Article of Ania Lawenda and Gabriele Sutera. Permahabitat project funded by Erasmus+ program. Location: The Southern Lights, Greece.
Between the end of September and beginning of October 2019 me and my partner took part to a PDC (Permaculture Design Course) in a 2 hectares farm in Greece. The farm is located in the mountainous peninsula of Peloponnesso, in the Lakonia district, not far from a small village of about 3.000 people, Skala. The course was co-financed by Erasmus + program and coordinated by Naumanni permaculture migrante, an Italian organisation working with adult education in the field of permaculture, agroforestry and landscape management and the Southern Lights the non-profit organisation started by the group who is managing the farm. The farm has been already managed in organics regime for more than a decade and now they intend to grow following agroforestry principle and transform the farm into an educational hub, for young and adults.
We are both in our 30s and in the past months we have been working in a non-profit organisation that runs and maintain and old wooden sailing boat built in 1935, Hawila. How is this project related to permaculture if it does not concern designing for land management and why we decided to take part in the course in Greece?
One of us has a University degree in agricultural development but for the other one the practicalities of cultivating the land and the world of plants was a completely new world to be discovered. Nevertheless, for both the content of the course was bringing new knowledge.
Permaculture is not only and agricultural method, as one of the definition says, permaculture design is “a system of assembling conceptual, material, and strategic components in a pattern which seeks to benefit life in all its forms” (by Bill Mollison, the “father” of of permaculture). It’s a complex and holistic science that researches and let’s us understand not only how to regenerate lands, plant food forests and make nourishing composts for our soils but also gives us designing tools that helps us to both benefit life and create more than we destroy. Permaculture is a science base on ethics, respecting the 3 main principles of earth care, people care and fair share. The knowledge gained during the PDC can help us reflect on how designing systems in which every element benefit and support one another in a functional way. This design approach can also be applied in social design, being a great tool to design organisations’ structures or plan projects.
One of the main premises of a permaculture design is the definition of waste: a product of an element that is not used in a productive way by another element. It’s a simple statement yet it carries a message that can be applied in many levels. Wouldn’t it benefit all of us to have our eyes open for what is being wasted in our organisational, community work and try to see if we can make it become functional instead?
What is especially mindful about permaculture is that it teaches us not to give simple, premade answers to challenges. The solutions always depend on the specific case. In the times that we live in we offer search for instant remedies, instant cures, whereas a permaculture designer will first answer “it depends” and then will take time to observe the object of inquiry, to come up with a functional solution, taking into consideration the planet, the people and fairness. Isn’t it beneficial to all of us and all aspects of our life, all organizations and human conduct we engage in?
Apart from finding universal chords in almost all permaculture design content we were also introduced to the permaculture related social studies researching on deep democracy theories, holistic management, community based decision-making practices like dragon dreaming or alternative economies.
Permaculture design course is rich in knowledge and tools that can benefit all of us, regardless of occupation, passions, relations to land and plant world. For the times we live in it offers an interesting alternative to the mainstream ways of designing our life, teaches us how to make the world a better place recognizing how its elements are interconnected and dependent on each others well being.
We will definitely use some of the ideas and tools not only to take more seriously our dreams of cultivating a land but also to make the organization we are engaged in now stronger. We are grateful for being able to take part in the course, it was a delight to be a part of it!