Permaculture for Refugees

Permaculture for Refugees

A small team of permaculture practitioners are developing culturally appropriate permaculture resources, with a focus on teaching in displacement settings & crowded urban areas.

Led by international permaculture pioneer & Permafund Patron Rosemary Morrow, four days were spent in the Blue Mountains recently to progress the teaching resources.

My years have shown that there are few materials available in translated languages to the participants we teach. This workshop will ensure accurate & appropriate training materials, which at the time of COVID-19 is even more essential to support distance/online training and community reach even more camp and urban settlement settings”, Rowe Morrow

Highlights of the workshop also included sessions with Permaculture for Refugees members BASD in Bangladesh, Sarah from Green ReLeaf in the Philippines, Blue Ribbon in Malaysia, Kat Lavers, and Morag Gamble sharing information on Permayouth.

Professional development sessions on teaching online, developing videos, cartoons, written and visual training materials were completed to assist with the resource development.

A new booklet ‘Teaching Permaculture in Refugee Camps‘ by Rowe Morrow and Ruth Harvey was also launched at the workshop.

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P4R SEA member Sarah Queblatin from Green ReLeaf in the Philippines briefs the Blue Mountains participants via Zoom.

Permaculture Australia, including Permafund, are well representated with members Kym Blechynden, Jed Walker, Greta Carroll, Morag Gamble and Sarah Boulle all involved in the project.

“PA staff and members are thrilled to be involved withthe Permaculture for Refugees SEA activities. By partnering together we’ve been able to produce appropriate teaching resources for local NGO’s working in refugee camps and informal settlements – improving access to information by communities across the globe who often need it the most“, Kym Blechynden, PA.

These teaching resources will be translated and made available for use by communities in early 2021. The key to making these resources accessible to refugees are their translation into multiple languages. Funds are required towards covering the cost of translations, so all donations are welcome and gratefully received. Please contact hello@permcaultureaustralia.org.au for more information

PA’s Permafund members Greta Carroll, Rowe Morrow (Patron), Jed Walker & Kym Blechynden at the Blue Mountains workshop.

A huge thank you to the Blue Mountains Food Coop, Quakers Service Victoria and Permaculture Australia Permafund for their financial support to the workshop, all of the facilitators and participants for volunteering their time and travel costs, and to lead organisers Rowe Morrow and Jed Walker.

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For more information:

This article relates to the three permaculture ethics (Earth care, People Care & Fair Care), Use and Value Diversity, and Use Edges & Value the Marginal. More information on the permaculture ethics and principles can be found here.

Permaculture 4 Refugees South East Asia is a network of permaculture aid workers in Australia, Bangladesh, Malaysia and the Philippines, including members of Permaculture Australia and PA’s Permafund. We work in partnership with local NGO’s to support permaculture training and resource development in displacement and crowded urban settings. Donations are required and gratefully received to assist with the translation of resources into multiple languages, contact hello@permacultureaustralia.org.au to find out how to donate.

PA’s Permafund provides small grants to community permaculture groups across Australia and internationally. Since 2012 we have provided 38 grants in 14 countries, with another 12 projects being announced on the 1st November 2020. Donations over $2 are tax deductible in Australia. Find out more including how to donate here.

Rosemary (Rowe) Morrow is a permaculture pioneer, Permafund patron, author and teacher. For almost 40 years Rowe has worked extensively with farmers and villagers in Africa, Central and South East Asia and Eastern Europe and to communities experiencing the serious effects of climate change. When not working overseas, Rowe is based in Katoomba, NSW and is an active member of Permaculture for Refugees.

Growing it forward – a guide to permaculture and rental properties

Growing it forward – a guide to permaculture and rental properties

Have you ever wondered if you can implement permaculture principles in a renting setting? Yes, you can! Read more about ‘permaculture renting’ with our guest blogger, Dawn Green, from lutrawita / Tasmania, and check out some great case studies on permaculture renting properties too.

“Many of us, myself included, have lived in rental properties over the years. Some of these situations are temporary, some are long term. But no matter what time frame applies, renting brings with it a unique opportunity to make a difference in the world.

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Permaculture renting refers to the practice of establishing gardens and lifestyle choices based on permaculture principles within a rental property setting.

There are two big factors at play here – the temporary nature of the garden and infrastructure (for you, but it may pay divendends to future renters and owners. More on this later). And two, ensuring you have the appropriate permission and guidelines established before your shovel hits the dirt or any infrastructure is modified.

So, how does it work?

Firstly, pen a letter to the rental agency, seeking permission from the house owner to establish a garden or make changes. Make sure you talk about your passion for gardening and include a sketch of the garden beds you’d like to put in. Ideally these will be no-dig garden beds which are super easy to establish. That way it’s crystal clear what your intentions are and you have permission in writing to proceed.

Then it’s time to consider what type of garden you’d like to plant. A great source for ideas can be found here.

While you are working on your garden, find ways to connect with your local community to access all kinds of (usually) free resources, including seeds and cuttings. Discover your local permaculture group and start networking. Together we are smarter and more resourceful than on our own.

Other ways to live sustainably while renting includes the all-important act of reducing your waste. Most urban areas have good recycling collections systems, but don’t forget it’s important to avoid packaging where possible, especially food packaging. Buy food in bulk where you can and food waste and vegetable peelings can go into a backyard compost or give your waste a second change by tracking down a local Share Waste host. Or better yet, buy or make yourself a worm farm – you and your kids will be delighted with your new ‘pets’ and you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see how quickly they multiply and munch up your food scraps!

Of course we must also focus on our water usage too. The easiest way to use greywater is to place a hose on the end of your washing machine output and then divert it to the lawn or trees. Ensure you use the most natural biodegradable detergent that you can find.

You can save litres and litres of water by catching the first part of your shower water before it starts to run hot into a bucket and then use the water on your veggie garden. And it’s also worth considering standing in one of those large plastic tubs while having your shower and then dumping the shower water outside.

A great firsthand story on permaculture renting from Milkwood Permaculture will give you lots of tips and ideas to consider too.

Think of the future

Even though you may need to move on from your rental property one day (the house is being sold, or your living arrangements have changed), your legacy garden will go on helping others and helping the planet.

Planting trees or perennials at a rental property means we are leaving behind plants which will improve the soil, increase biomass, create habitat and will hopefully make a small, but significant difference to the world.

So don’t let a minor detail like renting prevent you from the pleasure of creating permaculture in your community and contributing to having a smaller carbon footprint. Do your homework and before you know it, you’ll be out there with the dirt in your hands, knowing you are making a difference in the here and now, and also laying the seeds for the future as well.

More information:

Some of our PA members have excellent blog posts on permaculture renting. Check out Meg McGowan, aka Permacoach, Legacy Gardening in Rental Properties, Nevin Sweeney from Under the Choko Tree Sustainable Living for Renters and a great series from Milkwood Permaculture in a variety of rental properties.

For those on Social media, you may wish to follow The Urban Nanna on Facebook and Instagram for daily tips on successfully implementing permaculture principles and building community while living in a rental property.

The Smart Renting website also has a great range of tips from across Australia.

Photo credit: Matt & Sabas Rental Property, Retrosuburbia website

There are also a great range of permaculture renting case studies on the Retrosuburbia website to check out including:

Case study: Small Rental Unit

Case study: Rental Sharehouse

Matt and Sabas Rental property

The Retrosuburbia Real Estate Checklist (RREC) and ‘Sun’ rating checklist aim to help you evaluate an existing property – whether it is the one you live in or one you are considering purchasing or leasing. It’s available to download free from here or purchase the entire book here (if you are a PA member don’t forget to use your membership discount code too!)

Urban Revolution – Permaculture graduate stories

Urban Revolution – Permaculture graduate stories

“As more emphasis and urgency is placed on the need for sustainable living due to the Earth’s health, through societal norms, economic drivers and (hopefully) legislation, people will turn to learning from and employing those with permaculture skills.”

Jo Bussell’s permaculture journey started with two weekend permaculture introduction courses in 2010 and 2011.  In 2013 she completed a PDC in Fremantle with Sparkles, Harry Wykham and a range of presenters, followed by an Advanced PDC with Ross Mars and Graeme Bell in 2016. Only a year later, Jo opened Urban Revolution in Perth, WA. Martina from the PA Education team chats with Jo about the permaculture skills required for her retail employees & opening a permaculture store in Perth, WA.

Jo, you have the only permaculture ‘brick-and-mortar store’ in Perth. Tell us a little bit about the concept and how you got the idea to open this store.

Permaculture sparked (like for so many people) a passion in me to make my home food gardens efficient and mineral dense, followed by helping friends and family implement permaculture design elements into their gardens.  This moved onto paid permaculture design work. There was a need to recommend tools and soil inputs to have a successful food garden in Perth.  This morphed into working with Men’s Sheds to make plastic free gardening tools such as our first product, a seedling flat.  I then created an online store and went to markets offering the products, permaculture advice and design work. The bricks and mortar store came to fruition due to the number of products we were supplying and the need to take the business out of our home.

What are the goods and services available in your store?

The store offers garden, cleaning, homeware and personal care products that are made from materials that are compostable, plastic free or are better for the Earth. The gardening products are aimed at growing food along with a fabulous range of local, heirloom and open-pollinated veggie, herb and flower seeds. We assist and educate people individually on how to grow food, create soil and compost everyday organic waste.  We randomly present on various permaculture related subjects at community events and in schools. We also connect interested people with permaculture courses, teachers and designers.

I know your employees have done Permaculture Design Courses and at least one has done her Certificate III in Permaculture. Is permaculture knowledge something that is needed for the work at Urban Revolution?

Yes. Permaculture knowledge is key to assisting our customers with product use and our free advice on how to create soil, compost, grow food, and modify or add elements into an urban garden using permaculture design techniques. Skills I am looking for in particular are a holistic composting knowledge, soil creation specifically for growing vegetables, experience in growing various vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowers; companion planting, backyard chickens and integrated pest management knowledge.

Are you encouraging further permaculture studies for the people you work with and your customers?

Yes, absolutely.  Out of our six staff, three have Permaculture Design Certificates (PDCs) and two have completed further permaculture education – and we all would like to do more. The remaining three are growing food at home and are eco aware with other skill sets. They are learning about permaculture by just working in the store.  When possible, I hope they will all complete a PDC. In addition, our customers are consistently recommended to do a PDC at every appropriate opportunity!

There aren’t many permaculture jobs advertised at the moment. Do you think this will change?

Yes, I think it will change and gain momentum.  For example, why hire a mowing company to maintain your garden? Y ou can hire a permaculture-based gardening company to improve and manage your garden’s health, grow food, educate and provide garden design. As more emphasis and urgency is placed on the need for sustainable living due to the Earth’s health, through societal norms, economic drivers and (hopefully) legislation, people will turn to learning from and employing those with permaculture skills. Ultimately our business goal is to employ permaculturists to provide presentations and workshops to schools, businesses and especially in our communities.  At the moment this is a longer-term goal due to cash flow and providing an appropriate venue.

Additional information

Martina Hoeppner holds a Diploma in Permaculture and a Certificate IV in Training & Assessment, teaches PDCs and Certificate III in Permaculture in Perth and is the current Co-Convenor of Permaculture West. She contributes to Permaculture Australia’s Education Team and tries keep alive her own garden and three sons in her spare time. More information on the different types of permaculture education completed by both Martina and Jo can be found here.

Martina and Jo are Professional and Organisation members of Permaculture Australia, the national member based organisation in Australia. Sign up as a member here today to join hundreds of members across Australia advocating for permaculture solutions.

Urban Revolution Australia is anEco & Garden Store and Online Shop with household, personal and gardening products to make it easy to have a thriving garden, wasteless kitchen and greener lifestyle. There have a current vacancy to join their team which would suit someone with a permaculture background (a Permaculture Design Certificate would be highly regarded).

TEDx PermaQueer – Responding as a community to climate change

TEDx PermaQueer – Responding as a community to climate change

Spring has sprung with the action from communities towards this giant we face that is climate change. While in lockdown in Naarm / Melbourne, a household of permaculture folks have planned a three day summit with some of the legends of permaculture, First Nations perspectives on a just recovery, and workshops for pragmatic solutions to building resilient communities. Read more about the event and how it was developed with this guest post by Guy Ritani, PA member and co-organiser, TEDx PermaQueer.

“During isolation I have had the privilege to go to a number of climate action, youth future, climate uprise events which I am incredibly grateful for. However I came away from a lot of them thinking something was lacking. Action. The calamity we face is reasonably well known to most people and the issue of climate change has shifted somewhat into a paralysing storm. I wanted to hear the solutions and see how they were appearing in the light of day with peoples actions. Action that we can all do to weave the vast ropes of humanity through the needle head that is climate change.

TEDX is currently doing a global pulse of their platform out to communities around the world on the topic of climate change and are calling it ‘Countdown’. I applied for the TEDx license a few months ago and didn’t hear back until two weeks ago to advise the event would be in three weeks. 3 WEEKS!! So a very excited and anxious me began drafting on the whiteboard what an I thought an action filled summit would look like, one that had real impact for communities.

I live in a Permaculture sharehouse with fellow teacher and PA member Delldint Fleming, my partner and co-teacher at PermaQueer Toad Dell and permaculture student, Cicily. Together we drafted the idea of an amazing summit with all of the dream speakers we could possibly want. The drawing board featured David Holmgren, Rosemary Morrow, Damon Gameau, David Attenborough, Keitha Thuy Young to name a few. Then we set out with bright eyes on our journey to contact all our dream speakers. Some we got, others we didn’t. I wanted to curate a summit from all perspectives and all levels of industry to tackle the ways our human system works as holistically as possible and get somewhat of a birds eye view of how we can actionably respond to this crisis. We shared the outcome: a solutions oriented approach to the ways communities can build infrastructure to alleviate their dependence on carbon consuming systems.

We’ve been in isolation pretty much since March this year so we’re all just slowly migrating around the house and garden with our laptops and drawing boards organising, emailing, designing, replying to emails, calling speakers and replying to more emails again. It has been a tremendous effort from the four of us here pulling together this fantastic group of speakers, dispersing it out to our communities and establishing the infrastructure to run this event. I am immensely proud of my household, having never tried to do anything like this before and I’m pleased we’ve stepped up to the plate. Outwardly too, it’s been amazing and so affirming getting the support from all the amazing speakers we have and their deep genuine interest to solve these issues and share how they’ve done it themselves. 


In terms of the actual event, we wanted it to feel effortless, like a conversation over a cuppa. The three day summit begins with a Welcome to country. We then have Tyson Yunkaporta talking on what a meaningful existence means as we move towards the future informed from the deep ancestral truths Aboriginal and First Nations peoples hold from the past. One thing we’ve really consciously tried to centre this around is First Nations sovereignty. There is no just recovery without complete considerations for the First Nations of this land and of the lands surrounding it. So as we came together hoping to speak of solutions, we tried to ensure they were coming from First Nation voices and experiences.  I want the speakers to talk about this issue in the way that sang to them and spoke to their true passion as to why they do what they do. From seed saving to bringing your ethics to the workplace, decolonising our minds and ancestry to integrating medicine into our natural food systems, how activists are supporting Australia to break up with fossil fuels to fungal fabrics as the future of fashion. We have tried to meaningfully cover as much as we can given the time we’ve had so I am really looking forward to this event.

 

One last thing I will mention is the queering of Permaculture. We know the edge is where it’s at and to value the marginal. Our desire is to integrate all the deep pools of knowledge and open up other areas of humanity’s realm of acceptance so we can create this new future. We’re entering an era of science fiction at the moment, in that we don’t have a rulebook anymore for what’s going to happen and the outcome will be only what we make it. Now is the time to open up all our borders and collaborate with people, ideas, identities, cultures and get as creative as possible. I hope that this will be the first in a series of events on pragmatic sustainability and am looking forward to the future 🙂 “

For more information:

TEDx PermaQueer will be held online on October 15-17th October 2020 and recorded in Naarm / Melbourne. Tickets for the event are free or via donation and can be booked here. The list of speakers includes David Holmgren, Rowe Morrow, Guy Ritani, Morag Gamble, Delldint Fleming and many more. Follow for updates on the schedule and speakers here.

Permqueer is a collaborative effort to share ecological sustainability methods through the lens of permaculture and focussing accessibility to traditionally marginalised communities. Our goal is to spread knowledge of living within ecological boundaries.

Guy and Delldint (and many of the speakers at TEDx PermaQueer), are professional members of Permaculture Australia, the national member based permaculture organisation. Join up here today to help us advocate for permaculture solutions.

Art as Activism: permaculture solutions

Art as Activism: permaculture solutions

Congratulations to our wining artists for the Permaculture Australia T shirt design competition. The below three designs were voted by you to adorn the limited edition PA T shirts. We can’t wait to get our hands on one when they go on sale THIS Monday 12th October 2020 here. 🌿☀️

Meet the artists

“Permaculture is the solution for troubled times – inspiring, uplifting, empowering, it carries us toward a better future.” Brenna Quinlan

Brenna Quinlan is an illustrator and educator who strives to make the world a better place through her art and her actions. For the past four years she has lived a low-impact lifestyle at Melliodora, the permaculture demonstration site created by permaculture co-originator David Holmgren and his partner Su Dennett in Central Victoria, Australia. There they grow food, milk goats, build soil, engage with community and regenerate the land around them. Brenna’s design is ‘Permaculture. Compost problems. Grow solutions’.

My aim to to use humour to inspire interest in permaculture while recalling the urgency of that wartime call to inspire people to grow their own food.” Dr Cally Brennan

Dr Cally Brennan runs her business Canberra Permaculture Design and has been drawing and painting for her whole life. While she doesn’t count herself as a professional artist, she has sold artworks from time to time and was a finalist in the 2017 Bald Archy prize. T’. Cally’s design is ‘Permaculture. Do you dig it?‘ It is a parody of a very famous WWII propaganda poster for the ‘victory gardens’ campaign and associated slogan ‘Dig for Victory.

“All the decisions we make are connected, and those made with the Permaculture principles foremost are the best decisions we can make. Permaculture epitomises joined-up thinking.” Irene Pagram

Irene Pagram works with sustainable natural dyes on silk, wool and paper, often to make a ground for drawing, or a base for hand stitching. Irene’s renewed love of textile practice came about when she read India Flint’s Eco- Colour and discovered there was a better way to practice natural dyeing, setting up a studio based arts practice in the Otways hinterland. Irene is Co-Chair of the newly established Colac Community Arts Makers’ Space and her design is ‘Earth Care. People Care. Fair Share. Permaculture joins the dots‘.

How can I purchase a T shirt?

The limited edition T-shirts will be available for puchase from Monday 12th October 2020 here

All profits from the T shirt sales will be split between the artists and Permaculture Australia, with the later supporting our work to advocate for permaculture solutions. Thanks for your support to Permaculture Australia and our member artists.

Irene, Cally and Brenna are all members of Permaculture Australia, the national member based permaculture organisation. Sign up here today to help us advocate for permaculture solutions – which are more important than ever before.

Waterwise growing in the community

Waterwise growing in the community

“We get so much from each of the projects we’re involved in and meet some amazing people – I guess the best part of my job is seeing the transformation of the land we work with to produce healthy and happy plants that in turn contribute to improving and contributing to the environment around them.” Bob, WaterUps

PA’s Kym chats with Bob from WaterUps about waterwise growing & community permaculture projects.

1. Tell us about the team behind WaterUps and your involvement in permaculture?

Each member of the WaterUps team brings their own skills and passion for nature and sustainability. Several have completed permaculture-based courses and locally we’re members and regular contributors to projects run by Permaculture Sydney North and Permaculture Northern Beaches. One of our staff’s family are practicing regenerative agriculture at their farm in the Southern Highlands, another is doing a part time Horticulture course at TAFE whilst another is working towards creating a Permaculture based property in Byron.

2. How does your product/company relate to some of the permaculture principles and ethics?

Our product and the results they help achieve “tick” pretty much all of the ethics and principles. We didn’t “invent” wicking, rather, we use the natural capillary action of soil and water (Observe and interact) to help grow plants sustainably. Growing food is a great way to help catch and store the energy of our sun. Obtaining a yield is a key component of how and why our product is used. As I look at each of the principles and ethics there is alignment to what our product does and how we run our business – that’s not surprising as one of the product inventors was on the first Permaculture Northern Beaches committee.  

3. Sounds like WaterUps has supported some great community projects over the years which is fantastic. Tell me about some of your favourite projects & why your team gets involved with these?

Gosh! There have been some great projects and new ones come every day. I guess I have a soft spot for the West Pymble Community Garden as this was our very first community food growing project and it was great to help turn a dusty block of land in to a hub where people meet to grow food. More recently, working with Sophie Thomson to support a Community Food Growing garden on Kangaroo Island after the horrendous bush fires “killed” the soil was a special project.

We’re very excited to be working with a number of Urban Agriculture projects to help grow food sustainably for local community (and also teach them how to do it!).At this working bee at the Naremburn Community Garden, WaterUps staff worked with local volunteers to remove an old defunct and rotting timber bed and helped replace it with a new raised bed giving around 4m2 of growing space for locals to grow food (before and after pictured left)

At the Hawkesbury Valley Permaculture Community Garden near Richmond the team worked with local volunteers earlier in the year to help turn a barren waste land in to a thriving community food growing hub with over 100m2 of wicking bed gardens providing the irrigation solution (pictured left).

We get so much from each of the projects we’re involved in and meet some amazing people – I guess the best part of my job is seeing the transformation of the land we work with to produce healthy and happy plants that in turn contribute to improving and contributing to the environment around them.

4. What are some of the biggest challenges you see being faced at present in the community/globe – and how can permaculture & sustainable living support these?

There are people far more skilled and knowledgeable than me that can answer this but from my perspective drought and climate management are then key challenges to be addressed and managed. Whilst focus is rightly on government and large business, I’m also a big believer in the power of a little bit done by a lot of people can also amalgamate to deliver significant change. Waterwise practise, lowering our carbon footprint by growing some of our own food, using less throw away packaging in our homes… the list goes on as to how individuals can really help contribute to positive and meaningful changes. 

5. Why should folks consider wicking beds?

Water wicking as an irrigation method for growing food and plants is a proven and effective way to combat water waste and in time of drought and increasing water use restrictions provides a reliable, low-tech and sustainable watering solution for an increasing number of gardeners and growers. There are many designs available in print and on-line to help people build wicking beds. However, a significant number of these designs rely on sand or scoria/gravel like products to wick the water. As much has been written about the environmental impact of gravel mining and river dredging for sand it’s great to see an Australian made wicking product doing so well that uses neither of these resources and instead makes use of waste plastic by re-purposing it for something useful. The WaterUps From Down Under wicking products are made from re-cycled plastic and can reduce water needs by up to 80% – a recent order from a commercial tomato grower in Austin Texas in the US diverted over 5,500kg of plastic from landfill and will save an estimated 3.5m litres of water in the first year of operations! Most gardens can often be left several weeks without the need for the beds to have additional water added so they are also very popular for gardens that might not be able to be tended to on a regular basis.

6. Anything else you’d like to share?

WaterUps are able to help with advice on designing and building new gardens and also supply a number of how to guides on retro-fitting existing growing spaces to help save water and the time needed to keep gardens happy and healthy.

We are thrilled to offer PA members a 20% discount on a variety of products, with more details here. Not a member of PA? Sign up here today to access a great range of discounts, and help us advocate for permaculture solutions.