to welcome you into their fold. The people of Myanmar and Thailand that I spent time with were so excited to exchange knowledge, share their time and passion with me, and offer their skills.
We can learn so much from this open exchange – we have lots to offer one another; one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. The more you give, the more you get. Why have we unlearned these ways?
Part of my journey was spent surrounded by the leading experts in EM (effective microorganisms) and Bokashi at the Kyusei Nature Farming institute, located in Thailand’s Saraburi. This deeply special place has enriched my world and helped me to make global connections with those that share the same passion and knowledge of growing clean food with microbes.
I cannot express the feeling you get when you arrive somewhere that you know you can both learn from and share with – a community that are ready to listen without judgement, without competition, without hierarchy. They are ready to change based on what they learn. They have no arrogant assumptions that they will know best. They want to share knowledge with you too, so that you both walk away changed for the better and richer with knowledge and know-how.
It has filled up my cup to overflowing. To be surrounded by people as passionate as me in EM and Bokashi has been truly inspiring.
My heartfelt thanks to the beautiful, kind, caring, passionate people I have met on my journey, those over the past two years at Saraburi, Bokashi Philippines, and especially to Jenny Harlen, Inda Aung, Aye Aye Aung, Stefania Cao, Tracy Morgan, Kaing Wai Hnin and Hans Nordstrand – the Bokashi Myanmar team. Part of my heart will always be with my Myanmar family.