A Sad Day for Permaculture: the Passing of Ali Sharif

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.

Images via Wesley Roe

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

The Permaculture Research Insitute

PRI Zaytuna Farm functions as a model farm (in development) and permaculture training facility. Geoff and Nadia Lawton, world-renowned permaculture educators and consultants, lead the project. Much of Geoff and Nadia’s time over the last few years has been spent away from the Institute, consulting and helping set up projects in diverse locales around the world. Seeing the worldwide demand for knowledgeable permaculture consultants and teachers increase exponentially, as fuel and fertiliser prices skyrocket and the effects of climate change, soil depletion and water shortages begin to hit hard, priority and focus is now shifting back to the Institute, where growing the training program will increase the output of quality teachers to help fill the growing need for them.


  1. Ali was a dear friend – in honor of his life work for the next 15 days and beyond there will be

    FUNDRAiSER for the Delegate Scholarships for International Permaculture Convergence India 2017/ in his name

    DONATE $20! Honor Ali Sharif, PC Pioneer & Past IPC Convener (Brazil 2007)!/status/2

    Honor Ali Sharif, one of the original PC “missionaries” who took permaculture out to the world in its earliest days.

    Please join us for a special 15-day fundraiser in his honor.

    Won’t you help get things started with just $20? If 1000 people sent in just that small amount, we would have $20,000 to cover the costs of scholarships for delegates waiting to hear if they can come to IPC India in November 2017.

  2. I assisted Ali in arranging the 1st Permaculture course in Ecuador, he informed me I would be attending not as his assistant but a participant, I’m so glad I didn’t refuse, what great knowledge Bill Mollison and others shared there in Esmeraldas.

  3. We were lovers and confidantes.
    Your passion, charm, and charisma captured me the day I met you at your aunt’s home in Washington, DC in 1995.
    You are forever in my heart.
    A big hug

  4. Ali,
    Ahhh my heart grieves. I just found out that you have transitioned. You accomplished so much, had friends and lovers around the world and were adored by so many. There wasn’t an impoverished, underdog in this world that you didn’t meet toe to toe and raise them up to feel like kings and queens around you. You brought out the best in people and wore yourself out to help all that you could. A bright light that came and left too quickly but you left us and this world in a much better place. Love you and see you again one day my friend. Thank you. Just thank you. Besos…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles

Back to top button