Doesn’t mean living in a village. Yes, ideally this lifestyle requires one should produce Modern life is exceedingly complex. Economic progress is predicated on endless production and consumption, thus predisposing people to a circle of working, earning and spending to keep life moving. In practice this may feel like one is running on a treadmill – the faster one runs the faster the pace of life will be.
This pressure is taking its toll on many people, leading to high stress levels and high suicide rates. In South Korea, a high-income nation, five percent of all deaths are due to suicide! Worldwide, suicide leads to 800,000 deaths every year – twice as many as murder. Worse still, men are twice as likely to commit suicide as women.
We have to revisit how we live our lives. Living a consumer-bases lifestyle has its cost: More possessions don’t necessarily lead to more fulfilment. This is one of the reasons many are choosing a simple life of self-sufficiency – a lifestyle that accords them with many rewards that their rat-races cannot provide.
Self-sufficiency, as the words suggest, is a lifestyle philosophy where people choose a simple sustainable life with a focus on production rather than consumption. With this lifestyle, the idea of cost of living becomes an oxymoron – the whole lifestyle is geared at eliminating needless living costs. Ultimately people’s lives stop being centred on making money and they can start to live a balanced life.
This lifestyle choice usually conjures up many bizarre images in people’s minds. There are those who believe that it means to choose a life of poverty, to live a medieval lifestyle, or to be able to do everything on your own. This confusion may discourage some from adopting the lifestyle since it may appear too outlandish for them. Therefore, we need to consider some negatives – what self-sufficiency is not.
One, self-sufficiency is not a choice to live in poverty. In fact, many that choose this lifestyle in the West are university educated and some were highly paid executives. Living in well-organised homesteads where they have milk-producing cows, eggs-producing chickens, leafy greens, some staples, and fruits, normal meals for these people may as well look like those found in three- or four-stars hotels. Choosing a simple life doesn’t mean to choose to reduce the quality of your life.
Two, self-sufficiency one’s own food, energy, water, etc., and stop being dependent on stores for consumption – so having a sizable piece of land helps, but even in absence of land the philosophy can be applied to differing degrees. The essence of this philosophy is financial independence, so, people should feel pressed to conform to a certain definition. This is your life – work with what makes sense to you: if you feel that it is sensible to go off-grid by installing a solar power system, that’s well and good. If not, try to manage, for example, by significantly minimising your power usage.
Three, that you need to be self-sufficient in everything. Some self-sufficiency books advise people to, for example, ‘learn to hunt, learn to knit, and learn to make candles’! What else, they should become hermits too? It is easy to see that the idea has been taken too far. Self-sufficiency doesn’t mean living a medieval lifestyle. People don’t exist to serve ideas, but ideas exist to serve people. Therefore, find a balance between what works and what doesn’t work. For example, even if you buy all your foods you can still cut waste by choosing to maintain your functional smartphone rather than purchasing a new one just because there is a new version in the market.
Earlier this week I talked to a retired three-stars general who was going back to his village home after a short trip to Dar. He told me that he purchased thousands of Kambale fingerlings for fish farming. He estimated that to bring him tens of millions of shillings in a few months. This man also has a fishing boat, milk producing cows, meat producing rabbits, chicken, etc. and can get many things without purchasing them. His house is next to a lake and he has installed a pump that supplies water for his homestead. Whereas he can choose to live comfortably on his pension, yet he prefers simple living that is not defined by consumerism. I am not sure if he is doing it consciously or not, but he is applying a self-sufficiency philosophy.
It is unwise to live a life that others have determined for us. Less may in fact be more. Self-sufficiency has many benefits for the individuals practicing it and for the environment in general. Choose self-sufficiency. Remember: you may not be self-sufficient in everything but you can become self-sufficient in something.
We would like to hear from you. Tell us how you practice self-sufficiency in your life.