Practices make concepts
The word permaculture was coined in 1978 by Bill Mollison, an Australian ecologist, and one of his students, David Holmgren. It is in contraction of “permanent agriculture” or “permanent culture”. Indeed Permaculture is about designing ecological human habitats and food production systems. It is land use and community building concept which strives for harmonious integration of human dwellings, microclimate, annual and perennial plants, animals, soils, and water into stable, productive communities with examples and models being replicated elsewhere, the concept has better days ahead... But where does it really originate prior to 1978?
Were the indigenous peoples in Africa, the Amazon and Asia unaware of the practice?
In the history of the Muriddiya community in Senegal, around the 1920s, there had been a longstanding farming practice that led to the concept of Borom Deur Bi referring to the environmental design and ecological principles put in practice by the leader behind the vision: Cheikh Abdoulahi Mbacke: Khelcom being the latest example of the concept into action, after the cornerstone city of reference to such environmental design, Touba, acquired the status of model city recognized by the United nations Conference on Human Settlements in Istanbul in 1996 as a result of socially affordable housing and concerted land use within the community, such organizational leads made Touba the second most dynamic hybrid (rural/semi-urban) city in Senegal. Sources relating a population nearing 2,000,000 for the Touba-Mbacke area which makes it anecdotally that the area is the fastest growing in Africa.
In the realm of environmentalism, such holistic principles make it a lifestyle for Cheikh Abdoulahi Borom Deur Bi.
The birth of a concept: Son of Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba, cantor and Servant of the Prophet and Sokhna Fatima Al Kubra, Borom DeurBi, whose real name is Sheikh Abdoulahi Shahban was born one day in the year 1327H Darou Rahman commonly known as Thiéyène Djolof in 1908. On the occasion of his birth, his revered father wrote a poem called Minal Hakha "the truth has emerged from the Truth (God)", referring to the Holy Qur'an. Suddenly, he announced the birth of a saint who will combine all the virtues of the Holy Qur'an and whose existence is synonymous of prosperity and greenery.
"Through him we parted from enemies, doubt and tests. And it is through him that we were given the green after the vanishing of scarcity."
Qualifications: After the Quranic school, he was entrusted with Serigne Abdou Rahman Ndame Lo. After his education and apprenticeship to the religious and spiritual life, with an extraordinary intelligence and a fertile memory, he completed his studies with his father Khadimou Rasul. This period was very fruitful. All the foundations and principles of Sufism were instilled in Cheikh Abdoulahi. Well ahead of his time, more than anyone else, he heightened the thought of his father. Based on the tradition of the Prophet (PBUH) who said, "work in mundane life as you would never die and work for the thereafter as if you were going to die tomorrow", he managed a perfectly harmonious symbiosis between the spiritual and the temporal.
His work: "The earth contains an incalculable wealth at the disposal of any mortal who demonstrates care for it".
These are the words of Borom DeurBi. He also stated "with a little patience and good organization, Allah will do the rest". That thought sounding like the philosophy of his life, reveals all the realism and faith of the Sheikh.
Indeed, in 1930 at the age of 22, he founded the village of Darou Rahman (who has the same name as his birthplace) five kilometers away from south of Touba. In 1941, surrounded by a few disciples, he laid the foundations of what will be the most popular brand, "DeurBi" (meaning the orchard or the garden).
Starting with almost nothing, in three years, he turned a savannah into a true oasis. At that time, site could not grow anything but shrubs and was inhabited only by wild animals. By cutting a few trees and selling the wood to the local Mbacke Baol market, the pioneers was then able to buy, with such sale, shovels, pickaxes and spades to clear and level the land harvest. With full confidence of his men, Sheikh Abdoulahi divided his staff into different sections ranging from administration to sales, through handling and stewardship without counting those who were responsible for the selection and management of seeds and crops. The Sheikh was responsible for the engineering, studies and coordination.
Without the vigilance and dedication of DeurBi Borom, the first years at Darou Rahman would have been a real hassle time. Instead Serigne Abdou with his great generosity, offered to all employees and their entire family, housing and food, gave them clothes and paid their taxes. Also, himself he dispensed care to them when they were suffering, in short, he gave them everything necessary to keep them away from any concern for moral or material purpose.
Initially, with great skepticism due to the nature of the soil and deplorable lack of organization among local indigenous peoples, those watching thought the initiative of Serigne Abdou was doomed to failure. But right before the end of 1941, the populations of Mbacke Baol saw their markets flooded with lettuce, tomato, radish and cabbage from Darou Rahman. Sometime later, green beans, carrots, eggplant, beets, mint leaves, pepper, turnip, parsley, celery, spinach and cucumbers surfaced. Within a few years, all the modern techniques of gardening and irrigation drawn from botanical books and experiementations by Sheikh were applied. From arboriculture to rice cultivation passing by aquaculture, the Darou Rahman orchard, unto an Eldorado, had become, with its paradisiac microclimate a true feast for the eyes. Abounding in fruits such as mangoes, grapefruit, papayas, tangerines, lemons, guavas, grapes, bananas, plums, strawberries, pineapple, coconut and dates, to name a few, Darou Rahman became the favorite spot for Lebano-Syrian outdoor lovers. All the work was intersected with sessions of prayers and readings of the Holy Quran. And as Serigne Abdoulahi kept repeating: "And for him who fears standing before his Lord, there will be two gardens." (S55, v46)
In 1957, daily production of fruits and vegetables considered in hundreds of tons were transported by train and truck to the regions of Diourbel, Thies and Cape Verde. Nearly 500 followers enjoying many benefits were appointed to the orchard dealing with the handling and management thereof.
Endowed with an unwavering faith and an innate passion for work, he made it printed a sign in Arabic and French that read: "Devote yourself to God and his Prophet .... but work! "
He passed in 1960 with a legacy that reminds us where to go and most definitely how to proceed when it comes to environmentalism.