Self-sufficiency is about having the skills, resources and planning needed to get by with what we have locally.

It is one aspect of resilience.

How self-suffient are you?[edit | edit source]

A simple metric may be to ask: How often do you visit WalMart/SAMS/LIDL ?

  • Once per day - not self-sufficient at all - you need help.
  • Once per week - not exactly self-sufficient.
  • Once per month - better, or maybe you just have a larger freezer.
  • Once per year - now you're getting there.
  • Once - definitely self-sufficient.

How far?[edit | edit source]

Make the tools to make the tools to make the things you need.

This can be taken to a bit of an extreme. Do you knap the flint, to dig the ore, to smelt the metal, to forge the plow, to grow the corn, to make the mash, to distill the drink ? At some point, a non-self-sufficient person provided the tools to allow you to live a self-sufficient life-style.

Many of the principles of self sufficiency are used in other movements such as homesteading, survivalism, simple living (or voluntary simplicity), hobby farming, smallholding and off-grid living. All utilise some aspects of living solely on what you can produce yourself from your own piece of land. Since this is almost impossible to do entirely many choose to produce more than they need in food and other goods, which they can then barter with for other goods and services.

Like all things, taken to an extreme self-sufficiency is unhealthy. We also need to take advantage of interdependence, which offers much efficiency, resilience and variety in our lives, when planned appropriately.

A place for specialization?[edit | edit source]

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
— Robert A. Heinlein

The opposite of self-sufficiency is specialization and interdependence, often in the form of trade.

Specialization is the basis for much of human progress, and provides (for example) the tools mentioned above. Historically, when small communities of only a few thousand people became isolated, they actually lost skills as there weren't enough people to carry on the traditions of all the specializations. The Tasmanian AboriginesW are an example of this, after they were cut off from the Australian mainland.

Through the economic principle of comparative advantage,W specialization allows net benefit from trade - provided trade is not suddenly disrupted.

Balance[edit | edit source]

While self-sufficiency in terms of skills aids resilience, and providing for oneself maintains those skills, it is also true that many benefits come from specialization.

A wise path is to receive the benefits of specialization, but plan for the contingency that self-sufficiency may be needed one day, without warning.

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

  • New Self Sufficient Living- Become as self sufficient as you can be, with whatever you have, wherever you are.
  •, the urban guide to almost self sufficiency.
  • Self Sufficiency Guide- A practical guide to becoming more self sufficient.
  • [1]- Several articles that deal with living off a piece of land self-sufficiently as a case study where this was done. In English and Suomi.

Discussion[View | Edit]

Improving the self-sufficiency info[edit source]


Saw the tweet on improving the Self-Sufficiency page/part of Appropedia.

A couple of observations.

It seems there is lots of interest in self-sufficiency in and out of Appropedia, but self-sufficiency seems to be subordinate to other challenges (light for reading at night, sustainable farming, milling processes, and so on).

There is information within Appropedia that deals with self-sufficiency.

With these observations in mind, I think there needs to be a brief (a week, a month, two months?) asynchronous, moderated discussion about Appropedia and other projects that promote, support, and encourage self-sufficiency. The discussion should seek to discover how contributors and users want to use information (drawn out of existing projects and included separately here, left alone in existing projects, drawn out and linked to each other via a matrix of sorts).

My initial gut feeling is that this page should look at self-sufficiency from a very high level (macro) view that incorporates approaches to and in existing cultures, societal needs for and reasons for self-sufficiency, organizational and personal applications of self-sufficiency.

The macro view could then link to existing materials in and out of Appropedia as appropriate. Such a high level framework might also promote participation, contributions, gap identification, and then a usable interface.

The short, quick solution is to identify existing contributions that meet some level of self-sufficiency and create links to them from this page.

Let me know what you think.

I have very little time available, but I could do some work on this.


Perhaps the best place for the discussion is on Global Swadeshi - what do you think?
Your idea for how to structure it is good. For linking to other materials, I'm thinking about a portal, something like Portal:Green living. But the portal is different from a page that gives background, discusses societal needs etc, so probably both pages linked would be needed. I'm not sure - this is actually a structural issue that affects other pages too, so anything worked out here would be useful for Appropedia as a whole.
Any time you can spare, long or short, would be great. I'm short of time myself, but I can prioritize this. Thanks Preston! --Chriswaterguy 03:40, 22 May 2009 (UTC)


Just spent a few minutes checking out Global Swadeshi. I've not had a chance to observe the ebb and flow of their conservations, but it seems to be a good place for a discussion. I'll sign in and observe for a day or two and then we can pose a question based on the above. The results will help form the portal/page.
Assuming the discussion participation is good, we might be able to encourage and facilitate discussion between the two sites, promoting Appropedia content and fine tuning the presentation and user interface.



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