Since 2017 the Lush Spring Prize has celebrated the importance of holistic, regenerative approaches in response to climate breakdown. The prize aims to deepen collective understanding of regeneration and practically support those working in this area, building resilience and relationships across the world. It often attracts projects with a sense of community, collaboration, shared learning, and equity.

The prize also has a specific Ancient and Indigenous Wisdom Award, which focuses on Indigenous and traditional knowledge-led projects and organisations. This award seeks to recognise, celebrate and explore the ways that traditional ecological knowledge and nature-based ancestral practices model the approaches we need across the world.

The winners also reflect how communities that managed to survive colonisation imposed by the capitalist patriarchy have a key role in leading the way to regeneration. They hold the intelligence, skills, culture and approaches that manifest the true meaning of regeneration, and societies need to work to remove any obstacles that prevent these communities from thriving. They also set the example of self-sustainable and nature-integrated lives, formed around community-based principles, which are the only viable future for humankind. Funders, policy makers and other sectors of society need to come together to support and learn from this work.

I recently spoke to one of the winners, The Marginalized Mirror, to learn more.

Who are the Marginalized Mirror

The Marginalized Mirror was established in 2021, with the aim to support and empower the Indigenous Ovazemba community in Namibia. This community depends on the agricultural production of crops and livestock (goats, sheep and cattle) for its survival, but recurring droughts have resulted in the loss of sources of dairy products and traditional crops that would normally be planted during the rainy season.

With the restricted movement of people due to COVID-19 regulations, pastoralists were also unable to head livestock to neighbouring countries with better rainfall and grazing pastures, such as Angola. In response, a plan was developed to establish a community-based irrigation project. When completed, everyone can more easily produce their own food and fodder for livestock, contribute to food security and earn an income by selling surplus produce. 

The idea came from young agricultural economist Gideon Mawenge, who is a member of the Ovazemba community. Raised in Omangundi village in the Kunene Region of Namibia, he received enthusiastic support for the idea from fellow members of the community, who decided to join him on a journey to achieve ‘zero death to hunger’, empowering marginalised communities socially and economically. The Marginalized Mirror was born.

As well as practical implementation, this irrigation project will also provide training on crop production under an irrigation system. The project will be managed by Indigenous Ovazemba community members, with training and knowledge management provided so they can run the project sustainably for themselves and future generations.

So far, the Marginalized Mirror has created a pilot irrigation project where vegetables are grown such as cabbage, carrot, beetroot, spinach, onion, and tomato. This project received the Ancient and Indigenous Wisdom Award, their first award since being established. The funds received will be used for back-office support, training equipment and PPE for staff, enabling them to host training for future knowledge sharing. The project will also then be able to expand its operations over 6 hectares of land, to further feed the community.

These next steps will combine with community consultations, giving progress updates, and providing thorough technical training on crop production under the drip irrigation system.

The future

In the future, the Marginalized Mirror also hope to train community members on their approach to syntropic agriculture (a regenerative system that integrates food production with the regeneration of forests) for the regeneration of ecosystems, food production, and resilience of Indigenous people. They will also provide knowledge sharing around responsible investments in agriculture and food systems, enabling Ovazemba communities to produce their own organic food through regenerative agriculture and increasing resilience in the face of climatic instability.

They also hope to achieve their goal of ‘zero deaths to hunger’ within the Ovazemba community. Overall their goals are to:

  • Foster responsible investments in agriculture and food systems, so marginalised communities can produce their own organic food.
  • Document, acknowledge, and foster Indigenous knowledge and ancient wisdom, incorporating it into strategies to improve food security alongside social, cultural, and environmental factors as they work to renew and restore local neighbourhoods.
  • Improve the image of the great Kunene region and build the confidence and pride of communities, making them attractive places for households and businesses to invest and locate in, and for tourists to visit.
  • Improve overall health and living conditions of Indigenous communities and their future generations.

How to support

There are many ways the public can support The Marginalized Mirror. Some areas where they need further support include:

  • Help with drilling a solar-powered borehole for water supply to the project. Currently, the project uses water supplied by a local company which isn’t the most sustainable due to the high monthly water bill, limiting the project from expanding the production site.
  • A 4×4 vehicle for mobility and to access all villages of Indigenous people in remote areas. The terrain is very rough, and the landscape is rocky, mountainous, and sandy. Some villages are completely inaccessible by vehicle, so the project will need to drive to the nearest accessible points by vehicle and then walk to the villages. In this case, the support of a trailer and two motorbikes will enable the project to provide effective and efficient service delivery to Indigenous communities.
  • Solar energy for the project to have access to electricity for office support.
  • A generator for power supply during training away from the project.
  • Video and audio equipment to enable the project to record videos and take photos during training, meetings, community consultations, field trips, and documentation of Indigenous knowledge and ancient wisdom. This will also help with tracking how the environment is transformed by the project, to determine its impact.
  • Fencing material to fence off the project’s 6 hectares land which is currently partially fenced. This will enable the project to expand and operate in full capacity, covering 6 hectares of land.

If you want to support or learn more, check out the Ancient and Indigenous Wisdom Award and get in touch with The Marginalized Mirror.