One of Permaculture’s most dedicated activists and organizers, Ali Sharif, passed away on August 12, 2017, waiting for a heart transplant in a hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa.
More than 30 years ago, Sharif attended a Permaculture design course taught by Permaculture founder, Bill Mollison, on Whidbey Island in Washington. As the course drew to an end, Mollison asked each graduate what they would do with the new knowledge they’d learned – and Sharif’s response was to dedicate his life to the practice.
Mollison directed him to South America, where Sharif spent the next 27 years. In the Amazon, Sharif developed several Permaculture sites, working with the varied ecosystems found throughout Brazil. He established Permacultura America Latina during his time there, which eventually became one of the first Permaculture organizations to introduce the concept to foundations and philanthropists in the USA.
With food forests, water harvesting/treatment techniques, and varied animal production systems established in the Amazon, Mollison encouraged Sharif to continue his work in Africa in 2010. Over the next six years, Sharif worked in southern Mozambique, where Permaculture had not yet been introduced.
Africa presented a unique challenge to Sharif. Located in a part of the country where civil war lasted for twelve years and many communities have been resettled, he would need to develop sustainable Permaculture sites in an area of severe malnutrition, HIV, no reliable potable water, and oppressive poverty.
He began working as a community technical advisor to address the many vulnerabilities faced by local villages as economic interests threaten their natural resources – primarily child trafficking. He also hosted several Permaculture courses to offer practical service and technical knowledge to these rural communities before creating the Instituto Permaculture Mozambique (IPERMO) to expand his Permaculture practice.
Through his organization, Sharif eventually established support projects in South Africa, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique. His efforts span three continents and six countries, where he worked tirelessly with local communities to develop several dozen Permaculture sites.
“Ali Sharif was a great pioneer or Permaculture aid projects,” said Geoff Lawton with the Permaculture Research Institute. “He specialized in collecting rare fruits whilst setting up more Permaculture nurseries than anyone else within the movement. He was a wonderfully intelligent and eloquent man who was amazing at writing proposals and getting projects funded.”
IPERMO secured a $5,000 grant from Protect-an-Acre for the development of a plant nursery with the capacity to produce 10,000 native trees each year. The trees were planted around a cluster of three communities in Mozambique, providing a green buffer to protect the area’s natural resources from the threat of urban expansion. The project included the construction of a 22,000-litre water tank to collect harvested rainwater for use during the dry season.
With the passing of this devoted Permaculturist, the Earth has lost a valuable friend and ally.
“Ali was the first person to invite me to teach overseas on aid projects in Ecuador and was an inspiration to many, including myself,” Lawton said. “He will be dearly missed.”
Feature Image: Copyright Danial Lawton