Leap into Life – Deel Economie en Projecten 2017/2018

Stichting Leap into LifeConcept logo Stichting Leap into Life Nederland

Stichting Leap into Life zet zich in voor een Deel Economie. Delen is een principe dat in traditioneel Afrika meer gebruikelijk is dan in moderne Westerse samenlevingen. Wij werken met klassieke waarden van de Dagomba stam in noord Ghana én met moderne, holistische principes voor samenwerken en bedrijfsvoering.

In Ghana werken we met vrouwen en boeren die in extreme armoede leven. In plaats hen te leren hoe ze anders moeten omgaan met geld en hun traditionele waarden, ondersteunen we ondernemerschap dat de Dagomba traditie van delen en gemeenschap versterkt. We brengen waardigheid en welvaart vanuit traditie. Momenteel Werken we aan twee projecten; “Buy a Brick” en “Share with a Sister”.

Een deeleconomie vraagt van mensen de bereidheid om te leren en het vermogen om het aangeleerde los te durven laten. In Nederland vertalen we onze ervaringen in Ghana door op een eigen, specifieke manier samen te werken met onze partners en donateurs. Daarnaast delen we de ervaringen en principes van onze deeleconomie – het business model – via lezingen, coaching en training.

Buy a Brick

IMG_3694Dagomba vrouwen leren al generaties lang om Sheaboter te maken. Sheaboter is een basis ingrediënt dat in cosmetishce crèmes zit en in chocolade. Wij werken met Dipaliya Womens’ Association, een groep van 1.000 vrouwen die ambachtelijke Sheaboter maken. Dankzij dit werk hebben de vrouwen economische zelfstandigheid en eten voor hun gezin. We hebben een aantal investeringen kunnen doen die het inkomen van de vrouwen verviervoudigd heeft.

IMG_3491Op dit moment bouwen we een Sheaboter centrum in Sakuba. Het gebouw is nog niet af en we komen geld tekort om de bouw af te ronden. Met een eigen gebouw kunnen we het netto inkomen van de vrouwen nog eens vergroten. Minstens zo belangrijk is dat we met een eigen centrum veel effectiever de gemeenschap bijeen kunnen brengen voor overleg en opleiding.
Voor € 2,– kan je een baksteen kopen. Deze wordt ook lokaal gemaakt. Met jouw bijdrage help je ons niet alleen om het centrum af te bouwen; je geeft enkele gezinnen de gelegenheid om inkomen te verdienen met werk dat ten goede komt aan de hele gemeenschap.

Share with a Sister

Woba 02
Dagomba hebben een traditie als akkerbouwers en veehouders. De relatie met het land is belangrijk; Dagomba geloven traditioneel niet in bezit van land, maar in beheer van land voor de volgende generaties. Een traditionele Dagomba chief is geen eigenaar van het land, maar beheerder namens de gemeenschap.

Mede als gevolg van Westerse invloeden zijn veel landbouw projecten gebaseerd op het gebruik van chemicaliën. Boeren wordt geleerd om met kunstmest en chemicaliën te werken. Resistente zaden moeten ze kopen van een Westers bedrijf. Het zorgt voor oogsten die weinig inspanning vragen van de boer, maar het land wél uitput. Ieder jaar neemt de vruchtbaarheid van het land af.

Wij hebben een organic seedbank opgezet met lokale zaden en zijn een landbouw project gestart waarin we boeren leren om lokale, natuurlijke pesticiden en in Ghana geproduceerde, biologische mest te gebruiken. Zo brengen we traditionele kennis terug in de gemeenschap en leren we boeren om het land te verzorgen met oog voor de volgende generaties.

IMG_3711

Voor jouw donatie van € 250,– krijgt een Dagomba vrouw in Ghana een stuk land, oorspronkelijke zaden, biologische mest en biologische pesticiden. Haar wordt geleerd hoe deze te gebruiken en de opbrengst van het land is voor haar. Jouw donatie is éénmalig, het gebruik van het land door de vrouw die je hiermee steunt is voor langere tijd. Zij kan daarmee haar gezin voeden of de oogst verkopen op de lokale markt.

We registreren het land en de gebruikers; jij ontvangt een certificaat met daarop de gegevens van de vrouw die van jouw geld een eigen bestaan kan opbouwen en de GPS coördinaten van het land dat met jouw bijdrage aan haar is gegeven.

Alain Volz

https://www.facebook.com/LeapIntoLife/

 

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Leap into Life – a new business model for a Sharing Economy

Based on traditional values of the Dagomba tribe in Ghana Northern Region and 21st century Holistic principles we are developing a Sharing Economy called Leap into Life. The last 2 years we have been working from grass root level in Ghana and The Netherlands on the design of an informal economy where people and planet are more important than profit.

Key principles Leap into Life Business Model

The Leap into Life Sharing Economy is to preserve traditional values in Ghana by creating life conditions for a flourishing local economy; to create resilient communities. In Ghana we have been working with a Cooperative called Dipaliya Womens’ Association to create an informal economy where 1.000 women at the ‘Bottom of the Pyramid’ benefit from. The Social Economy System in Ghana is based on the family sharing tradition of the Dagomba tribe.

Dagomba family sharing - informal economy

With Dipaliya Womens’ Association and members of the local traditional Dagomba community we have started initiatives to create a local economy based on traditional local principles that is resilient to grow into 21st century; we stimulate local entrepreneurship. Focus of our activities is in production of traditional handcrafted Sheabutter and in organic farming.

LiL - creating life conditions for local entrepreneurship

In the Netherlands we are applying the principles developed in Ghana by the way we collaborate and do business. We use other principles for economy and business than those common in Western society. Instead of doing trade only we share resources and money. We also provide in lectures and consulting/coaching in how to apply the principles of sharing in business. We do individual coaching and support teams to become more congruent and resilient with engaged team members. Payment is not always in money; it can also be done by sharing.

Concept logo Stichting Leap into Life Nederland

A foundation is setup in The Netherlands to catalyze Sharing Economy initiatives in The Netherlands and to strengthen the Sharing Economy in Ghana. The purpose in The Netherlands is to help create more engaged communities.

LiL - towards engaged and resilient communities

In the Leap into Life Sharing Economy there IS actual money flowing round; we do not only share as an alternative for money. However we apply totally different principles for money and have completely different rules for cash-flow than those common in global economy. Money is shared. This is more common, but declining in African tradition. But for a Westerner this is a complete different mentality that needs to be ‘learned’. That is not about technology, but about consciousness and willingness.

Leap into Life - action learning and sense making

We have developed purpose and principles of our Sharing Economy by using Chaordic Design (Dee Hock), Spiral Dynamics integral (Dr. Don Beck) and Theory U (Otto Scharmer/Peter Senge). Some key elements in the Leap into Life Sharing Economy are:

  • WE is more important than ME
  • Employment is more important than efficiency
  • Prosperity is more important than profit
  • People are more important than money
  • Planet is more important than wealth
  • Abundance is there but the divide is not fair.

LiL - Key principles for a Sharing Economy

Though we work on a local scale in Ghana and The Netherlands, we are bending and changing the rules for economy and business on a larger scale. Actually by working on grass root level in both countries and by working bottom up we are very effective to reduce the pain of global issues as global warming; poverty and migration; and exclusion by social and economic divide.

Dynamics and effects of Global Economy

Alain Volz

Social Economy Entrepreneur – Leap into Life Foundation
https://www.facebook.com/LeapIntoLife/
https://www.linkedin.com/in/alainvolz/

Posted in Africa, Business, Dagomba tribe, leap into life, meshworks, sharing economy, Social Entrepreneurship, Spiral Dynamics integral, Theory U | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

7 Vragen voor de Nederlandse samenleving

Over ongeveer 2 maanden zijn er verkiezingen voor de Tweede Kamer. Voor mezelf heb ik 7 vragen opgesteld die ik belangrijk vind voor Nederland. Ik deel ze graag. 
Een oplettende lezer herkent de kleurcodes van Spiral Dynamics:
1. Wat verbind ons als natie en in historie? 

– Hoe is Nederland ontstaan, wat is onze verbinding met het land waarop we staan, en welke waarden zijn in de loop der eeuwen daaruit voortgekomen?

2. Wat wordt gevraagd van iemand die hier woont? 

– Hoe hebben mensen ons land opgebouwd, wat is de rol daarin geweest van migranten en nieuwe groepen?

– Wat moet iemand nu doen (en laten) om een bijdrage te leveren aan de welvaart en het welzijn van Nederland?

– Welk gedrag kan wél en wat kan níet? Wat dwingt respect en gezag af in onze samenleving? 
3. Wat zijn de belangrijkste regels waar iedereen zich aan dient te houden? 

– Hoe maken we afspraken, waarover, hoe zien we toe op naleving daarvan, en hoe sanctioneren wij? 

– Wat zijn de pijlers van onze samenleving in termen van bestuur en recht; welke instanties zijn daarin bepalend, met welke rol? 
4. Welke mogelijkheden bieden wij aan inwoners om succesvol te zijn in de samenleving? 

– Hoe zorgen we er voor dat mensen bijdragen aan de samenleving; wat maakt iemand succesvol? 

– Wat vraagt de samenleving van mensen van verschillende achtergrond en/of verschillend opleidingsniveau en welke kansen wordt hen geboden?
5. Hoe zorgen we voor een goede balans tussen welvaart en welzijn? 

– Hoe zorgen we voor een eerlijke verdeling van de welvaart; op grond van welke criteria? 

– Hoe gaan we met elkaar om als buren, hoe gaan we om met de ‘zwakkeren’ in de samenleving, hoe zorgen we dat de stem van de minderheid gehoord blijft en hoe vangen we mensen op die buiten de samenleving dreigen te vallen?
6. Hoe zorgen we ervoor dat de diversiteit die Nederland kent tot haar recht komt in beleid dat ten gunste is van de samenleving als geheel, zonder mensen of groepen uit te sluiten? 

– Welke processen, procedures, netwerken en relaties zijn cruciaal voor de samenleving als geheel; hoe daar sturing in te geven in onzekere tijd?

– Welke subculturen kent Nederland, wat kenmerkt hen, en hoe zijn hun onderlinge verhoudingen? Hoe gaan eigen identiteit en eenheid samen? 
7. Hoe doen we dit als speler in een internationaal krachtenveld waar Nederland sterk mee verbonden is? 

– Welke unieke kwaliteiten heeft Nederland als Natie, wie zijn onze belangrijkste medestanders, en waar liggen onze mogelijkheden; hoe komt dat tot uiting in beleid/functies, resultaten, en internationale rankings?

– Welke rol wordt van Nederland gevraagd door de wereld/aarde, de internationale handel en de geopolitiek; hoe komt dat tot uiting in beleid/functies, resultaten, en internationale rankings?

  

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License to kill

Introducing Organic Farming in Ghana, Northern Region.

During my first visit to Ghana I saw, traveling through rural Northern Region, many pieces of land burning. In my naivety I asked if the burning was because of drought. I then learned that it is usual practice among farmers to burn the land after harvesting. “Why?” I asked. The answer wasn’t a direct one, “because it is tradition.” I did some research on the advantages and disadvantages of the burning of land for agriculture. Below are some things I found.

Agricultural burning (slash and burn) is carried out to clear the land for planting, and control pests, disease and weeds. There are few advantages to burn the land. Burning reduces pest invasions after planting. The reason is that the weeds that may have attracted the pests are killed. Weed seeds are also destroyed and do not rejuvenate. The ashes from the residues are rich in potassium and calcium; this adds value to the soil and benefits the crop.

However these advantages don’t weigh up to the disadvantages of agricultural burning. It’s true that burning kills pests and disease-causing organisms in the soil. But it kills the beneficial and important organisms too. This reduces the biological activity in the soil. The consequences of slash-and-burn techniques for ecosystems are almost always destructive.

Though burning crop residues and grasses is an organic practice, it is not safe. Farmers must be cautious with this practice. Burning damages soil and eventually ruins it. When soil is left bare after burning, there can be a lot of soil erosion. Also, burning residues and grass releases a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which contributes to global warming.

The principal vulnerability is the nutrient-poor soil, pervasive in most areas of Ghana Northern Region. When biomass is extracted even for one harvest of wood or charcoal, the residual soil value is heavily diminished for further growth of any type of vegetation.

The nutrients that are released after burning are usually washed away or leached by rain, or eroded by wind. Soil declines in productivity after burning because its nutrients are depleted. Because of this, the ancient farmers who practiced slash and burn had to leave the land for five to 25, even up to 40 years before they could farm the land again.

Using fire to get rid of agricultural debris causes special problems because noncombustible and toxic materials are often burned along with the vegetation. This includes tires (used as fire accelerants) and plastics. Burning toxic materials can release very harmful emissions.

I didn’t take any pictures of the land burning, but on the picture below you can see the black landscape it leaves behind, smoking after the fire has tempered.

Village with burning of the land

The practice of burning crop residues and grass should not be encouraged. There are much better alternatives, but they are more labor intensive than the burning of the land. One is to spread crop residues on the land. Spreading residues in the field stops weeds by a combination of shading and smothering. The residues also stop the sun from drying out the ground. This keeps water in the soil so it’s available for crops.

Mulching improves the soil by attracting and feeding earthworms and other living organisms. The organisms “till” the soil, and their feces are among the best fertilizers and soil conditioners. So, spreading mulch or crop residues instead of burning them should be encouraged. It builds the soil, and improves its structure and fertility.

Farmers can make holes in the residue layer and plant their crops. Or they can simply spread organic mulch by hand around plants after they emerge. The crops get nutrients from the decaying leaves.

When we went to Zabzugu last year, a friend of us wanted to show us his store there. The store was full of chemical pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Instead of receiving our admiration, both Umar and I frowned and looked at the store with some disapproving look. “Why?” our friend asked. “Oh, we are against chemicals” Umar replied. Our friend didn’t really understand.

I asked him why he was selling the chemicals; “it is poison, don’t you know that?” “Yes, but it is good business.” he said. “So you know it is poison and that you are killing the land and your people by selling it, but you still sell it because it is good business?” His reply was “But I have a license …” I couldn’t stop myself and said to him: “So you have a license. Does that make it less worse what you are doing? You are still killing your land and your people! But because you have ‘a license to kill’ it is okay?”

We discovered that there were no alternatives in Zabzugu area for the chemicals sold there, so we asked our friend if he didn’t want to become the first in the area to start selling organic products. It could also make him good business and at least he was selling something positive; something that would not kill his people nor the land, but would actually do something good for them.

Chemical shop

Not only in Zabzugu, but actually in whole of Northern Ghana chemical farming is the usual practice. There are hardly any alternatives, nor organic seeds or crops for sale. One of the farmers we are currently working with is a brother who I met two years ago. At that time I asked Umar what was wrong with his brother and advised him to go to hospital with him. In hospital they found out that he was actually ill and the farmer himself believes it came from spraying his land with Glyphosate based pesticides. This is not illogical, because the spraying does not happen with the protection required to do it safely. (Also see my writing on Glyphosate).

Most aid programs in Ghana are chemical based and the World Health Organization doesn’t oppose to chemical based farming. There are two possible reasons I’d like to address: 1. Chemical based farming can lead to quick short term positive effects and 2. The fertilizer market is a multi-Billion market – primarily for Western companies – of which organic fertilizers occupy only a few Million.

Last year the farmer who became ill due to chemical farming came to us, sharing that he wanted to stop using chemicals, but didn’t know how. He was desperate and asked us for advice and help. This was how we started to get involved in organic farming.

We did field research in Ghana and the Netherlands and I did some research on chemical/organic pesticides (See the article on Glyphosate) and chemical/organic fertilizers.

A chemical fertilizer is defined as any inorganic material of wholly or partially synthetic origin that is added to soil to sustain plant growth. Organic fertilizers are substances that are derived from the remains or byproducts of natural organisms which contain the essential nutrients for plant growth.

There are few advantages of using chemical fertilizers and I will mention those below. However our conclusion still is that use of organic fertilizers is much more sustainable. We believe that organic farming actually is the only realistic option for the future of farming in Ghana Northern Region in the long term. If you wish to live in harmony with nature and make a lasting improvement in your own patch of earth for generations to come, organic fertilizers outweigh chemicals by far.

“When you view soil as a living organism, (it is and we should), you can easily see why it might matter what type of fertilizer we choose to use: Chemical fertilizers, in effect, “kill” the soil while organic fertilizers improve and sustain the soil.” (http://www.monroeworks.com/organic-fertilizers-vs-chemical-fertilizers.html# )

One of the distinct advantages of chemical fertilizers over organic fertilizers is that chemical fertilizers are rich equally in all three essential nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. In the short term one needs more bags of organic fertilizer than one needs bags of chemical fertilizers to bring the necessary nutrients into the soil. However there is a large risk of adding too much when using chemical fertilizers and, when using organic fertilizer, in the long term one needs to add less and less fertilizer because the fertility of the soil is growing in a natural way.

One of the main disadvantages of chemical fertilizers is that, in contrast to organic fertilizers, several chemical fertilizers have high acid content like sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid. This high acid content results in the destruction of the nitrogen-fixing bacteria, which is helpful in supplying the nitrogen to a growing plant. In contrast, organic fertilizers support the growth of nitrogen-fixing bacteria.

A few rarely known disadvantages of chemical fertilizers are that chemical fertilizers encourage plant disease and that they produce fruits and vegetables with lower nutritional value and less flavor. Citrus grown with large amounts of soluble nitrogen has lower vitamin C than those grown with organic fertilizers. Corn grown with the soluble nitrogen of chemical fertilizers contains less protein.

Organic fertilizers have many advantages. With organic fertilizers soil crusting is reduced. Organics may improve water movement into the soil and, in time, add structure to the soil. Organics feed beneficial microbes, thereby making the soil easier to work.

Chemical fertilizers and organic fertilizers - advantages and disadvantages

Organic farming in general is more labor intensive than using chemical pesticides and fertilizers while farming. This is also a reason why chemicals are so popular in Ghana Northern Region. One needs to sow only once and after there is little work needed to maintain the crops because the chemicals do all the work. But, as one can imagine, the price to be paid in the long term is high. Recurrent drought in Ghana Northern Region severely affects agricultural activities and is worsening; soil erosion is increasing rapidly; water pollution has serious impact on farmer’s health; and supplies of potable water are inadequate and decreasing rapidly.

But we had more practical reasons to get involved into organic farming.First of all several farmers in different communities approached us with the question how to return to farming without the use of chemicals. We also realized that the food we are eating ourselves most likely is produced using chemicals. We wanted to produce, eat, and supply our communities with food that makes our people more resilient and less prone to diseases such as cancer, strokes, and skin disorders.

We were also thinking of the future generations in the region. With the land becoming less and less fertile and the increase of large scale (chemical based) farming next generations will not have a better future than the current one. This also is one of the reasons why more and more young people move away from the area and try to find a better future in Accra or abroad.

ATMA Farm - weeding the land

Chemicals might be cheaper in the short run, but on the longer term it actually is more expensive for many reasons. Organic fertilizers ensure that the farms remain fertile for decades and a farmer who practices organic farming for many years will require far less fertilizer, because his soil is already rich in essential nutrients. And chemicals contaminate the land and the water, which is a major cause for diseases, poverty and the extinction of a number of plant, animal, and insect species. Organic fertilizers are easily bio-degradable and do not cause environmental pollution.

And finally an important reason for us to start organic farming is that it creates employment within our local communities. Since we don’t use chemicals, weeds and grasses are also growing on our land. It needs to be removed at least twice during the growing period of the crops. That is labor intensive because we have it done by hand. It costs us some money and some food, but it also provides a growing group of farmers income, food and skills.LiL Purpose and Principles - june 2015

Leap into Life is about preserving nature, tradition and at the same time building a future for next generations by introducing change mechanisms and social dynamics that strengthen the communities to become more resilient in the 21st century. The production of organic fertilizers and pesticides brings employment into our communities; because the land needs extra attention and weeding, more farmers have work and farmers have more work; the organic seeds we have found and some of the technologies we use are original and local; and the seeds and crops we produce can be shared to provide healthy food to a growing group of people and/or to scale up the practice of organic farming in the region.

“License to kill” is becoming a well-known term in the region and is used by a growing number of communities to address their desire for more long term solutions that bring both health and wealth for their community members.

So how did we start with organic farming and where are we now? Our first priority was to find proper seeds. The land wouldn’t be so much of a problem for us, since we are well connected and deeply integrated in the traditional Dagomba communities. That actually also ‘saved’ us with the seeds. There wasn’t a place where we could find proper organic seeds, meaning seeds with an official certification as organic. I tried finding them, using my international network of experts. But even within the diverse group of people I know in Ghana who are involved in sustainable landscape development, organic farming or community development I couldn’t find the seeds for the crops we wanted to grow. We wanted to start with mais (corn), but the seeds we did find were either grown with chemicals or were treated with chemicals, probably GMO. The latter is extraordinary because Ghanaian government officially has banned GMO seeds and GMO crops from Ghana. But they are here and used by both local farmers and international companies.

Chemical seeds Pannar

We did find the organic seeds by going deep into the rural areas, there were the farmers are very remote from external influences and are too poor to purchase seeds or chemicals for fertilization or pest control. We did find the seeds we wanted, organic mais, though without a certificate.

Our first plot of land was a small plot of 6 acres close to Tamale. It was offered to us by the farmer who we had helped when he was ill and who had come to us with the question to help him getting off the chemicals. We planted mais, but the crops failed. Not because of the organic techniques or because of pests/insects; it was the effect of Global Warming that made them fail. The rain came 3 weeks later than it normally does and I learned through research that it was partially caused by El-Nino, the change in current in the oceans that brings extreme drought to Africa. Eastern Africa (Somalia/Kenia), Central Africa (Sudan), Southern Africa (Zimbabwe and South Africa) and the Savannah area (Ghana Northern Region) are according to analysts the most affected by this year’s El-Nino. (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/may/21/el-nino-could-bring-drought-and-famine-in-west-africa-scientists-warn)

A second sowing also failed because of the same reason. Since water is scarce and we do not have any form of irrigation available, we are completely depending on Mother Nature and natural rainfall. This time there was too little and it came too late for our first attempts as organic farmers.

It didn’t stop us, on the contrary. In agreement with local chiefs and in collaboration with several farmer communities in Yendi area we ‘knocked down’ around 40 acres of land to start farming on a new plot. The land there is more fertile than where we first started and the rain started to come. On this plot we have planted mais again and that is growing now to become a good harvest. The 6 acres near Tamale we are now using as a ‘practice field’ to gain experience with new crops. Currently we have black eyed beans, soybeans and tigernuts growing there. Again we are using seeds from remote areas of which we are sure that they haven’t been affected by chemicals. Though our first sowing of black eyed beans failed – this time due to extreme heavy rainfall that washed away the whole field – the crops there are now growing well and can be harvested soon.

On both plots we work with local community farmers and we do that in a specific way that is aligned with the ancient traditions of farming and the Dagomba tradition of Family Sharing. We have given the farmers some of ‘our’ land and provided them with seeds, manure and pesticides to work with. The harvest is theirs to keep and in return they help us to maintain the land where our crops are growing. That is the basis from where we work with most communities – the sharing principle is important to us – but not sufficient to cover for all the work that needs to be done. We also pay for the work in food and with cash money.

The local farmers in Tamale area were curious to see how we preserve and plough our land in a different way. Instead of burning the failed crops we had left them there as manure to feed the land. We also waited a bit longer than the other farmers with sowing, which gave them the opportunity to see the difference in fertility between our land and theirs. The difference already is significant; some farmers approached us to ask if they could use our land for their crops.

The farmers that are helping us on the larger plot had automatically concluded that we were going to use chemicals on the land. Normally a plot of the size we have – or any size above 3 acres – is used for chemical farming, so they were assuming that we were going to do that too. When they learned that we were going to use a different approach, they were surprised and curious. Now they are inspired by our approach and very happy with our presence there. We not only provide extra work, food and resources. We also help them to rediscover older techniques for pest control they can also apply to their own land.

We use organic manure and Neem based pesticides; partly purchased from our business partner in organic products, partly hand made from Neem leafs and Neem seeds from the trees that grow there in abundance. We have been trying to setup an infrastructure for the collection of Neem seeds that provides the women direct income for each bowl of Neem seeds they bring to our office and are still working on improvement of that. It is not running as we would like to, partly because the women are unfamiliar with the qualities and value of the Neem seeds.

We have learned how to make manure from cow feces, rice shells and a mixture of other local ingredients and we apply that in combination with certified organic manure. A few weeks ago we had some trouble with insects eating the roots of our mais (corn) and cutting our crops down. Fortunately we found a traditional natural medicine (a leaf powder) that kills the insects and protects the crops and the land for more than one season.

guide to nutrient value of organic materials

We expect to have good harvest on all our current plots. But we also expect to have inspired others for organic farming. Since there are hardly organic seeds available we have decided to provide them ourselves. We are sharing not only our gained experience with the communities; we will also provide those who want to farm without chemicals in the seeds, pesticides and fertilizers. We are preparing to open a small store in Tamale and we have found several people in the communities who want to sell the products in their region. Ghana northern Region has a short time where farming is possible, it is very seasonable, so we expect to start slow and small with the objective to expand our activities next season.

In future we also want to grow vegetable crops, but irrigation – or better: access to water – is a serious problem for all farmers in Northern Region. In order to be able to grow vegetables we need a borehole and a form of irrigation that makes us less depending on natural rainfall.

Our next step is to expand the growing of organic tigernuts. Experts from Louis Bolk Agro Eco will be visiting Tamale soon and will be joining us to the communities we have chosen to work with for that project. We are excited about the invitation to become part of the tigernut program and thrilled by how we see the farmers and communities grow in health and wealth. We have thrown a little stone in the lake and are grateful to see the circles it has created expanding.

 

Alain Volz

Tamale, August 2016

 

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Glyphosate; what is it and how harmless or harmful is it?

Results of my research on Glyphosate

In preparation of an article on farming in Ghana, Northern region – with the name “License to kill” and to be published yet – I got quite deeply into research on Glyphosate, the basic ingredient of practically all chemical pesticides.Glyphosate in food chain e1424980143336As many of you know, I am not without prejudice on the use of chemicals in farming and of processed food in general. However, I tried to look at the different perspectives, including those of the producers of chemical pesticides and advocates for chemical based farming.

It is interesting to find that in March 2015 the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic in humans” (category 2A, see below) and that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in November 2015 concluded that “the substance (Glyphosate) is unlikely to be genotoxic (i.e. damaging to DNA) or to pose a carcinogenic threat to humans.

Glyphosate is widely used in farming all over the globe and there is a huge market for seeds and crops that have been altered (Genetically Modified or Genetically Engineered) to be resistant of Glyphosate. With these seeds and crops, the pesticide will kill everything except for the crops. But in most cases the crops/seeds either hold the toxic in it or have been produced in such a way that they can’t reproduce.

Not only Monsanto, but also companies like Bayern, Dow Chemicals, Wienco, Pfizer and others use Glyphosate in their pesticides and other farming products. The conclusion of the EFSA brings a huge question mark with me, knowing that Bayer is preparing to buy Monsanto.

Before my research my logical thinking was: “Why use Glyphosate; it is a chemical; a toxic that kills weeds and animals eating the farmer’s crops. It is poison that kills, so why should one use it on food crops or in food? And how can it be harmless for us humans, when it kills other organisms?” I still prefer to eat food that is not intoxicated by any form of chemicals or poison.

Glyphosate - europes-top-5-glyphosate-pesticide-toxic-countries-21728434

Below I give a summary of the reports I have found. To be honest, it has shocked me and only made my belief stronger that organic farming is the most plausible future for humanity to survive and to overcome global issues as food security, hunger and disease.

I’ve also found articles on the relationship between the use of chemicals in farming and the increasing rate of arsenic in rice. Especially rice is vulnerable for intoxication. Especially rice grown in areas where cotton is planted is highly toxic. It would be too much to take these reports into this article, but I couldn’t leave mentioning it here.

Brown rice is more toxic than cleaned white rice. Wash your rice carefully with at least 6 cups of water before cooking. And don’t use the water you washed the rice in for the cooking of it.

This article might be difficult to read because it contains a lot of information and harsh conclusions.

Draw your own conclusions.

Tamale, July 2016

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Glyphosate; what is it and how harmless or harmful is it?

Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glyphosate

Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide and crop desiccant. It is an organophosphorus compound, specifically a phosphonate. It is used to kill weeds, especially annual broadleaf weeds and grasses that compete with crops.

It was discovered to be an herbicide by Monsanto chemist John E. Franz in 1970. Monsanto brought it to market in 1974 under the trade name Roundup, and Monsanto’s last commercially relevant United States patent expired in 2000.

Glyphosate - chemical formula

In March 2015 the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic in humans” (category 2A) based on epidemiological studies, animal studies, and in vitro studies.

Original WHO publication:

http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/iarcnews/pdf/MonographVolume112.pdf

In November 2015, the European Food Safety Authority published an updated assessment report on glyphosate, concluding that “the substance is unlikely to be genotoxic (i.e. damaging to DNA) or to pose a carcinogenic threat to humans.

Original EFSA publication: https://www.efsa.europa.eu/sites/default/files/corporate_publications/files/efsaexplainsglyphosate151112en.pdf

Monsanto website:

http://www.monsanto.com/glyphosate/pages/what-is-glyphosate.aspx

 What is Glyphosate?

All Roundup® brand herbicides contain glyphosate as an active ingredient. Roundup® brand herbicides were developed to control a wide variety of weeds. A majority of Roundup brand herbicides contain three components – the active ingredient glyphosate, water and a soap-like surfactant blend. Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide, meaning that care must be taken to protect desirable plants and vegetation from contact with the herbicide. Apart from the three ingredients identified, some Roundup brand formulations may have additional active ingredient(s). In addition, there are many glyphosate-based products with other brand names, both from Monsanto and other manufacturers.

Is Glyphosate Safe?

Glyphosate inhibits an enzyme that is essential to plant growth; this enzyme is not found in humans or other animals, contributing to the low risk to human health. Comprehensive toxicological studies in animals have demonstrated that glyphosate does not cause cancer, birth defects, DNA damage, nervous system effects, immune system effects, endocrine disruption or reproductive problems. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified the carcinogenicity potential of glyphosate as Category E: “evidence of non-carcinogenicity for humans.”

EPA, which reviews extensive toxicological and environmental data before registering an active ingredient, classifies glyphosate as “practically non-toxic.” That is the most favorable acute toxicity category possible based on single–exposure oral, dermal and inhalation studies. In addition to studies with the active ingredient of herbicide products, regulatory agencies also require specific toxicological studies with the full formulation.Glyphosate - Monsanto website

National Pesticide Information Center on Glyphosate:

http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/glyphogen.html

Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide, meaning it will kill most plants. It prevents the plants from making certain proteins that are needed for plant growth. Glyphosate stops a specific enzyme pathway, the shikimic acid pathway. The shikimic acid pathway is necessary for plants and some microorganisms.

How might I be exposed to glyphosate?

You can be exposed to glyphosate if you get it on your skin, in your eyes or breathe it in when you are using it. You might swallow some glyphosate if you eat or smoke after applying it without washing your hands first. You may also be exposed if you touch plants that are still wet with spray.

US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health:

Human poisoning with this herbicide is not with the active ingredient alone but with complex and variable mixtures. Therefore, it is difficult to separate the toxicity of glyphosate from that of the formulation as a whole or to determine the contribution of surfactants to overall toxicity. Experimental studies suggest that the toxicity of the surfactant, polyoxyethyleneamine (POEA), is greater than the toxicity of glyphosate alone and commercial formulations alone.

Elizabeth Grossman – National Geographic:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/04/150422-glyphosate-roundup-herbicide-weeds/

It’s probably in your garage and on your lawn. And it’s used on nearly every acre of corn and soy. But what risks does it pose?

Chemical pesticide - Glyphosate (Wynco)

An international agency declared glyphosate, the primary ingredient in the popular product Roundup,  a “probable human carcinogen.” The weed killer also has made recent headlines for its widespread use on genetically modified seeds and research that links it to antibiotics resistance and hormone disruption. Several national governments are planning to restrict its use, and some school districts are talking about banning it.

Its use skyrocketed after seeds were genetically engineered to tolerate the chemical. Because these seeds produce plants that are not killed by glyphosate, farmers can apply the weed killer to entire fields without worrying about destroying crops.

USGS researchers found glyphosate in the majority of rivers, streams, ditches, and wastewater treatment plant outfalls tested. Glyphosate also was found in about 70 percent of rainfall samples. It attaches pretty firmly to soil particles that are swept off farm fields then stay in the atmosphere for a relatively long time until they dissolve off into water.

Since about 2005, pre-harvest use of glyphosate results in very high residues in food crops. Traces were found in 90 percent of 300 soybean samples.

Glyphosate - GMO Soybeans

Despite its widespread use, USGS hydrologist Paul Capel said there is “a dearth of information” on what happens to it once it is used.

Glyphosate is not included in the U.S. government’s testing of food for pesticide residues or the monitoring of chemicals in human blood and tissues. As a result, there is no information on how much people are exposed to from using it in their yards, living near farms or eating foods from treated fields.

UN’s International Agency for Research on Cancer declared in March 2015 that glyphosate probably raises the risk of cancer in people exposed. The UN agency based its decision on human, animal, and cell studies, says National Cancer Institute scientist emeritus, Aaron Blair who chaired the IARC review committee. The studies found glyphosate in farmworkers’ blood and urine, chromosomal damage in cells, increased risks of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in some people exposed, and tumor formation in some animal studies.

One study suggests that glyphosate may affect pathogens such as Salmonella in ways that can contribute to antibiotic resistance. Other recent research suggests it can interfere with hormones.

The EPA is reviewing its approved uses of glyphosate and expects to release a preliminary assessment of the human health risk later this year. This is expected to include new restrictions.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka, alarmed by suspected links to human kidney disease, has banned it. Brazil is considering a similar move. Mexico and the Netherlands have imposed new restrictions, and Canada has just begun a process to consider new rules.

Dr. Mercola – Roundup and Glyphosate Toxicity Have Been Grossly Underestimated

http://www.Mercola.com

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/07/30/glyphosate-toxicity.aspx

A study, published in the journal Ecotoxicology, (2013 March; 22(2): 251–262) found that glyphosate is toxic to water fleas (Daphnia magna) at minuscule levels that are well within the levels expected to be found in the environment.

According to regulators, glyphosate is thought to be practically nontoxic to aquatic invertebrates. The water flea is a widely accepted model for environmental toxicity, so this study throws serious doubt on glyphosate’s classification as environmentally safe. The original publication can be found here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3572389/

Back in Feb. of 2012, the journal Archives of Toxicology published a shocking study showing that Roundup is toxic to human DNA even when diluted to concentrations 450-fold lower than used in agricultural applications.

(Archives of Toxicology 2012 May;86(5):805-13 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22331240)

This effect could not have been anticipated from the known toxicological effects of glyphosate alone. The likely explanation is that the surfactant polyoxyethyleneamine within Roundup dramatically enhances the absorption of glyphosate into exposed human cells and tissue,” Sayer Ji writes:

“If this is true, it speaks to a fundamental problem associated with toxicological risk assessments of agrichemicals (and novel manmade chemicals in general), namely, these assessments do not take into account the reality of synergistic toxicologies, i.e. the amplification of harm associated with multiple chemical exposures occurring simultaneously.”

Glyphosate - spraying II

A study published in Scientific American (June 23, 2009) found that liver, embryonic and placental cell lines exposed to various herbicide formulations for 24 hours at doses as low as 1 part per million (ppm), had adverse effects. The original article “Weed-Whacking Herbicide Proves Deadly to Human Cells“ can be found here: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/weed-whacking-herbicide-p/

Perhaps most disturbing of all, the researchers claim that cell damage and even cell death can occur at the residual levels found on Roundup-treated crops, as well as lawns and gardens where Roundup is applied for weed control. They also suspect that:

“Roundup might cause pregniony problems by interfering with hormone production, possibly leading to abnormal fetal development, low birth weights or miscarriages.”

Miscarriages, fertility problems and abnormal fetal development are all problems that are skyrocketing in Argentina, where many are exposed to massive spraying of herbicides. More than 18 million hectares in Argentina are covered by genetically engineered soy, on which more than 300 million liters of pesticides are sprayed. In the village of Malvinas Argentinas, which is surrounded by soy plantations, the rate of miscarriage is 100 times the national average, courtesy of glyphosate.

But even if you don’t live in an agricultural area where you might be exposed to Roundup directly, you’re still getting it through your diet if you’re eating non-organic foods.

The EPA standard for glyphosate in American water supplies is 0.7 ppm. In Europe, the maximum allowable level in water is 0.2 ppm. Organ damage in animals has occurred at levels as low as 0.1 ppm, and in the study on cell lines discussed above, liver, embryonic and placental cell lines were adversely affected at doses as low as 1 ppm. The fact that genetically modified corn can contain as much as 13 ppm of glyphosate has staggering implications for Americans who eat an average of 193 pounds of genetically engineered foods each year! (Source Environmental Working Group October 15, 2012)

A German study, published in 2013, looked at glyphosate’s role in the rise of toxic botulism in cattle. This used to be extremely rare, but the incidence has become increasingly common over the past 10-15 years. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23396248 –  US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health)

As for its effects on humans, the Samsel – Seneff study, published in the journal Entropy in April 2013, suggests that glyphosate may actually be the most important factor in the development of a wide variety of chronic diseases, specifically because your gut bacteria are a key component of glyphosate’s mechanism of harm.

Dr. Stephanie Seneff has been conducting research at MIT for over three decades. She also has an undergraduate degree in biology from MIT and a minor in food and nutrition. The report argues that glyphosate residues, found in most commonly consumed foods in the Western diet courtesy of GE sugar, corn, soy and wheat, “enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease.” (Original article: Entropy 2013, 15(4), 1416-1463 – http://www.mdpi.com/1099-4300/15/4/1416)

Glyphosate and autism

Glyphosate causes extreme disruption of the microbe’s function and lifecycle. What’s worse, glyphosate preferentially affects beneficial bacteria, allowing pathogens to overgrow and take over. At that point, your body also has to contend with the toxins produced by the pathogens. Once the chronic inflammation sets in, you’re well on your way toward chronic and potentially debilitating disease.

Dr. Seneff identified two key problems in autism that are unrelated to the brain yet clearly associated with the condition—both of which are linked with glyphosate exposure; 1:) gut dysbiosis and 2:) Disrupted sulfur metabolism / sulfur and sulfate deficiency.

Certain microbes in your body actually break down glyphosate, which is a good thing. However, a byproduct of this action is ammonia, and children with autism tend to have significantly higher levels of ammonia in their blood than the general population. This also is the case for those with Alzheimer’s disease. In your brain, ammonia causes encephalitis, i.e. brain inflammation.

Former US Navy staff scientist Dr. Nancy Swanson has meticulously collected statistics on glyphosate usage and various diseases and conditions, including autism. A more perfect match-up between the rise in glyphosate usage and incidence of autism is hard to imagine. To access her published articles and reports, please visit Sustainable Pulse, a European website dedicated to exposing the hazards of genetically engineered foods. http://sustainablepulse.com/

As discussed above, glyphosate has a number of devastating biological effects. So much so that it may very well be one of the most important factors in the development of a wide variety of modern diseases and conditions, including autism.

Glyphosate and Alzheimers-GMOIt’s important to understand that the glyphosate sprayed on conventional and genetically engineered crops actually becomes systemic throughout the plant, so it cannot be washed off. It’s inside the plant.

The answer, of course, is to avoid processed foods of all kinds, as they’re virtually guaranteed to contain genetically engineered ingredients, and center your diet around whole, organic foods as toxic pesticides are not permitted in organic farming.

Last but not least, do not confuse the “natural” label with organic standards.

People generally tend to believe that the word “natural” refers to foods grown “in a natural way,” which really amounts to organic farming methods, or close to it; sans harsh chemicals, and most definitely not something that has been genetically engineered. Unfortunately, that’s not what the “natural” label represents at all. In fact, the “natural” label is unregulated, and companies can define it as they please. The natural label is not based on any standards and is frequently misused by sellers of GE products.

Growers and manufacturers of organic products bearing the USDA seal, on the other hand, have to meet the strictest standards of any of the currently available organic labels. In order to qualify as organic, a product must be grown and processed using organic farming methods that recycle resources and promote biodiversity. Crops must be grown without synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes, petroleum-based fertilizers, or sewage sludge-based fertilizers.

Caroline Cox. Journal of Pesticide Reform, Volume 15, Number 3, Fall 1995.

http://www.inspiringlandscapes.com/hope/glyphos8.htm

In animal studies, feeding of glyphosate for three months caused reduced weight gain, diarrhea, and salivary gland lesions. Lifetime feeding of glyphosate caused excess growth and death of liver cells, cataracts and lens degeneration, and increases in the frequency of thyroid, pancreas, and liver tumors.

Glyphosate-containing products have caused genetic damage in human blood cells, fruit flies, and onion cells.

Glyphosate causes reduced sperm counts in male rats, a lengthened estrous cycle in female rats, and an increase in fetal loss together with a decrease in birth weights in their offspring.

It is striking that laboratory studies have identified adverse effects of glyphosate or glyphosate-containing products in all standard categories of toxicological testing.

Two serious cases of fraud have occurred in laboratories conducting toxicology and residue testing for glyphosate and glyphosate-containing products.

Glyphosate in urine and organs

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Leap into Life – What is a MeshWORKS foundation?

In this post I will share an article written by Dr. Don Edward Beck, the founding father of the global Centers for Human Emergence, including CHE-NL. Dr. Beck has been, and still is, a great teacher and wise mentor to me. His work to help civilizations ‘from conflict to congruence’ has inspired many people, among others Nelson Mandela with whom he worked after Mandela won the South African elections.

In addition to serving alongside Nelson Mandela on the creation of deep reconciliation strategies in the post-apartheid South Africa, Dr. Beck has consulted with Tony Blair and his Policy Unit in search for new ways to implement “Third Way” initiatives in the UK and abroad, and with Bill Clinton in discussing racial issues in USA. He has also worked with the Singapore government and the Mexican government.

What is a MeshWORKS foundation; what are the principles it works from; and how does it differ from other types of foundations currently known?

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 The Meshworks Foundation: a New approach to Philanthropy

A Spiral Full of Foundations

By Don Edward Beck, Ph.D.

INTRODUCTION

Different foundations exist for different reasons, and serve multiple purposes for the people who create them, the folks who manage them, and the populations and causes they were designed to serve. Historically, foundations can be grouped into six overlapping categories. Each category has a different core motivation and priority for existence, with different reasons that “matter most.”

This document will describe the different types of foundations with a specific focus on the newly emerging form called “MeshWORK.”

THE SIX TYPES OF FOUNDATIONS

Here are the various types of foundations with their respective “matter most” bottom-lines.

F1      A Humanitarian foundations has a heightened sensitivity to the human condition and sees, as its primary function, the elimination of human suffering.  It promotes the social upliftment of people so they can live out their lives with sufficiency and dignity.

Meeting the needs of people, now, in a caring way—matters most.

F2      A Family foundation is essentially an economic/social entity that serves as a vehicle for a closely-held “family” to achieve financial leverage or fund what are essentially “pet projects” preferred by specific members.  Resources are to be transferred to each generation.

The family’s name, heritage and reputations matter most.

F3      An Empire foundation is simply the extension of the personality of a strong, domineering leader, founding principal, or highly-visible celebrity.  Decisions are made based on meeting the needs, goals, aspirations, ambitions and peculiarities of such a personality.

The image and ego of the “personality” matter most.

 F4      An Advocacy foundation exists to promote a specific belief system, a missionary-like cause, movement, or set of prescriptions and ideologies.  Such a foundation will only be interested in the issues associated with the advancement of its own “truths” and convictions.

The defense of “The Cause” and its spread matter most.

F5      An Enterprise foundation is typically formed by large companies or other growth-driven professional groups and is designed to promote the proprietary interests of the owners and/or stakeholders.  The primary motive is to expand the bottom-line, enhance the status, or win at the public relations game.

The success of the business and the executive matter most.

F6      An Ecological foundation focuses on the preservation of the elements, primarily in nature, or in the historic traditions that contribute to the quality of our live and stability of our cultural life-forms.  Nature as such must be protected for future generations.   This foundation will take the longer view, think in a macro fashion, and act to preserve our natural habitat as well as historical places and memorable events.

Protecting and preserving the total quality of our lives matter most.

 

While a specific foundation, through its myriad of activities, may incorporate several of these basic foundation functions, most will tend to identify with one of the categories over the others, as its core motivations and central thrust.  Many of the disagreements and debates that occur within various brain syndicates or groups of stakeholders may, indeed, reflect these differing and often conflicting perspectives.  And, a specific foundation may start out in one category but as power and control change hands, it may end up in yet a different grouping.  A foundation is not identified according to what it does, or how it donates its resources.  Rather, it is grouped based on its reasons for doing so, the core beliefs that drive and support its initiatives.

 

F7      The Meshworks Foundation: a New approach to Philanthropy

In this type of foundation, a newly emerging value system and priority uses the power of “mesh” in identifying, integrating, aligning, and mobilizing all available resources. These, in turn, are focused like laser-beam on specific challenges, goals, objectives, or outcomes.

Such a foundation will be less interested in its own image, data banks, financial resources, or proprietary position in a specific professional or public niche.  Rather, it is an open system; one designed to aid and assist other efforts, even if they appear on the surface to be competitive, to work for a greater goal, the power of the Third Win.  The F7 entity will accept, as its unique and transcendent role, the enabling and empowering of all of the elements that can contribute to a positive outcome.  This new foundation is an inclusive (rather than exclusive) force designed to raise the total national or global capacity for both short and long term solutions to complex problems.  It will use both the cyberworld and personal contact summitry to bring all of the other foundations (and other interests) together around common purpose.  It will accept a major information sharing and technology transfer role.  It will assist other entities to become healthy and vibrant.  It has no need to re-invent the wheel since it is wasteful to duplicate resources and absorb capital in unnecessary expenditures, fancy offices, or expensive public relations efforts.)

Such a F7 initiative will be relatively lean in stature, with the capability of big-picture thinking cobbled with a quick-response intelligence.  It will offer its “good offices” to the academy, marketplace, milieu, or meshwork that links all of the efforts and resources in a given field or cause.  As a result, more is done by less, solutions are both short-term and long-term, and the whole “brain syndicate” continues to learn, get better, improve, and even develop new and imaginative solutions that no specific effort, foundations, or entity could invent on their own.

Networks - CoPs - Meshworks

 The Third Win Purpose

By their very nature MeshWORKS foundations search for a central objective for which it seeks to “mesh” people, organizations, and other resources.  Such a transcendent purpose gives the foundation the high levels of trust, integrity, legitimacy, and respect that it will need to (1) attract high levels of funding; and (2) bring diverse elements together in common cause.

This — “matters most.”

So, what will a MeshWORKS-type foundation actually be able to do that others can’t or don’t?

  1. A MeshWORKS foundation will learn how to align its own resources, stakeholders, clients, and customers so that internal operations run in a smooth, positive, and additive way.
  2.  A MeshWORKS foundation understands the decision-making “codes” inherent in all of the other six foundation types, to enable it to “mesh” them in common cause, enlist them in cooperative projects, or elicit funds from them for the larger, transcendent mission. This skill in marketing and fund-raising also extends to other funding sources, media interests, and technological assets.
  3.  A MeshWORKS foundation thinks in a time-line fashion in that it “meshes” the past, present, and future into an integrated wholeness to avoid generational gaps, historical cul-de-sacs, or total focus on dealing only with contemporary issues, problems, or situations. It both sees and takes the long view while dealing in tactical issues on a daily basis.
  4.  A MeshWORKS foundation is more interested in what is right rather than who is right; who has competency rather than status; and stresses what is natural (rather than artificial or contrived) F7 thinking occurs in highly functional flex-flow states as it synchronized and even harmonizes what appear to be discordant chords, frequencies, and conflicting forms of energy.
  5.  A MeshWORKS foundation measures and assesses itself based on what it is able to accomplish, whether it has been successful with the unique win:win:win strategy, and to what extent it has created greater abundance (wealth, technological knowledge, greater access to resources, higher life quality, more people being helped in better ways and at less cost, a healthier family, community, society, or world, etc.)
  6.  A MeshWORKS foundation always has an eye on building something for the future; contributes to a growing body of knowledge; creates innovative “skunkworks” initiatives; and searches for ideas, concepts, and solutions from far beyond its own discipline, boundaries, or spheres of influence. Such a “WORKS” is always a project under construction.
  7.  A MeshWORKS foundation continues to renew itself, absorb fresh ideas, tap-in to new resources, redefine its macro and micro goals, learn from mistakes, and be open to constant change, transitions, and transformations.
  8.  A MeshWORKS foundation possesses an uncanny ability to morph itself to find rapport, identify with, and shape itself to connect with a number of different organizations, interest groups, political groupings, and professional societies. This capacity is essential since it must “mesh” with these resources to accomplish the Third Win objectives. Further, it must be able to generate “full court press solutions” that deal with both causes and symptoms, that recognize the limitations in single cause fallacy thinking, and senses that most difficult issues are the rest of the “dance” between entities, parties, forces, ideologies, and other such interests.

Obviously,a MeshWORKS approach is informed by many of the assumptions within the Spiral Dynamics body of knowledge. As such, it is able to deal with the deepest human codes and cultural “DNA” to focus specifically on the elements and influences that are generating surface level behavior.

Don Edward Beck, Ph. D.

http://www.spiraldynamics.net   and http://www.humanemergence.org.

See also http://www.globalvaluesnetwork.com  for the global assessment process.

 Copyright © 2007 Don Edward Beck

IMG_1325

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What can we learn from tradition and conflict?

This article is an English translation of an article previously published in Dutch on July 2nd 2016. With special thanks to Michiel Doorn who helped me with the translation.

Those that know me are aware that, already for five years, I have been traveling between Ghana and the Netherlands. In Ghana, I work with the Dagomba tribe in the North. The Dagomba are generally traditional people and religion is important in their lives, as it is in many other areas of Africa.  Most Dagomba are practicing Muslims. However, the type of Islam and the way of practicing it is totally different from what we know in the West.

The images about Islam in Europe and the United States are mainly based on the Arabic/North African Islam. The Arabic type of Islam is influential in global economy because of the dominant position that part of the world has as a supplier of oil. The global economy is based on oil and the largest suppliers are in countries that are Arab Muslim. As such the influence in OPEC (and thus, in the global economy) is large.

Most immigrants in Europe come from North Africa. For example, in the Netherlands many immigrants are from Morocco and also from Turkey. In Germany, there is a large community with Turkish roots. In France, many immigrants are from Algeria and Lebanon. The first immigrants came two, even three generations ago and their children have grown up as Dutch, Germans or French. And they are Muslim, although not always practicing their religion. However, a Turk is not a Moroccan, just as a Belgian is not a Dutchman.

In this article I refer to Spiral Dynamics, a model for social development, which acknowledges that there are different realities (worldviews or vMemes) that can exist at the same time and next to each other. Spiral Dynamics brings a sharp view on the complexity and nuances of reality. The great value of Spiral Dynamics, to me, is that it brings a refreshing perspective on societal issues and, by doing so,it shows new possibilities to resolve tensions and conflict. It gives access to alternative solutions for familiar and new issues.

IMG_5273

Religion in general – both Islam and Christianity – are according to Spiral Dynamics an expression that primarily manifests in the Blue value system (Authoritarian vMeme). A commonly used synonym for the word ‘value system’ is worldview. Holy writings and rules for the way one should live add structure and form to the manifestation of a belief in a higher truth.

The content of the books and rules differ between religions, but to me the essence isn’t so much different at all. What they have in common is the conviction that we are part of something that is larger and more intelligent than us, human beings, and that we have to submit to, and relate with that higher intelligence. Rules and agreements help us in doing this.

The origin of religion, however, has its roots in another value system. The consciousness that we are part of a larger whole, even if it is only the planet Earth we are living on, has its origin in the Purple value system. This value system also is called “the tribal order” (Tribal mythic vMeme). Essence of the tribal order is – according to me – that we are all connected with another and that we can achieve much more together than as individuals. Family and group are important, often more important than the individual. There is a certain unity and connection; within the group and as a group with the Earth. The most commonly known example of the purple value system are the Aboriginals in Australia. Also with the Dagomba tribe from Northern Ghana this value system is predominantly present, especially in rural areas. More on this further in the article.

Where the Blue value system brings structure and language to an experience of belief, has the Purple value system much more a mystical relationship with that of which we are part of and related in. Both are oriented on the group as a collective. However, some questions remain unanswered; “Where is the individual in the group?” and “Who am I as an individual within the group?” These questions have their origin in another value system, more oriented on the individual.

The tribal value system (Purple) and the structure oriented value system (Blue) are related with another through a value system that answers the two questions in the previous paragraph. This connecting value system is Red, “Power Gods”. The Red value system emphasizes self-expression and manifestation of self (the individual). Decisiveness is the word that I find most summarizing for the Red value system. One could say that the collective consciousness of connection from the tribal order (Purple) manifests through expression of the individual (Red). The authoritarian Bblue) value system brings a framework for ‘healthy’ manifestation by the individual and in the group. Healthy manifestation means here that it serves the larger whole; in this case the group.

There is a certain hierarchy, but not a linear hierarchy. When one lives in a collective (family, group, company, community, society) the question “What is my position in the group?” automatically arises. This is not a question that will be resolved with a definite answer. Because there is constant movement and dynamics in the group, the ‘I-question’ will also constantly return. And, because there is constant change/movement in the group and as a group, does the answer to the I-question also change over time. That is why it is important to ask the question again and again as if it was a new question.DNA spiraal vMemesAt the same time there are certain things that seem to be less influenced by this continuous dynamics of change or does there seem to be a great consent on certain specific matters. In that case it is very valuable to make certain agreements to prevent us from spending our time and energy on something that is stable and commonly accepted. It makes life more easy, decreases the level of tensions/conflict within the group and creates space for other topics that are equally important. The Red value system finds peace in structure and, at the same time, it looks for the boundaries and sometimes stretches/crosses those boundaries. This is a natural (evolutionary) process and part of the individual human need to develop and manifest.

As a source of self-manifestation and individual creativity, the Red value system is very powerful. In the Netherlands there is also fear of this value system. That is understandable, because too much force and self-expression can lead to “unhealthy” forms of expression and even (extreme) force or violence.

The image in Europe of Islam is strongly influenced by violent organizations such as Daesh (often referred to as ISIS) and Boko Haram in northern Africa, as well as by the assault of Al Qaida on the World Trade Center in New York. These are forms of unhealthy Red (Power Gods). However, the expression of George Bush, Jr. “Either you are with us or you are against us” and the declarations by Geert Wilders in the Netherlands area also forms of unhealthy Red.

From the perspective of Spiral Dynamics the clash between the West and groups such as Daesh, Al Qaida and Boko Haram is not so much a clash between Islam and the “free” West. It is a conflict between unhealthy Red against unhealthy Red.  I may write more on this topic in another paper. Now, I want to emphasize and clear up that the picture of Islam as a violent religion is not entirely wrong but definitely very limited.

Islam has a rich history in arts, science and literature. The modern astronomy has its origins in the work by the Moghul in India. The Moghul are Muslims that have lived and ruled over large parts of India for many years. Their knowledge of the stars has been far more advanced than in the Western world. At a time where people in Europe still believed that the Sun was turning around the Earth there were star watchtowers all over India and one could find very detailed and accurate maps of the universe and of the dynamics in our solar system.

The most traditional scientists in Islam were Sufi. Great writers and poets as Hazrad Imrad Khan were Sufi, as were many mathematicians, astrologists and other scientists. The essence of Sufism is –according to me – that science and mysticism are combined. From the deep understanding that reality is far more complex and larger than we humans can comprehend the Sufi aims for connection with reality by research, arts, conversation and meditation. The asking of questions is much more important than the answer and by repetitive asking the same question, again and again, our understanding of reality evolves. At the same time our understanding always is limited to a concept that only comes close to reality; it is not reality, but our understanding of it. This deep consciousness is a characteristic of a Sufi.

Sufi experience a different worldview than the other forms of Islam I described above. In Spiral Dynamics I would describe Sufism as Yellow (FlexFlow) and Turquoise (Wholeview) value systems. These value systems contain a very high level of complexity, and are in general far positioned from the purple, red and blue value systems of Spiral Dynamics. Sufi, in general, have more in common with the carriers of the Rose Cross from Christianity and the Kabbalists in Judaism than with the other forms of Islam. In Sufi temples one can find holy writings of all world religions, such as the Bible, the Kabbalah and Hindu writings, next to the Koran.

Wereld religies

Although I was born as a Jew and predominantly am trained in Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism, Muslims that are familiar with Sufism consider me to be a Sufi. I even got married in the Sufi temple in Katwijk (with a self-designed ceremony based on my own spiritual practice) because the regents of the temple considered my view on life and spirituality as that of a Sufi.

As I mentioned before, a large majority of the Dagomba are Muslim. However, the form of Islam practiced by the Dagomba is different from all forms that I know of. Instead of local traditions having been replaced by Islam, Islam was integrated into the local traditions. As with many African tribes, community comes first in traditional Dagomba life: the Purple value system still is dominant with the traditional Dagomba with whom I work and live.

Dagomba key belief is that we are all family and, thus, connected. This is within the tribe, but extends beyond the boundaries of the own community.  In many cases, people are actually related to each other. A man may have a maximum of four wives, as long as he can offer them a good existence. Large families are the norm. What I find especially fascinating is the mixed marriages where one parent is Muslim and the other Christian. In these unions, the children have  a fair amount of freedom to make their own choice as far as belief and religion. Even the choice of the individual church or mosque is pretty much up to the children. Consequently, it can occur that within one family, parents and children may visit more than ten different churches or mosques.

During my first visits to the community that had invited me to come to Ghana, I had taken the time to talk with my hosts about my own spiritual practice, which is mainly grounded in Buddhism/Hinduism/Taoism. During these dialogues we found remarkably many similarities in regard to unity and connection. And we also agreed on the need for self-reflection as part of personal and spiritual growth. I also addressed that I am a born Jew and that that identity is important to me as well. I asked if that would or could be a problem for collaboration. The reaction was genuine surprise.

It was explained to me that according to Dagomba belief, Jews and Muslims are brothers, because we have the same forefather Abraham. To them, my being a Jew was more of an advantage than a disadvantage. Today, five years after these initial conversations, I can only confirm that the Dagomba practice what they preach. They have treated me as an equal, in spite of the differences which remains evident. This is new to me, as I live in an area of Amsterdam where I can be scolded or even spat upon when people (immigrants) find out I’m Jewish. I am always astonished how someone who doesn’t know me can hate me, just because of my race or origin. I prefer to focus on my Moroccan baker who always gives me a cookie or an extra croissant and my Turkish green grocer who remains friendly at all times and works around the clock.

So, for the Dagomba we are all brothers and sisters, even if we have another skin color and different ideas about religion. What is much more important to the people I interact with is that one maintains his/her practice seriously and actively works on remaining in contact with the Divine. The people I work with pray five times per day (starting at four am) if Muslim; if Christian they go to an “all night mass” at least twice a week. They are intensively involved with their practice but not dogmatic towards other religious forms.

The dogmatism of Islam that we are familiar in the West comes from the Red value system. The violence that we directly associate with it is an unhealthy manifestation of the Red value system. Holy scriptures (Blue) such as Bible, Quran or Torah are intended to help people develop a healthy expression of Red. Prayer, contemplation, discourse, and self-reflection are ways to achieve that. They help Red to find meaning and sets boundaries for healthy expression. But if one is stuck in Red, for whatever reason, it breeds dogmatism and destruction. We see this with Daesh, even so Christianity also has an intense comparable history all the way up to the present.

Dagomba tradition, rooted in Purple, has a strong sense of hospitality and kindness. In addition, the idea around individual property is rather ambiguous. This is in part because the group is considered more important than the individual, and also the sense of individuality — what we would call Ego — is much less pronounced than in the West. Spiral Dynamics holds that the Ego only begins to manifest itself in the Red value system. I see similarities with Hinduism and more mystical approaches such as Sufism or Kaballahism (in Judaism), because here, the construct  of “individuality” is considered absurd, because we receive everything from the Earth, God(s), Allah, Jaweh and all is offered to us. To us all, and for us all. The Divine doesn’t consider exclusivity, which is a human construct. Sometimes that construct may be healthy, sometimes it is not.

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An important difference between the Purple mystic and mystic movements such as Sufism and Kabbalahism (Turquoise values) is that in the latter the individual (Ego) is strongly developed. A paramount practice for such mystics is to develop a strong personality, not for individual gain, but to be of service to the Divine. As such,  these mystics see themselves as servants of the Divine with the task to let he Divine manifest itself through them. Whereas in Purple/Red the individual personality is beginning to develop itself, in Turquoise it is integrated and transformed. This means that choices can be made differently and that there is a difference between the interpretations of boundaries.

Dagomba Purple is rather boundless, and for me personally sometimes too boundless. There are expressions and duties that are sometimes difficult for me, and there are customs that can be peculiar and heartwarming at the same time. I am learning that it is not so much these customs that cause tension, but my judgments about them.

Take helpfulness, for example. In the tradition of the Dagomba it is matter of course to do something for somebody who you don’t personally know, as long as it concerns a request from a brother or sister of the one asking. I was asked by a Dagomba friend if I could help his sister with an invitational letter for a visa, and if I could help with a place for her to sleep that would be inexpensive. At first, I felt quite tense about this request.  Officially inviting someone I do not know? What if this person has plans to stick around or has plans that I don’t know about? My name would be tied to this person. I had many thoughts about risks I could encounter and the responsibility I might have if something went wrong.

I did write the letter and also chose to accept her as a guest in my house instead of making reservations in a hotel. My main reason for doing so was that during my first two trips to Ghana I was treated with similar hospitality. I was happy to return a favor and could hence learn more about the Dagomba and their tradition during our conversations and experience what it was like to step into the role of such a host, myself. Of course all went well and we had a good time together. My hospitality allowed her the possibility to prepare for her marriage with her fiancé who lives in Spain. Without my letter and invitation, she would never had been able to enter Europe.

This gesture increased my status in the community and made my life in Ghana a lot easier. Still, I would not do this for everybody, but it proves that hospitality is rewarded with hospitality, and, as a Dagomba would say — goodness is returned with goodness. I offered my house op for one week and in Tamale I lived a couple of months in her house, because she “Just couldn’t do enough to pay me back for what I did for her.” I think that is a little exaggerated (no payback is needed), but it makes me wonder how we Europeans treat people in Africa; how mistrust and fear governs us, even myself.

Islam has not replaced the original traditions with the Dagomba. Instead ways were found to integrate Islam into the older traditions. Certain Purple values (family sharing, kindness) are still more important. Traditional Dagomba already do a lot for each other and during Ramadan they do even more. Also certain specific rituals have found their way into the mosque. Seen from a Spiral Dynamics perspective, that seems to be a healthy development of the Purple value system toward Red and Blue value systems.

Not all Dagomba are as traditional as the people I live and work with. As a result of Western influences (merchandise, developmental aid, investments) the tradition is under pressure. Additionally, there is a natural evolution, where Purple develops toward Red, according to Spiral Dynamics. Justifiably so, this is worrisome. Tamale is the third city in Ghana with all the characteristics of a large city. It could be that the evolution from Purple to Red/Blue is going too fast than is required for healthy Red/Blue to develop.

Instead of sharing with their community, young people more often choose for their own satisfaction. They rather spend five Cedi (the Ghanaian currency) for their phone or a soda, than helping with the hospital bill of someone who is in need. The pressure to earn money is increasing because basic needs, such as water and a place to stay, are not free anymore and people have to buy food because they can’t grow it themselves anymore. Land that used to be common and shared by the chiefs and elders now has to be leased.

Life is getting more expensive. People that don’t have very much now are confronted with being poor, because the richness of the land is not accessible to them anymore. Families are separated because the man has to move to the city to find work to sustain his family. But jobs are scarce and there is much unemployment, especially under young people.  What greatly bothers me is that the departure of the man to make money Western style, seriously undermines the position of the woman. The family is also a community; the woman has a position and a function. But if the husband is gone and is not protecting or supporting her, she loosed her status in the family as well as in the community. Where Westerners are propagating gender equality, the adoption of our way of life is actually bringing the opposite.

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Poverty and high youth unemployment are a dangerous combination for any society, also for the traditional community of the Dagomba. These people live in a reality that we see as something from the past, yet they are confronted with all kinds of matters that are alien to their approach to life and to their worldview. As a result of chemicals and introduction of industries, the soil is losing nutrients, rivers are getting polluted and people have to change their way of life against their will or even leave their houses. Every year it is becoming more difficult to practice arable farming, in North Ghana harvests fail due to lack of water and because chemicals and fertilizers reduce the soil quality. Slowly, the Savannah is turning into desert.

Some farmers have reached out to me, almost in desperation, because they want to stop using chemicals but don’t know how. They realize they are poisoning the land and, thus, themselves, but what really drives their need to change is that the introduction of modern agricultural techniques doesn’t bring them additional income in the long run. Whatever money they earn extra, immediately has to be spent on new seeds and chemicals that often cost more than what they did have or earn.  Additionally, they do not own the land anymore, but are tenants for a third party that dictates the price of their products as well as the way they should farm.

Mali and Cameroon are not far from Northern Ghana and — even though my Dagomba friends say it will never happen — I am very worried about the susceptibility of the young people to the messages from Boko Haram (and Daesh). The number of people that want to get to Europe, and is actually attempting the voyage, is increasing. This is not because they want to leave. On the contrary, they hope to save their communities by going to Europe to work. In my opinion, Europe is handling this issue completely wrong. In spite of any good intentions, Europe is making the situation worse by not supporting long-term solutions. As such, Europe is part of the problem and is aiding the violence, i.e.. Boko Haram.

Two years ago, Umar Mohammed, a leader in the Dagomba community in Tamale asked me if I would help to save his community and help the people to connect to our Western lifestyles, but in a way that honors the traditions of community, family and sharing.  I accepted the challenge wholeheartedly, because I am convinced that the West can learn much from the traditions of the Dagomba to help solve certain issues in the Netherlands and Europe. Now, two years later we have, in our own way and with our own cash, developed a way of cooperation and making a living in Ghana, that immutably benefits over 1,500 families. We built on local tradition while I used my Western experience as innovator/change manager. In future papers, I will share how we did this.

In summary, in this paper I want to share four insights:

  1. Islam is much more versatile and diverse than most Westerners think. Our perspective on Islam is limited, supported by fear and strongly based on one (unhealthy) expression. Most Muslims do not support this expression of Islam and the violence of Daesh, Al Qaida and Boko Haram affects more Muslims than it does westerners.
  2. There is no battle between Islamic and western values. It is a clash between two manifestations of the same worldview; the Power Gods, a.k.a. the (unhealthy) Red value system. According to Spiral Dynamics. Bombing people with drones is just as violent as cutting people’s throats. The viewpoint of “if you’re not for us, you’re against us” is unhealthy red, as the belief that blowing up people that have different beliefs will be rewarded in the afterlife.
  3. The “Free West” is part of this conflict and more instigator than victim. Through Daesh, Boko Haram and Al Qaida we are confronted with unhealthy Red. However, our reaction to the influx of “illegal refugees” and the rise of Geert Wilders, Donald Trump and like public characters is a manifestation of the same unhealthy Red in our societies.
  4. It is easier to blame someone else than to look at one’s own unhealthy manifestations. While this may be a relatively normal human trait, it won’t solve anything. Perhaps we need to change our ways of thinking and acting if we want to work towards diminishing conflict between our societies and world views and solve the problems in our own civilization.

 

Alain Volz – Tamale – July 2016

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