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On the 25th of September 2017, Zarghuna, Coordinator of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, and Dr Hakim Young, addressed participants of an International Permaculture Conference in Hyderabad, India via video conferencing.

They were part of a Panel on “Permaculture, Migrations and Refugees: Value the Marginal”, sharing their thoughts on the ‘push factors’ for Afghans to become refugees and the Afghan Peace Volunteers’ response through permaculture. The Panel was chaired by Rosemary Morrow, Australian permaculturalist, co-director of Blue Mountains Permaculture Institute in Sydney and friend and permaculture teacher of the Afghan Peace Volunteers.

Below is a transcript of Zarghuna’s and Hakim’s presentation, followed by an email from Rosemary and photos from an Internally Displaced Persons Camp in Kabul, Afghanistan.


 00a Zarghuna APV Coordinator

I am Zarghuna, Coordinator of the Afghan Peace Volunteers who seek to build a green, equal and nonviolent world without war.

War is the main ‘push factor’ that forces Afghans to become refugees. War is now raging in most of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan, displacing 1.2 million Afghans within the country and, over the decades, more than 6.7 million Afghans abroad.

Other important ‘push factors’ are the lack of jobs and the inability to meet basic human needs like food and water.

Thanks to Rosemary, we are learning how to use permaculture to produce food, which is necessary not only for refugees, but also for those of us left behind.


 00b Earthworms on the spade from the Borderfree Cemtre Garden

Earthworms can be seen on the spade,

from the permaculture garden at the Borderfree Nonviolence Community Centre in Kabul

I’m Dr Hakim Young, a medical doctor working with Zarghuna and the Afghan Peace Volunteers in Kabul.

The ‘push factors’ of war, the lack of jobs and the inability to meet basic human needs are connected to one another, and the more we ‘connect the dots’, the more we realize that driving all these ‘push factors’ is our global elite and the socio-economic system they maintain. These elite ‘1%’ now represent the worst of our species. They no longer care for our Earth and our societies. They drive a profiteering, warring system that is not designed to care for much else other than themselves.

Science, math, evidence and experience clearly show us that the current socio-economic system is NOT working. These conventional methods are no longer effective, even if they once were.

Recently, a BBC journalist analyzed that the current ‘food famine’ in Yemen is not so much a ‘food famine’ as it is a ‘manmade, political famine’. The Afghan Peace Volunteers and I understand this when we visit Afghan refugees in Kabul. Wars created by manmade, political policies lead to a famine of food, of values, and of everything that makes us decent human beings.

So, when we observe that the system is the engine behind the ‘push factors’, we ought to be careful not to join the system and thus become complicit partners in crime.

If the system ‘pushes’ for the ‘false success’ of corporate governments and agribusinesses that leave millions hungry, we need to plant our food without them, and redefine success.

If the system ‘pushes’ us to chase after the usual money and power, we should resist by shunning wealth and status, and caring for all of life.

Kabul University’s agriculture faculty is today teaching industrial agriculture, so the Afghan Peace Volunteers and I applied the skills Rosemary taught us to establish a demonstration permaculture plot on one of the faculty’s plots of land!

We are tempted to think of ourselves as less than nothing, especially in the face of seemingly enormous ‘push factors’. We are sometimes fearful because civilians are being killed in record numbers.

But like you and your permaculture communities in India and elsewhere, I suggest that all of us are like earthworms, unseen, but doing the very needed work of healing ourselves and our world.

Like earthworms, we are creatures of water, male and female, young and old, of many species, and interdependent with Mother Nature. We don’t need to be rich with fancy cars or clothes. We need food, not salaries. Though we do not breathe through our skins like earthworms, we can see through the skins of all the greedy corporate vultures and politicians. We earthworms simply don’t like them.

For that, I thank the Afghan Peace Volunteers and thank all of you in Hyderabad for caring for the Earth, caring for people and for sharing whatever we have, for being a worldwide family of earthworms. Perhaps, we can help save us from ourselves.

Many elitist factors may be trying to push us towards business-as-usual, and to make us feel small and alone, but person by person, soil by soil, we are pushing back!

Thank you very much! Dhanabad!



Email from Rosemary Morrow, Australian permaculturalist, to Hakim and Zarghuna after the Panel session.

Dear Hakim and Zarghuna,

You were heard clearly and everyone responded brilliantly to your talks.  Some people cried.   Your words followed those of Vandana Shiva who spoke of the Multinational Corporations with facts and figures that were completely confronting.  

With much love, and in peace,



01 IDPs are in poor living conditions

Afghan Internally Displaced Persons ( IDPs ) have poor living conditions

 02 IDPs some live in tents

Many live in tents

 03 IDPs are food insecure, onions and turnips in this tent

This mother spoke of worrying about having enough food.

In her tent was a basin with a few turnips and peeled onions.

 04 IDPs buy bread from local bakery

IDPs buy bread from local bakery

 05 IDPs buy poor nutrition food from vendors (1)

06 IDPs buy poor nutrition food from vendors (2)

07 IDPs buy poor nutrition food from vendors (3)

IDPs buy poor nutrition food from vendors

 08 IDPs burn plastic as fuel to cook and keep warm

IDPs burn plastic as fuel to cook and keep warm

 09 IDPs have to keep warm in the winter cold

The winter cold in Kabul can be a challenge especially for the very young and old

 10 An IDP receives duvets from APVs

An IDP receives duvets from APVs

On – 02 Dec, 2017 By

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