When I first started aid work In East Timor in 1999 my mission was to build some kind of permaculture project that inspired local people and trained local people. As a first stage project, my Timorese counterpart Ego Lemos and I created a small training facility in the grounds of a disused police station in the town of Hera. We ran our first PDC there using surplus Australian Army ration packs as the food. A huge UN tarpaulin was our classroom with the students sitting on wooden pallets.
We had no funds but heaps of enthusiasm. It worked well so we made a plan to run 5 PDC’s per year. Our first field school was born! We expanded as we gained experience.
Since that time I’ve created field schools on all my projects. In East Timor, Indonesia, Uganda, the Philippines and several more countries, the Permaculture Field School is the best way to start. The Field School is basically a working farm, where people come to learn. If you can do it, you can teach it I recon. I see plenty of classroom PDC’s where the students barely touch the soil. Getting into the earth with your hands is a big part of Green Warrior Permaculture. Our style is 50% hands-on training in the field. Sitting in a classroom for 2 weeks sucks!
It doesn’t take a lot of money to build a functional Field School. My current Field School in Mablad started as one thatched bamboo building for a kitchen and the rest of the infrastructure we built as we went. The main thing was we converted the rice paddies to organic and grew more rice there than ever before. The farm itself is a teacher.
To be successful, Field Schools must demonstrate real permaculture. Permaculture only gains credibility if people can see it in action. These are the things to go for when building your own Permaculture Field School:
- Grow food everywhere
- Farm the land using polyculture systems
- Produce more food than the locals do on their land
- Engage the local people through working in the primary schools
- Cook and eat very good food from the produce on the farm
- Integrate animals and aquaculture
- Build innovative infrastructure using locally available materials.
- Incorporate appropriate technology
- Create a training team that provide quality courses
- Run workshops monthly and several PDC’s per year
- Incorporate interns and volunteers in your program
- Use social media to its highest purpose and be honest in the content
- Train the trainers!
- Make it fun!
Becoming an effective Permaculture teacher or Permaculture Aid Specialist requires field training. Our trainers begin as a student on the farm here, work their way up to cadet trainer, and eventually leave when they are ready and build their own field school. They learn a variety of teaching skills and how to write a lesson plan and structure a course. They learn the daily routine of field school management by managing a field school for real. In this line of work “Demonstration is Authority”. By the time they have built a real working farm and field school they have the skills and know-how to teach permaculture.
Each Permaculture Field School must stand on its own. Each must be financially viable. Each may be connected to other Field Schools but they do not control it. Each trainer has his or her own style and methods. If they are good at what they do then the Field School will flourish. If not, then it fades away. We run on the laws of nature. Only the fittest survive and thrive.
Several trainees are currently building more field schools in Asia. Each has a different theme. For example one Field School will focus on gourmet food cooking. Another will focus on eco-tourism. I’m currently building one in Palawan that will focus on indigenous culture.
A trainee can hop from school to school learning different ways to promote and conduct permaculture training. Perhaps you already have a farm. Maybe you want to be a permaculture trainer. Contact me here in the Philippines and sign up to become a real Green Warrior. My email is email@example.com