There are many types of permaculture teachers and trainers. In Western countries I see many of the permaculture teachers train mostly in the classroom. In the developing world many people cant read or write or the language barrier gets in the way of a classroom style course. I’ve found, to make people really take to permaculture, you need a working model to teach from. These models must have some cultural reference to the people you are working with, otherwise they’re something alien or foreign. Here in Southern Palawan we are working to lift the indigenous people up out of poverty as part of the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) component of Lionheart Agrotech organic coconut plantation development.
We have built, over the last 8 months, 4 native-style houses. Each house is a working model of a native house that produces its own food. All our houses are built from native materials found in our area, but demonstrate clever improvements and features to upgrade the quality and longevity of the structures. Each house also has its own vegetable garden, waste water system and soon a compost toilet. For our native visitors these working permaculture models have the biggest impact because these people can see they can make the same houses where they live. We call them:
- The tree house
- Head garden managers house
- The Animal managers house
- Bamboo staff house
Our other models include:
- The “Barracks”
The Barracks was our first building using “mud-crete”. With this structure we taught our workers how to use this simple building material made from mud, sand, rice husks and cement. We also encouraged them into using 3-D sculptures on the outer walls to boost their creativity.
- The Compost toilet known as the Eco-Toilet
This important building gives everyone a new model of a safe water-less toilet and a system to catch and store drinking water. Most visitors use this toilet when they come to the field school. Water and sanitation are the 2 most important areas we need to help the native people with as the condition of the local waterways affects everyone here including us.
This simple but effective duck raising system gives us ducks, eggs and an abundant supply of liquid fertilizer. Since we began using the duck pond water for irrigation we have seen a marked rise in soil fertility. The soils are extremely poor here so free organic fertilizer is a key component of gardening and farming in a sustainable system.
- The Free Fertilizer Factory (FFF)
This is our goat house combined with a Vermicast or worm farm. We also have a compost system which pre-composts farm waste before we release it into the Vermicast system. The end result is free, high quality fertilizer and goats.
- The closed Chicken production system
This effective poultry system demonstrates that closed chicken systems produce more eggs and fertilizer. We started with only 7 birds and now we have produced over 50 chickens as well as a good supply of fertilizer for our garden.
- The Pigeon house
This is another simple working model that supplies meat birds as well as high quality pigeon manure for the Vermicast or liquid fertilizer drum.
- The main Kitchen Garden
The kitchen garden supplies mainly salad greens and vegetables for our kitchen in the Green Hall. Surplus vegetables are taken home by the staff. This garden is used to demonstrate the best ways to grow home vegetables using Integrated Pest Management and organic practices instead of systemic agricultural chemicals. It took us several months of trial and error to make the garden productive but finally our hard work has paid off and we now have a working system to teach from.
- The new seedling nursery
This structure is producing vegetable seedlings for our farm and seedlings for our staff and neighbors to use in their gardens.
- The all-weather garden
In any type of weather this garden with its plastic roof can produce enough food for a small family. We built this to demonstrate our solution to climate change events like the extreme heavy rains of last year.
- The wood fired pizza oven
The pizza oven is very popular with our staff and visitors. It enhances any social activity like a meeting or a workshop and makes it easy to bring people together in a fun way. We have several healthy types of pizza we make, which are made from local nutritious ingredients.
- The Rocket stove and meat smoker unit
This model stove can cook three large pots simultaneously using only a small amount of firewood. Inside a native kitchen it is smoke-free and healthier than what people here currently use. The smoke from the fire is channeled into a smoke house for preserving meat, fish and poultry. Many of the native people buy fish to take back to the mountains, which are already starting to go bad. If we can get them to smoke them, they will have preserved the fish for several days.
The Green Hall
The Green Hall is our multifunction hub of our field school. It’s a café, classroom and meeting place. It has a kitchen and a stage for music and live entertainment. There is room for up to 100 people.
We have run an initial 2-week Permaculture Design Certificate course, which had a huge impact on how people perceived our field school, and Lionheart I believe. We have since run a Permaculture Aid Certificate course for another 2 weeks. The mix of local and international students boosts the popularity and effectiveness of our courses.
We have also begun to train 5, specially selected, local people as Permaculture teachers. Our aim is to have local people as trainers here in the next 2 years. Each trainer will take 2 years to train.
Our field school has also had one primary school field trip with 40 children and 7 local teachers. We had amazing feedback. This same school now wants us to help them build a community school garden.
All these working models demonstrate to the local people a better way to use indigenous materials and resources to upgrade their lifestyle and livelihoods. “Demonstration is authority” when you are working to change people with little education. If they see it working then they believe it and they are likely to copy these models in their own farms and homes.
Our 15 local staff are all multi-skilled now. They all can build gardens, houses and animal systems as well as cook a wood fired pizza like a professional. They bring their children to work on Saturdays and they spread the permaculture goodwill back in their communities by relating to their families what they have learned here.
I built my first permaculture field school in 1993 and have built 38 more since in several countries, in extreme conditions from war zones to disaster zones. It is the most effective way to introduce change and innovation into a poor community. Each field school was successful because the working models were living proof that our methods were sound.
If you want to be well trained in permaculture skills we run internships and many types of courses here in the Philippines. If you want to learn Permaculture the hands-on way then come for a visit. We have 2 Permaculture Field Schools in the Philippines, one in Palawan and the other in Antique on the island of Panay. We work and train in the field as we see the Earth as our classroom. Isn’t it time to learn how to grow your own food and heal the planet? Cont me, Steve Cran, at firstname.lastname@example.org