What is Self Sufficiency?

The concept of self sufficiency is all too often bandied around without people properly understanding what it all means. Consider the following statements:

  • To be self sufficient is to produce the things which you need to survive without the assistance of outside people.
  • You can produce some of your needs and be partly self sufficient, produce all of your needs and be completely self sufficient.
  • An individual person can be self sufficient, a small group (e.g. a family) can be self sufficient, or a large group can be self sufficient (you might think in terms of a whole society, city or nation).
  • To become self sufficient usually involves making certain compromises or concessions in your lifestyle. You might have to wear different types of clothing, adapt to a different level of mobility or change your diet. The degree to which you can achieve self sufficiency is usually related to the degree to which you are willing to make compromises.
  • Large areas of land are not necessary to become self sufficient. Depending on what you produce and how you produce it, you can become relatively self sufficient on even a standard suburban house block.
  • Bartering or swapping goods and/or services is a way of living often adopted by those interested in self sufficiency; although this does not strictly fall in line with a true self sufficient life-style, the barter system helps by removing (mostly) dependence on the monetary system.
  • The concept of a system that is self-perpetuating, working within the cycles of nature is often part of the self-sufficient ideal. The concepts of permaculture, companion planting and alternative medicine all become part of that ideal - seeking to establish a self-supporting system both economically and environmentally.
What is needed to make a Successful Change?

Firstly In order to make the change from a reliant to a self-reliant way of living, a trade needs to be made: money for time. People who do successfully make the change often have a feeling of empowerment; they have reduced their reliance on purchased goods, finding that they really can live without the so called ‘trappings of modern society.’ Some have a sense of freedom; a narrowing of choice requires less energy. This time and energy must then be used to build, grow, sew, cook and so on in order to supply basic daily needs that were previously supplied by the money earned.

To be self sufficient requires a peculiar blend of three things: 
  • Practical knowledge and skills.
  • Management or organisational skills.
  • A readiness to compromise. You may need to compromise to achieve a balance between the things you would like to have and the things you are able to provide yourself with.  A self sufficient lifestyle might make you less dependent on society, but this might only be possible at the expense of giving up some of society’s luxuries.
To become self sufficient, you must be selective in the goods and services you choose to supply yourself with.  It involves doing those things which yield greatest benefit in relation to the time, money and materials you need to spend on producing the goods or service (e.g. if you spend $20 on fertiliser and seed in order to grow $10 worth of vegetables, you would have been better to not grow the vegetables at all - you could have bought them instead and still had $10 in pocket to spend on another more worthwhile project).
The way you physically organise your property and living space (both inside and out) as well as the way you organise your time, are vital factors in improving your level of self sufficiency.
Some Money is Still Needed
No matter what you do to become self sufficient, you will undoubtedly always still come across occasions where you need money to buy things. 
For the “perfect” exponent of self sufficiency, the way around this is usually to find either a product or a service which can be produced and supplied from home: in essence, to develop a low key, home based business.

The first and most obvious option is to grow and sell some type of produce; or value-add by producing some art or craft item; perhaps selling on commission through a local retailer, or at a market. There are other options as well though.

Home Tourism
In today’s world home businesses are a great way to make some extra cash, and if all goes well, they sometimes become a thriving full-time occupation. There are lots of ways you can make money from your backyard, and with a little innovation and lateral thinking the options are virtually unlimited.
Tourism, being one of the fastest growing industries worldwide, offers great opportunities for a home-based business.  B and B’s, open gardens and garden wedding photos are just some of the ideas that may help you to break into tourism or a tourism-related industry, using your own home and backyard.
Open a B & B
Bed and breakfast accommodation has really taken off in the last few decades, and there are still many opportunities for providing home-based accommodation. 
As well as providing comfortable, appealing accommodation, you will need excellent people skills and enjoy playing the role of host. You should be welcoming, informative and relaxed, and have good local knowledge of things to see and do. Good cooking skills are desirable, but are not essential if you plan to provide a cold breakfast. 
Wedding Photos
You have a great garden? Why not hire it out for wedding photos? You won’t make a fortune, but it could be give you some weekend pocket money. Talk to local wedding photographers and see if you can come to a worthwhile arrangement.
Growing and Selling Food
If you fancy your outdoor cooking and hosting skills, you could run an Aussie BBQ for tour groups in the backyard. The most important prerequisites are that you enjoy cooking and that you are comfortable playing host to a diverse range of visitors from different cultures. An interesting and attractive backyard would also help to make this a success. Hygiene is a critical aspect of food handling, so make sure you check with your local council about any permits, regulations, etc. that may apply to such an enterprise.
Crops can include a wide variety of things:  Fruit, Berry Fruit, Nuts, Vines, Vegetables, Cut Flowers, Bulbs,  Container Plants, Loose rooted plants, Herbs and their products, Seed, Fibres, Teas, Coffees etc. 
Any of these crops may be grown either on a large scale or on a much smaller scale either to sell, or for home use.
For small scale production horticulture it is very important to be sure of your market or intended use and grow for that market or use.  It is difficult for the small scale producer to compete with the large scale grower for the open market, however in self sufficiency you can grow extra crops on a small scale to barter or to sell to local customers; for example your local green grocer or through a local market. 
There are lots of other niche home based businesses - these are just a few of the possibilities.

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