Mushrooming hope in Nakivale

Mushrooming hope in Nakivale

Jessica Perini

Jessica Perini –  from the Permaculture Australia education team –  is combining local and refugee learners in a new model of online learning. She hopes to create long-distance connections, funding for refugee projects, and lasting memories and opportunities for all.

Elijah and I have been friends for a while now.

Together we do yoga sessions over Zoom, even though he’s in Nakivale, among the largest refugee camps in the world, and even though his internet is … well, rubbish … But we laugh over tree pose, and the constant internet dropouts. Laughter is the ultimate remedy.

Having worked with refugees remotely since COVID, I’ve come to understand that connection is among the most important things for people like Elijah.

I know this because around 4 pm Sydney time I am inundated with messages that tell me East Africa is waking up. ‘Hey Jess, how you going?’ ‘Hi big sis.’ ‘Hi Mum.’ Followed by copious photos of mulching, worms, and food forests flourishing. Mostly from refugees in settlements in Uganda, and Kenya. My group, Permaculture Partners, has built these connections since the pandemic through numerous workshops. Generally covering the topics most requested by refugees. (Maggot farming being one of the most popular – go figure!)

 This is just my observation as an outsider, but having contact with the outside world seems to sustain these refugees. And when it comes to permaculture, this also means hope.

What does all this have to do with mushrooms?

A few months ago, I was running a training session for Elijah’s group (Biogreen) on the three most important soil properties – physical, chemical, and biological. Their main question (apart from ‘What do you mean “chemicals”? Aren’t chemicals bad?’ – translating English to Swahili is fraught!) was ‘When can we learn about mushrooms?’

A 15-minute discussion on soils quickly turned into a one-and-a-half-hour Q and A about the best types of mushrooms, whether refugee farmers would be able to grow them, how quickly they grew and how much they’d have to spend to get the business going. From these people who had little experience with mushroom farming, the fascination was palpable.

Many conversations ensued. Elijah went on a mission to the nearest big local town, Mbarara, 42 kilometres away. I’d found trainers there, but the cost was many thousands of dollars, so we looked at alternatives.

Knowing of his love and knowledge of mushrooms, I asked Nick Ritar of Milkwood if he would volunteer to teach a two-hour introductory session online. 

Having worked with Milkwood on and off since I did their Permaculture Design Certificate in 2010, and having completed their excellent Home Mushroom Cultivation Course, I was delighted when they said they’d help. The workshop was set for 1 June.

The model I’ve developed over the years is simple. Put on two-hour training for local Australian audiences and refugees in camps concurrently; charge the locals, and the refugees attend for free. The locals finance materials for the refugees. Everyone gets to mingle and connect. People grow more food. Beautiful connections are made.

As we sold tickets to the June 1 event, I sent the funds to Elijah. Mushroom supplies were hard to come by in Mbarara, so he had to go further afield – to the capital of Uganda, Kampala. This involved numerous buses and boda bodas (motorbike taxis with whole families precariously perched on them, and, sometimes, astounding amounts of furniture).*     

Working his way through the markets and squares, Elijah found the materials he needed. Grain spawn, alcohol for cleaning, gloves, gypsum … all the bits and pieces he would be hard-pressed to find in the refugee camp.

Together we workshopped a few ideas and adapted them.

Finding clean water and materials to burn in a refugee camp can be challenging. Boiling water was going to be a problem. So we explored steeping the substrate in cold water overnight.

For a time we couldn’t locate hydrated lime, so we considered using wood ash to raise the water’s pH. Although it doesn’t have all the same properties and functions as hydrated lime, it was a good alternative – provided Elijah’s group could get the pH to around 12 or 13.

They just needed pH strips … Another hurdle! We needed low-tech solutions. Think, think! Red cabbage water! Did they have red cabbage? Yes! A workshop for another day.

When the June 1 workshop rolled around, Elijah and his team had found everything they needed; it had been a Herculean feat. But we still had the dodgy internet to contend with.

The various refugee groups would be gathered – around 15 people per group – projecting the computer screen onto their walls, and we had no way of knowing whether the internet would hold up. If it rained, or if someone sneezed strangely … goodbye workshop. We met a few days pre-workshop to run through the process. Worst case scenario, Elijah could show them all the materials and play back the recorded session later.

On June 1, the refugees and locals came online to hear Nick speak. The participants from Uganda were thrown off the call by their weak connections, so we stumbled around for solutions. I considered WhatsApping, beaming my screen to them through two platforms. But eventually, the internet picked up, and most people hopped back in.

Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the session, and we were so thankful for Nick’s help and guidance. He answered a barrage of questions and has continued helping us over the last month.

Since then, Elijah and I have been growing our mushrooms in tandem. Mine have bloomed, but Biogreen’s first attempt has been patchy, the Nakivale team struggling with conditions in the camp. The heat, combined with the tin roof of the mushroom growing house, is not ideal. The new plan is to purpose-build a structure, with a leafy roof to mitigate the extreme heat. Maybe low-tech air con. More workshopping to come.

As the mushrooms reach the fruiting stage, the team will also have to contend with theft due to starvation. In a similar situation in Kakuma camp, my refugee friends have had to create a separate garden, with strong fences and 24-hour guards to protect their harvests.

Fair share is well and good when you’re not starving. But when you’re surrounded by a mounting refugee population, and your United Nations Food Program rations have gone down to a paltry $5 a month, or 1.5 kilos of flour, who can blame anyone for stealing food?

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the problems faced by refugee communities like Elijah’s. I’ve sat on this story for almost a month, trying to think of the perfect way forward.

But yesterday, I saw a photo of Elijah. As much as he smiles and jokes, his limbs all twisted into Eagle pose, and rushes about on these crazy quests, and tries to grow mushrooms in non-ideal conditions, he’s still skinny as.

Still disconnected from the bounties we enjoy here. Still struggling.

We can’t wait for the perfect answer to these big issues. Nor can we stumble at all the hurdles.

Elijah and his team have started a second batch of mushrooms, learning from their issues the first time around.

And we’re pressing ahead with small solutions. We have $100 left from the workshop sales, which is enough for transport, food, and 3-days of business and mushroom-growing training for Elijah in Kampala. After that, he’ll be equipped to teach his Nakivale group and the villagers beyond.

They’ll still need close and ongoing support from someone who’s not 11,000 kilometres away. 

In the last month, we’ve met several people who are growing mushrooms not far from Nakivale. Some are even preparing their own spawn, despite the limitations of an African setting. A few have very kindly offered to come to Nakivale and help the farmers establish a mushroom-growing enterprise. We just need to set the farmers up with a few basics and they’ll be on their way.

So the plan is: get Elijah to Kampala. When he comes back, at some stage ask a kind individual or group with experience to come and help them get set up. Create a secure building, well suited to mushroom growing. Buy some materials. Milkwood has very kindly offered scholarships in its online mushroom-growing course – ongoing education is key. 

Two days into the new grow, Elijah texts me: ‘I have good news.’ I’m on a call with someone else, so I can’t answer. ‘I have good news!’ That exclamation is a good amount of energy from Elijah. I have to check-in. When I get him on a video call, his eyes are shining. The second batch of mushrooms is growing! I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so happy.

We’d like to give our heartfelt thanks to Nick and Kirsten from Milkwood for giving us their time, knowledge and patience as we work our way through this process. We’d also like to thank everyone who came along on 1 June and donated to this wonderful venture, and the countless individuals who help conduct workshops, and give their time and experience free of charge to help refugees in these camps. A big shout out to BioGreen and all the groups that attended on the day. Individuals such as Elijah volunteer for such groups purely for the benefit of their communities, and we are inspired by their persistence, grace in the face of extreme difficulty, and big smiles when things go well.

If you’d like to help us set up a group of 25 farmers with a secure building and enough spawn to get them cracking in mushroom growing you can donate here

 *Photo of boda boda used with permission courtesy of Elizabeth Fekonia, from her June 2023 permaculture workshop tour of Kenya and Uganda. Thanks to Elijah and BioGreen for the workshop photos.

Permaculture Stories: Debbie Hunt of An Alternative Life Learning Centre

Permaculture Stories: Debbie Hunt of An Alternative Life Learning Centre

Debbie Hunt and Kieran Malone moved to Bungonia, NSW in 2012 to escape the city, lower their carbon footprint and live in line with their values. They have regenerated their block, combatting frost, heatwaves, lack of rain and wind, and have opened An Alternative Life Learning Centre, to provide workshops, tours and design consultancies on sustainable living, gardening and food production. Debbie’s property was on high alert for bushfires for 79 days straight during the 2019-2020 bushfires in southern NSW. Just 6 weeks later, she had to close to visitors again due to COVID-19. PA volunteer Julia talked to Debbie about her approach to building resilient systems and what permaculture can teach us in the face of food insecurity.

What brought you to make the big move from city to rural and why Bungonia?

There was a combination of factors that led us from our suburban life to living An Alternative Life on a small rural property in Bungonia NSW. The never-ending cycle of bills, work and feeling like there was never enough time, to spend with the kids, to get out into nature, to do the things we loved. Feeling like we were stuck on the treadmill just doing the daily grind was one of the driving factors, we wanted to feel more connected to each other, to our surroundings, to our natural world. We wanted to downsize our debt and our bills so we could work less and live more.

We also had a growing understanding of the vulnerability of our food system to extreme weather events and the impacts this could potentially have on price and potentially supply so we wanted to develop our own self sufficiency farm, that would supply our family’s food needs and to reduce our reliance on the corporate food.

We chose Bungonia as it is a beautiful area, the landscape and sunsets are stunning and there is huge areas of National Park and native bushland, but it was also about convenience and the ability to be within travelling distance of Canberra and Sydney allowing for off farm employment when needed.  The area is a cool growing region, getting enough frost each winter to be able to grow stone fruits, berries and grapes. We also knew it would be a difficult area for growing food, conditions can be pretty extreme, at an elevation of over 700m it is incredibly windy at times, we get extreme heat over 45˚C, annual rainfall is low, on average 600mm and drought is a regular occurrence. It also gets extremely cold in winter, down to -8˚C

A rare snowstorm!

Paint a picture of your site: how has it transformed since you purchased it, what kind of processes and practices have you implemented to improve and care for the land?

Our block was an old bush block that had never been farmed or had livestock, half of the farm was remanent native bush primarily of Casuarina and Eucalyptus. The other half of the property was heavy clay that had been baked hard as rock as it had been cleared of all vegetation by the previous owner, other than a handful of large trees everything had been stripped and exposed to the sun. There were some radiata pines had been planted as wind protection, but little or no soil or pasture improvement had been undertaken.

When we arrived we sectioned off parts of the farm that were to be dedicated to bush regeneration, as there was no previous farming on the property the seed bank in the soil was mostly native so letting nature rewild these areas was our approach. They are now overwhelmed with native plants including grasses, shrubs as well as fruit and seed bearing trees that keep the cockatoos and parrots with a supply of their favourites and for the most part out of our orchard. We have planted over 300 food trees including things like sugar maples for maple syrup and stone pines for pine nuts.

A before and after at Bungonia

What is your approach to your gardening system?

Our focus across the farm is on creating resilient and adaptive food systems.  

We draw on a multitude of approaches from numerous land management, growing and garden systems both old and new. We get our inspiration and ideas from people and cultures from around the world, there is much knowledge that has been lost since the inception of modern farming however in some parts of the world practices that have sustained people and environments for centuries are still being practiced and offer us great insight to the sorts of solutions that can be implemented even when resources and modern day machinery is not available.

We admire, respect, and learn from the skills and knowledge of local Aboriginal people who managed the land and used it for food and shelter, in a sustainable way for tens of thousands of years. We try to our utmost to manage the land is a way that is sustainable – meeting our needs now whilst not reducing the lands capacity to provide for generations in the future.

Have you taken any inspiration from permaculture principles?

Yes in one way or another we use all the permaculture principles across our property and in our lives but I guess the one that resonates most with us do is “Value and respect diversity”.  We have a diverse range of growing systems, some gardens are under cover and protected from animals and birds that might steal our food, some are out in the open and free for all to share. We have food forests, traditional raised vegetable gardens, a mixed orchard integrated with chooks and ducks, aquaponics system and a small undercover market garden. We have trellises of berries, grapes, kiwi fruit and passionfruit. Some of our vegetable patches are planted traditionally other  are just allowed to go to seed and grow much more naturally.

We plant a huge range of fruit as an important part of our personal food security strategy and ensures we have something to harvest year round in Autumn we are harvesting figs and raspberries, in Winter and early Spring it is citrus, in late Spring and the beginning of Summer, berries such as boysenberries and strawberries are in season, then we get apricots, cherries, plums, apples, pears, almonds, hazelnuts, nectarines and peaches from early Summer through to mid-Autumn. Some of the fruits we grow require heavy frosts, some are much more tropical this way regardless of the season we always have something to harvest. We also plant a large variety of annual vegetables this way if one of our crops is attacked by pests or suffers disease, we do not loose our entire food supply.

We encourage biodiversity on the farm by protecting large parts of our property for native bushland that supplies food and habitat for all the local birds, animals and insects. Without a doubt diversity is the key to our success at being able to supply ourselves with an abundance of food from the garden year round and through extreme weather.

What gravitated you towards your philosophy of “fair share for all”? How do you practice this in your everyday life and work?

We believe that fair share extends beyond people, to all living things, with this in mind we dedicate more than 70% of our farm to native habitat. Our efforts to preserve land for native flora and fauna is repaid a thousand times over, it is the diversity of life on the farm, the insect eating birds and reptiles that do the bug and pest control in our gardens, it is the health of the mycorrhizal fungi beneath the soil that keep our fruit trees and gardens growing strong.

We strongly believe that the skills and knowledge to grow food should be available to everyone in particular those struggling to meet their food needs. We sponsor people in need through our courses and workshops for free and when they have completed the course, we provide seeds, tree and resources so they can get growing on their own.

We also share our harvest with those in our community who are struggling to meet their food needs and do not have the capacity or room to grow their own. We also share our knowledge and services to community groups who are working to “sow the seeds of a sustainable future”

Tell me about An Alternative Life Learning Centre. What inspired you to start this business and what need are you filling here?

Primarily we started An Alternative Life Learning Centre as we wanted to bring together a network of people who are looking to be part of a community not based on competition, consumerism and capitalism but instead operate on a basis of compassion, collaboration, and cooperation. At the same time, we saw a growing need for people to learn skills associated with personal food production and resilience.  Working overseas I saw how communities were implementing a range of strategies to improve outcomes during and after extreme weather events, improved communications systems and networks, the building or evacuation centres and organisation of teams of on call volunteers, local food storage for communities that may have transport routes interrupted, new methods of growing and food preservation techniques. I also saw that these programs were indeed working and saving lives. In Australia we either deny that climate change is happening or tend to think that we will somehow be unaffected, that it is something that will happen elsewhere to other people.

Having studied climate change extensively over the years, we knew there was an increasing likelihood of our communities being impacted in negative ways by extreme weather events and there was a growing need for people to understand the risks and undertake strategies to build resilience at personal and community levels. There was also an increasing awareness of climate change and a move of people looking to live more sustainable self-sufficient lifestyles, so we opened the learning centre to give people the skills, knowledge and confidence needed to make the change.

What is on the horizon for 2021?

There are always a multitude of new projects on the go here on the farm, we have just completed building a bedroom cabin for guests, both those attending our workshops and those just looking to experience living an alternative life for a few days.

We have designed an urban food garden that would supply a family of four in fruit and vegetables year round and intend to implement the design over the coming months.

We are hosting a new range of on-site events including month “Get a taste of farm life” tours which include a guided tour of the farm and all the gardens and growing areas as well a 3 course lunch of farm produce.

We are running “design and plan a food garden” and “design and plan a mixed orchard” weekend workshops as well as a range of practical skills workshops including planting, pruning and propagation of fruit, berries for beginners and will also be hosting some family farm fun days during the school holidays that will include a host of family fun activities.

The pandemic has caused a lot of people to consider making the move from urban to rural. Any advice on how and where to start?

We started to see people making the move to urban to rural prior to the pandemic, a lot of people were made aware of our need to build resilience personally and at a community level happen during the fires of 2020. Images of people in Australia on the beaches waiting for the navy to come and rescue them, people spending NYE fleeing fire under terrifying circumstances, the loss of communications and basic services electricity, clean water, sewerage, and service stations running out of fuel was a considerable wake up call for how underprepared we are to cope with and recover from disasters, the pandemic only emphasised the problems with our food system and supply chains and increased the realisation that the current systems could not always be relied on and again increased the numbers of people looking to grow their own food and live a more sustainable self sufficient life.

In terms of where to start, before you start spend as much time as you can understanding your site and your local conditions, research the rainfall and temperature ranges. We always advise people not to just look at averages but extremes, how much rain will you get in drought years, how hot does it get in a heatwave, how much snow or frost your site gets in an extremely cold year find out what the fire history in your area, this information will give you a good guide as to what sort of resilience strategies to use when designing your food system. 

If your strategy is long term then we always suggest people start with what takes longest to grow and produce, food trees – fruit and nut trees can take year before they are producing a reasonable crop so get them in first, they will grow and provide shade and shelter for your vegetable gardens and growing areas but it takes time for them to establish.

You can follow an Alternative Life Learning Centre through their Facebook page, and hear about their latest events, tours and workshops through their website.

Food security the real focus of urban farming

It is clear that there can be no meaningful conversation around urban agriculture that ignores food security

It was strange to walk out of a cafe where people sat at tables with plates full of food and into an evening seminar on food insecurity and urban agriculture. I couldn’t help but think that not far away on the other side of Sydney University, where the seminar was to take place, there were people probably experiencing food insecurity this same evening.
Over there, beyond the gates of the university, there were also others practicing the urban agriculture that was the theme of the seminar. They inhabited the community gardens dotted through this local government area as well as Pocket City Farm, a small, commercial, inner urban market garden within walking distance of the university.

The seminar, Urban Farming – Feeding the Future, was a Sydney flow-on of the urban agriculture conference in Melbourne the previous weekend. Brought together by Sydney University’s Sydney Environment Institute and the Healthy Food Systems Node at the Charles Perkins Centre were:

  • Lenore Newman, writer of a new book on Canadian cuisine and an urban geographer who holds a Canada Research Chair in Food Security and Environment at the University of the Fraser Valley
  • Toby Whittington, CEO and founder of Green World Revolution (and here) a social enterprise growing jobs for the unemployed through urban agriculture in Perth, Western Australia, and previously at Perth City Farm
  • Megan Battaglia, Masters of Sustainability student at the University of Sydney.

Lenore Newman

Informality the key to a useful conversation

Next day, the seminar was followed by a session, more a conversation, between Sydney University’s Alana Mann who works in communications and food issues, Lenore and Toby. That attracted people from the Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network; Tarrania Suhood who has her own small business, InCollaboration, and works with the New Economy Network Australia; a couple PhD students including one from the University of Hawaii — both are researching urban agriculture; one from Randwick City Council sustainability unit; urban planner and urban agriculture expert, Ian Sinclair and others. The informality of this session allowed us to explore areas not covered in the seminar.

Connectivity is a key…

Much was learned. Ian explained that the Penrith Food Policy was an early local government initiative to come to terms with food security in Western Sydney. I supported this by telling the meeting about the South Sydney Council Food Policy, perhaps the first local government policy on food security in Australia when it was released in the mid-1990s. Alana Mann explained her involvement with the university and City of Sydney in looking at linking food enterprises with citizens via digital technologies and of a food systems incubator in the city. Connectivity is a key, she said.

Barriers political and social

With around eight percent of people living in the City of Sydney local government area experiencing food insecurity, which includes consistently missing meals because the cupboard is bare, there are significant barriers to establishing new food initiatives and dealing effectively with food insecurity.
These include:

  • the failure of government to recognise food insecurity as a social and economic problem
  • income inequity that makes foods unaffordable; low income people are more likely to be food insecure
  • transport and access to food retail and other sources
  • age, which limits mobility and access to food sources
  • the high costs of rents and household utilities that limit the amount left to spend on food.

Discussing alternative food systems, two trends were mentioned:

  • organic retailers are competing with food co-ops to attract organic food buyers; organic foods are now stocked by the big supermarket duopoly and other retailers; Sydney’s longest-running food co-op nearly went under last year, underlining how organic food sources have diversified and how there is increasing competition for the organic buyers’ dollar
  • the failure of a local farmers market to provide affordable food because of its high prices; one commentator put this down to the gentrification of inner urban areas; it goes against something the convener of the farmers’ market association said to me at the Blacktown Council food security workshop some years ago — Securing Our Food Future —  that farmers’ markets should be places where basic foods are obtainable. I would now add: at an affordable price.

Solutions beckon

Alana Mann advocates connecting food, its accessibility and affordability to local economies and urban planning. One of the commentators then raised that often-asked question that comes up when local food is discussed: how local is local?
I suggested it was up to four to five hours truck journey from the city. This includes the urban fringe market gardens, orchards and poultry farms, the ‘periurban agriculture’ as it is known to academics and food system advocates. Access to the food produced in different microclimates means this distance offers a range of foods for a diversified diet. It is also the distance disclosed through the practicality of running urban, hybrid community supported agriculture schemes like Sydney and Brisbane Food Connect. Recognising that some might say the distance too great, I said I avoid the term ‘local food’ and use instead ‘regional food’ because this supply chain accesses different geographic and climatic regions. Greater diversity brings greater security of food supply.
The loss of urban fringe farmland was expectedly raised. Ian Sinclair explained that the Sydney region produces five to six percent of Australia’s vegetables, much of which feeds the city. He said the value of food produced on Sydney’s urban fringe farms has recently risen although the land area occupied by them has declined. This links to the need to stop the spread of detached houses into farmland and the urbanisation of good quality productive land. Densifying population was a solution many agreed with, Ian saying that it was technically feasible but not socially feasible because some communities oppose taller apartment buildings and even apartment development altogether. A week later this was the subject of an article in the Australian Financial Review, Housing supply: NIMBYs preventing needed medium-density housing, Grattan says, reporting a finding of the Grattan Institute, which also proposes slashing immigrant numbers to take pressure off the strained housing market.

Fisherman’s daughter in Agriburbia

Lenore, a fisherman’s daughter, described a unique land tenure system where she lives near Vancouver. This is the Agricultural Land Reserve system that when introduced met opposition because some people thought it would push down the value of their land. The Reserve system is reminiscent of a similar proposal around a decade ago by the Sydney Food Fairness Alliance, now amalgamated with the Right To Food Coalition. It is her model for suburbs in which agriculture plays an ongoing role, what she calls “Agriburbia”. The Vancouver scheme retains agricultural land for farming rather than urban development, which in Vancouver can be done only on brownfield sites.
A result, Lenore said, is that urban sprawl is densifying. It might have been Ian Sinclair who said that a similar population densification is now being researched for Sydney’s old, middle ring suburbs like Bankstown. Lenore also explained that it has been socialist governments that took the initiative to preserve food-producing land, not the conservatives, yet conserving land for farming is an inherently conservative thing to do.

Another worthwhile event

The daytime session was more far participatory than the presentation format the Sydney Environment Institute usually has, because with a small group it was a many-to-many conversation rather than a one-to-many presentation. That’s not to denigrate the presentations, for they too are useful.
At some of the Institute’s seminars, academics present research findings that they put across as new. Those in the audience who have worked in the field know that some of these things are not new, that there are precedents. A suggestion was that researchers look into trends and practices from the outside rather than participate in relevant networks where they would discover more, such as is done in anthropological immersion research. This was reinforced for me when I worked in local government supporting community agriculture and landcare. When a young woman from a Melbourne university, promoted as an urban agriculture expert by the consultant hired to do the report for a proposed city farm presented her findings, I had to add as many city farms again to the list she had compiled and make other changes. It was that looking in from the outside again and having no connection to relevant networks.
The Urban farming events were another contribution to the conversation around food security and urban agriculture by the Sydney Environment Institute. It was clear that there are no easy answers and that simple solutions won’t work because urban agriculture and food security are complex problems. Urban agriculture is bound up with land access, economics and politics. Essentially, it is less a question of farming or land access and more a continuity of social, environmental, distribution and economic questions for which the answer is political.
It is clear that there can be no meaningful conversation around urban agriculture that ignores food security. They are closely connected as parts of a larger system.
Lenore Newman’s participation was made possible by Melbourne-based food advocacy, Sustain: The Australian Food Network.

More stories of food production in cities…

Here’s a review of last year’s urban agriculture symposium organised by staff from the University of Sydney’s law faculty that attracted participants from western, eastern and southern Sydney and as far away as Melbourne.

A busy city concourse is the last place I expected to stumble across a food garden. But that is what happened. So here’ s a picture story of the edible garden on Brisbane’s Southbank that I unexpectedly came across while wandering the banks of the muddy Brisbane River.

In Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, not all that far from Coogee Beach, there’s a local government sustainability education centre with the Permaculture Interpretive Garden. It is a prototype development on public open space set up to trial permaculture landuse design and community resilience education in a local government context.


Feedback on review of import conditions for brassicaceous crop seeds into Aus

A letter written by PA and sent to the Review:
On behalf of the 500 members of Permaculture Australia, we would like you to consider offering more time and a wider distribution of this proposal.
We are a member-based organisation of individuals and organisations who predominantly grow their own food organically. We are concerned that the proposal to treat major genera of Brassicaceae with fungicides on and off shore could adversely affect the potential for importation of rare and heirloom varieties.
Many of our member organisations and some member individuals are working with other seed savers around the world to preserve rare varieties by growing them to seed crop in a range of conditions (thus strengthening the growing conditions for the new/heirloom varieties).
We understand the risk of disease and are certainly not suggesting that it be taken less seriously. On the contrary, we would like to see a less ‘one size fits all’ and more targeted approach to the problem. Please can you allow more time and involve more organic producers in your study, so that we can help you develop policy that does not disenfranchise people who are attempting to improve the selection of Brassicaceae (and other Families as well!) available to producers in Australia.
Please seek further information and/or make your own submission at: