1985: Reaching the Third World

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. Edition 20.

Reaching the Third World

It is never too early to give people all the capacity to plan for self-reliance that it is possible for us to give.

In the case of the Permaculture Institute, this means teaching our design courses on home gardening, sustainable agriculture, forestry, communications, community money management, ethical investment, land trusteeship and commonsense enterprise management that are the subjects of our unique permaculture training courses.

We have taught some 600 people in Australia, the United States and Europe over the last five years since 1979, and I am proud of the work they are doing in all those fields of the course.

To achieve this, those of us working full-time for the Institute have foregone personal income to fund the legal structure, land base, library and dwellings of the Institute. We have taken 'wages' of from $19 (1979) to $38 (1985) a week to do so. But our slender personal resources have never enabled us to respond to requests from people who are really in trouble — requests from India, South America and Africa.

A new funding initiative

We now propose a new initiative. It would take us about $30,000 per year to support two part-time teachers and a full-time administrator/secretary ($10,000 per year). From those of us now at the Institute and those who have obtained their diplomas based on two years of applied work, we have such teachers available.

Some of us have managed to teach Aboriginal designers, American Indians (Pauite Reservation) and Mexican people. This is only possible where we earned the money to reach them by working on other projects. The fares and accommodation costs to reach most Third World areas prevents us from doing so on our own resources.

In every course we have taught we have made places for people who are financially disadvantaged, sometimes as scholarships, reduced fees, work for training (barter) or by some such strategy. Such students, although unable to pay, have made effective teachers or workers in their own right.

How do we commonly reach groups quite unable to pay? This has always been a problem for us.

We have decided to go for a trust fund and in our minds we would place an upper limit of $300,000 on such a fund. This fund would, from a fair ten percent interest on investment, pay for teachers to reach the third world and train 40 people there as permaculture designers every year. They would then have access to our network, publications, and would become teachers in their turn. In this way we can build up a body of local graduates in the poor areas of the world.

We are opening this fund as of now. It would mean that 300 of us find $1000, or 600 of us $500, or some of us bequeath our estates or give surplus resources such as land to the Institute for sale towards this fund. I am personatly bequeathing any of my share of publishing income from my forthcoming book to the fund. This alone could do it over the next decade, but why wait ten years?

Colin McQueen (a permaculture design course graduate) has given a 182 acre rainforest to the Institute for such a purpose. It is valued at $40,000, and we are trying to sell it to anyone who can pay to preserve it, and then place it in trust with the Rainforest Information Centre (John Seed and friends) at Lismore NSW for preservation and care.

We will set aside an estimated $2000-$4000 of this money to help them form a trust to receive the forest and to pay transfer costs, and an estimated $5000 to set up a tax-deductible institute for our own purposes. The probable remainder would be placed in trust for the third world teaching fund. So we have started.

With $300,000, the Institute would be a foundation. Interest from ethical investment ($30,000 per year) would enable us to pay all costs associated with teaching (administration, travel, accommodation, etc). Also, when we publish in the third world, we plan to give a local institute the income from our books to help them set up their library and home base. Our own earnings will continue to go into the Institute too, so we may be able to send up the three to four teaching trips a year as long as they are needed.

That's our plan. Anyway you can help achieve it, please do so. While Andrew Jeeves, Reny Slay and myself would be teaching where we can, we would also expect to fund others to teach if and when they have the time and have a demand from people in trouble. We have, in our Earthbank system, ethical brokers and investors to handle any such trusts.

If we achieve our aims and are able to send out three to four teams a year to teach, then we foresee a time when the capital of the fund wouldn't be needed. We would then consider suggestions for the dispersal of the capital. One possibility we favour is that the fund be dispersed to Third World institutes to support local teachers whom we will have trained.

I now call on all of us to find ways to achieve these goals of free extension to the Third World. The need is obvious — and urgent.

Meanwhile, wherever we have taught people, they can give local courses for people in need in their region, and this is also our aim in the Third World.

I will be sending this open letter to a few friends and perhaps you would do the same.

Progress on the Third World Teaching Trust will be posted in the journal.

My great admiration to all of you.

…Bill Mollison

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