The concept of the ‘rights of nature’ is being increasingly used as a way of defending land from development and to protect communities who are living in harmony with that land. At the Oxford Real Farming Conference the Gaia Foundation held a talk on Earth Jurisprudence and three speakers from African- two from Zimbabwe and one from Benin- outlined what that means for them in their farming communities.
Earth Jurisprudence is a system of law which bases itself on the laws of nature. According the speakers, many indigenous communities see themselves as part of the web of life and aim to harmonise their own lives, and farming practices, with this web. “We are nature”, one speaker said. The speakers had spent time with the elders of some farming communities in order to understand how they related to nature.
For the Shona people of Zimbabwe, all of life is sacred. This leads to certain practices to ensure that farming is not out of harmony with the rest of nature. For example, the first part of the harvest is offered to the land as part of a ritual. This also happens in Benin. If Farmers need to be able to see how they are connected to the rest of nature. All speakers stressed that we need to live side by side with other species.
An example of a law that comes from nature is the need to let the land rest. The Earth itself sets limits on what we can do to the soil- so these limits must be encoded in law.
For more information on the rights of nature: