The Lost Stories are Bill Mollison’s articles published in the print magazine originally named Permaculture, then International Permaculture Journal and finally the Permaculture International Journal that was published between 1978 and 2000.
All stories and other content ©Permaculture Australia unless otherwise noted.

Story by Bill Mollison, 1985.
Feature photo: Bill Mollison in Tasmania. Photograph ©David Holmgren.
NO SOONER HAD we launched the idea of a Trust-in-Aid to help get resources to people who would otherwise find it difficult to pay for one or two of our teachers to set up a local, trained permaculture group, than several things happened at once! (It is always the case.)
Firstly, some of our members and readers sent in a total of $2500 for the Trust. We have spent most of it in these ways:

  • new permaculture groups in Spain, Chile, Zimbabwe and Nepal have received life subscriptions to the International Permaculture Journal, books, and other booklets and pamphlets
  • $1000 will be used as partial fares to Nepal to teach a full two-week permaculture design course in Nepal in November ’86.

Secondly, not only the above groups, but small farmer groups in Portugal, Thailand and an ecumenical aid group in Lesotho also wrote in to request education or other material aid.
Some additional funds were routed to groups from our tree tithe funds which are derived from the sale of our permaculture books. Such funds were sent to and used by tribal forest groups in Tamil Nadu (India) and to our group in Spain. Both were for tree projects.
Lastly, Lowell and Natalie Strombeck of The Friends of Right Livelihood visited here in Stanley, Tasmania and offered to help raise funds for a foundation trust to serve the Trust-in-Aid purposes. We hope that their initiative is successful, but as usual we are determined to proceed to help in any case. We hope for (but must not depend on) outside help.

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Photo accompanying the original article.

The most encouraging thing that has happened is that all the groups that have so far contacted us are either setting up permaculture projects for study, or are students of courses elsewhere. We also hope to get to our Western Samoan graduates in 1987 — two requests have been received from there, and to Thailand in that year.
Jon Correa, one of our New Zealand graduates, has (amazingly) raised $8000-$12,000 by his own work and is off to live in Chile, where the resident study group is to welcome him. We have promised to somehow get to him with teachers once the need arises, probably in 1987.
A friend in Brazil (Reinhard Hubner) has pledged to fund my fares once our representative there (Julto Taborda) has set up a study group to host (and attend) a course there in Porte Alegre (Rio Grande do Sul).
In all, we have a modest, busy, useful influence in areas of need. Many groups have contacted us after obtaining our books or after reading an article in translation or after recommendations by students of previous courses.
We estimate that is costs us about $6000 to get literature, seed and teachers to remote groups (and still stay alive ourselves), but wherever we travel (as to the Permacutture Convergence) we are able to earn paid courses to fund visits to nearby groups in need, so that we can often spin the money earned out to cover needs for nearby courses in areas of need. This will not work, however, for areas such as Nepal, India, or Africa.
I would remind readers that we have now established a rainforest trust and that they can take shares in this trust, at the one hit preserving rainforest and also funding the Trust-in-Aid with part of the mantes earned, or interest from that money.
We are also racking our brains to find ways to develop reciprocal systems. One way we will be exploring in Nepal and Thailand is to employ or fund local people to research local technologies and ‘recipes’, to illustrate them, and to share in the English-language publishing profits.
Jan Correa will also be investigating ways to publish in Chile, and we have given groups in need free access to our journal articles for local sale. Jon will also be seeking to collect and sell Chilean seed to USA and Australian companies such as Abundant Life (USA) and Phoenix Seeds (Australia).
We can set up mutual fair trade systems, then local teachers can help self-fund their native institutes by earnings.
Vithal Rajan (Right Livelihood Foundation) is anxious, as are we, to see teachers from areas such as India used in other (Western) countries.I believe that this will happen as we develop local institutes.
Of course, graduates from local universities such as the Arab University will also serve their country’s interests locally.
There is no reason whatsoever why our own Earthbank groups cannot lend modest revolving fund seed money (at fair interest of 10 percent) to newly-formed third world groups for local projects which will pay (eg. seed collection). Money can travel anywhere for little cost!
What we do need are local graduates to handle that money responsibly, or local ethical groups accustomed to assessing good projects.

How to help

How can you help? In any number of ways: direct modest gifts, bequests, tree tithes on your products or interest-free loans to our Trust-in-Aid (you get back the capital at call, we keep the interest and you are not taxed on it).
We have also contacted our lawyer to attempt to obtain tax-deductible status for our Trust-in-aid, but with the government spending so much on widgets, keep your fingers crossed.
Perhaps you can aid by tapping other sources of funds such as those of Live Aid; we really don’t have time! You can also invest in Earthbank.
Meanwhile, at home, our Aboriginal graduates and teachers (chiefly David Blewett) are hard at work in our own Australian third world of malnutrition illness and distress.
Shirley Peastey and other gallant ladies are working in the Enfield Urban Farm project and Rex Stuart is hard at work in the Baroota (South Australia) alcohol rehabilitation farm gardens.
We have come a long way on our own efforts. We have a long way to go. We certainly need more teachers to cope with demands!


At this time, we would see some ideal of aid as follows:

  1. Respond to a contact from people in need by sending journals, books, seed and encouraging them to set up a project or study group.
  2. If a course is requested, try to have the study group convene a capable local group to train as designers and teachers.
  3. Reach this group, sending in teachers for two to four weeks to establish a group of trainees, giving emphasis to local climate, soils, species, existing local NGOs and educational establishment.
  4. Try to raise local and assisted revolving funds to start up more local projects.
  5. Explore the potential for reciprocal enterprises, intended to self-fund future enterprises in the local area.
  6. Try to establish a local teaching institute to continue education locally.
  7. Try to get land and capital organised locally for demonstration projects.
  8. Keep contact and explore ways to increase reciprocal contact.

Editor’s note

Bill Mollison mentions Earthbank in this article. More on Earthbank here.

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