The new compost toilet looks like a temple. The workers under Ruby Well’s management have managed to build a very stylish compost toilet, something they have never seen before. The kitchen is now equipped with a sink and a fridge and we have a new shower house made of bamboo and mud. Very cool! Everything has been made ready for our next course here in one of the poorest regions of the Philippines.
The Permaculture Aid Certificate course has begun. Students from Australia, the UK, New Zealand, The USA, Ireland and the Philippines arrive in drips and drabs and slowly the class of 2014 forms. I see some lively souls and a few interesting characters among the class (what else would you expect of people wanting to do Permaculture Aid?).
Day one, we get introduced formally and head outside, and grab tools to begin 4 weeks of learning how to conduct Permaculture Aid projects in the field. It’s a hands-on course. The students receive instruction on all the tools they will use. We use a wide range of tools for farming and building. Its interesting to see a mix of nationalities and a mix of international tools.
The Filipinos need little guidance when it comes to a machete. It’s the all-purpose farm tool for a villager here. Digging holes, making a house or harvesting a crop, the machete is kept razor sharp. The locals show the Westerners how to sharpen their machetes on a stone. I show them how to always chop away from their bodies, not towards it when working. I don’t want to have to demonstrate my bush first aid…just yet.
Wet-season bamboo is hauled into the Green Warrior Field School by a huge buffalo. Its Buffalozilla, my co-worker, Lot-Lots farm animal he uses for plowing the rice fields. As good as a pick up truck for this job. The students begin prepping the bamboo to construct their outdoor classroom. Building a makeshift classroom is a skill they will need in the future when they conduct their own aid project. Disaster zones are usually short on buildings. This is the beginning of a “field school”.
A field school can be erected in a day or two. It has a classroom, a kitchen and some pit toilets as the first phase of development. A group of field specialists can erect a field school on a farm, the edge of a damaged village or even a sports field. The aim is to set up a safe base camp to begin training locals how to rebuild their food security, sustainable livelihoods and their ecosystem.
Our local Filipino co-workers show the foreign students how to drill and peg bamboo joints. The joints are lashed with locally available nylon strapping. This new classroom should be able to withstand high winds and heavy rains. Earthquakes are no problem because the structure is strong and flexible.
Our food is healthy local produce with organic red and black rice. The Filipinos are eating colored rice and salads for the first time in their lives in some cases. Salads are rarely eaten in this community. I’m attempting to change that.
Today we are building a home garden at a local woman’s house to demonstrate the capacity of a small well-built garden. Fencing is essential here as most animals lack control so marauding chickens, goats and cows can chew a good garden down in minutes. In the dry season the native chickens are very destructive in a vegetable garden. A strong fence eliminates this problem.
When rebuilding a community after a disaster, food security is a huge priority. A home garden in every home eliminates hunger, improves the family health, kick-starts the local economy and boosts morale, which is often down because of hardship and grief. The wet season is almost over and the students love the hands-on component of this course. We aim to benefit the local community as much as we can during this course. Today is no exception. Ms Juanites gets a new vegetable garden and the students gain a new set of skills. Live training with real benefits to needy people. The next batch of Green Warriors are in the making!