What is permaculture and why does it matter?

Permaculture is an agricultural design system that focuses on sustainability through understanding patterns found in nature that can be directly related back to human systems. There are 12 principles of permaculture that are centered on three prime tenets: caring for the Earth, caring for people, and setting limits to consumption based on the population given to share harvested surplus with others.

The world needs to intertwine permaculture systems into thinking about how we design infrastructures and systems to come in order for the longevity of human beings thriving on Earth. The holistic nature of permaculture allows for human beings to observe and listen to natural systems and see how those natural systems can relate back to sustainable development for human needs.

I first went to Ghana as an undergrad through Lehigh's Africana Studies program and learned that shea butter was actually produced there. I've been back several times through the Environmental Policy Design program to learn how it is produced from the nut of the shea tree fruit. I started my Superior Shea company, which sells shea butter products imported from Bobotiaroh Enterprise, a company located on a family farm in a remote village in the Upper West Region of Ghana.

With shea butter processing, incorporating permaculture means asking how we can make a sustainable production system that has access to market in a region that the government of Ghana isn’t necessarily paying attention to or investing in. How do we develop transportation methods for people living in this region so they can sell their goods? How can we move toward a sustainable way of living and a more equitable supply chain?

Ultimately, I hope to develop a sustainable system for producing and marketing shea butter, a system that takes into account issues ranging from land-use and transportation policies to agricultural practices and ecology so that we're making a real contribution to society in addition to providing a product that people want and need.