When Amir Hossain joined a Permaculture Design Course (PDC) on the edge of the Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazaar some people were surprised. One of the facilitators, Rowe Morrow was not. Amir had not been invited to the PDC but had heard about it and turned up just as it started and sat on the side. He was of course invited to participate.
Jed Walker, from PA’s Permafund Committee talks with Rowe Morrow, Permafund Patron, about supporting the communities in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
“People like Amir just seem to find permaculture” Rowe says, speaking from her home in Katoomba. “He was so keen and he really got it. Near the end of the course, he came and asked for his personal presentation, not of his home or camp, but the primary school where he teaches. He was glowing with enthusiasm because the application of permaculture principles to that land shouted to him. So he came to our hostel and presented to us one evening and then pleaded with us to come and visit the school where he had already started to implement some work around toilets and grey water. We were able to visit the school and assisted with planting the first trees. Amir had the local Imam and mosque community enthusiastic as well.” say Rowe Morrow.
When visiting the site he designed for his primary school, Amir’s expression betrays how crucial it is that this plan becomes a reality. The site, a tiny school, several kilometres from the PDC course he attended, had few plantings and no reliable water source even in the Bangladeshi monsoonal climate. The only water pumped from a nearby river was a slurry from the sand mining operations that constantly erode the surrounding rivers and rice paddies, The landscape itself is already denuded of native forest due the encroachment of the huge refugee camp with its human needs for cooking food, shelter and keeping warm.
The Quaker Service Australia partnered with the Bangladesh Association for Sustainable Development (BASD) to run the course, with a team of permaculture teachers, including Jed and Rowe. When all of the stakeholders met at the site it was decided that a water tank was critical for Amir’s design to succeed.
Permafund provided a micro-grant of $500 and BASD facilitated the transfer to the village for the new tank. The CEO of BASD, Mr Boniface Gomes, tells us that the water tank is now installed at the primary school site, which is crucial to providing safe water with the upcoming monsoon season and current COVID-19 pandemic.
As of June 2020, there are 1772 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Coxs Bazar district (and 40 in the camps), and multiple fatalities reported. With nearly one million people living within a few square kilometres in temporary shelters, the camp is vulnerable to a swiftly spreading outbreak and the imminent monsoon season. The Permafund team hopes that the presence of the water tank and associated permaculture training will assist the communities to respond during this time.
The course Amir attended was one of a series of eight held in Greece, Iraq, Turkey, Bangladesh, and Malaysia for refugees and led by Rowe during 2019/20. Five of these courses were funded by Quaker Services in Australia. One member of the Permafund team, Jed Walker, and Rowe Morrow, Permafund Patron, were part of the teaching team.
PA’s Permafund has provided small grants to dozens of permaculture community projects in Australia and internationally since 2012. Donations over $2 are tax deductable (in Australia) and can be set up as one off or recurring donations. To find out more, including how to donate, please click here. Thank you in advance for your support to PA’s Permafund.