THE LOST PARADISE
In cooperation with the international organisation BraveHearts International and the Pakistani NGO KADO (Karakoram Area Development Organization), two separate permaculture systems are being established in two demonstration areas together with down to earth PERMACULTURE DESIGN.
The Hunza Valley, known as the ‘lost paradise’, is located in Gilgit-Baltistan in the north of Pakistan on the Afghan/Chinese border and reaches an elevation of 3’500 metres above sea level.
The two demonstration areas are intended as a model for sustainable agriculture to ensure a basis for the lives of the current and next generation here.
THE HEALTHIEST PEOPLE ON EARTH –
A REPORT ABOUT A CONSULTATION TRIP
In October 2012, I was commissioned by the organisation BraveHearts International, a cooperation partner of the Pakistani NGO KADO (Karakoram Area Development Organization), to travel to the Hunza Valley on the Afghan/Chinese border in the very north of Pakistan.
The goals of my visit were to travel throughout the Hunza Valley to develop a feeling for the permaculture landscape, to talk with the local farmers and residents, to view the farmland there, and to take soil samples on the one hand, and on the other to find additional sites where two permaculture farms can be be built, each with a permaculture school. Another goal was to see how energy can be generated from natural resources in the area.
The people of Hunza, the Hunzakuts, live in a valley that lies as much as 3’500 metres above sea level and that is surrounded by peaks as high as 8’000 metres. The valley is divided into the Upper, Central, and Lower Hunza, which is around 1’500 metres above sea level.
An unbelievably beautiful, powerful, and impressive permaculture garden landscape.
The wonderfully built and in some cases centuries old terraces line the slopes at the foot of the mountains and are where the Hunzakuts grow their food. The Hunza apricot is well known, but the people here also cultivate almonds, walnuts, apricots, apples, pears, cherries, and also grapevines to a limited extent. The fields bear mostly grain and potatoes, but also vegetables.
The Hunzakuts were long considered to be the longest-lived and healthiest people on earth. Their nutrition, the mountain air, and the glacial water are likely some of the reasons for this. The food that they could produce by organic gardening was never enough for the whole year, so nature imposed a period of fasting on the people where they survived on dried apricots and nuts.
The Chinese built a road through the valley in the 1960s to bring goods to Islamabad, Lahore, and Karachi in the south of Pakistan. As is always the case when a road is built, this brought many outside influences. And not just good ones. The same patterns as everywhere else can be seen. An entire generation failed to preserve the old knowledge because they were blinded by material wealth. They began getting everything out of the terraces that they could. Anyone who had enough money bought chemical fertiliser, but they were fortunately few.
Excessive grazing, monoculture, and too much watering are the main factors that are putting the basis of life for the current and next generation here at risk. But the Hunzakuts soon realised the consequences of this type of agriculture, and they recognised the causes. But they do not have the knowledge about permaculture and need help. The negative propaganda from most western countries and the coming of the Taliban from Afghanistan that gave rise to a corrupt government are hampering this assistance.
Another challenge is the fact that Upper Hunza has been separated from Central Hunza by a newly formed lake for a number of years. An earthquake caused a massive rockslide that formed a dam and backed up the water of the Hunza River. The lake is around 400 metres deep and 25 kilometres long – an as yet untapped resource. Here as well, the people do not have the knowledge to make use of the lake as most of them have no experience with bodies of water of this type.
The Hunzakuts are Ismaili, peaceful, quick to help, very hospitable, and are a beautiful people. There is peace throughout the entire Hunza Valley and no police station because none is needed.