Apprenticeship opportunities in Tampa Bay

August 22, 2012 by Koreen  
Filed under Grow Permaculture, Projects

We are offering apprenticeship or “shadowing” opportunities to course students in several exciting projects we have ongoing. We are working on all of these from the Tampa Bay area, Florida. There is a lot happening, a lot that needs to be done and if we work together, the sky is the limit!

- Plan and implement a permaculture design for a city park.

- Plan and stage multiple food forests designs for Pine Ridge reservation.

- Work with Greenwood neighborhood on planning a permaculture community garden, and get it created.

- Help with fall planting and ongoing care for an expanding permaculture edible perennials nursery.

- Work on creating and expanding financial permaculture models, including innovative urban farming cooperative ventures, link-up, beneficial connection and integration of permaculture energies around the Bay for mutual benefit, start up businesses that get support from the existing community, time banking, etc.

- Work on community projects, including art gardens, neighborhood place-making, etc.

Pine Ridge food sovereignty 2011

August 23, 2011 by Koreen  
Filed under Pine Ridge Reflections, Projects

We focused on the natural world this year at Pine Ridge, immersing ourselves in nature awareness and communion with the land.

horses 2 and 3 079p

It started with the arrival of over 100 wild horses rescued for release on 8000 acres of prairie stewarded by Oglala-Lakota Cultural and Economic Revitilization Initiative. Nothing could embody the spirit of freedom via self-sufficiency that we’re striving for more than to watch, from the garden, this wild herd in full gallop across the range – purely because they feel like it. Our breath ends up in our throat regularly in response to the beauty and majesty of this animal.

We had many chances to watch the behavior of the wild herd and learn design lessons from it.  We’ll share some of those in future articles.

As beautiful and intriguing the horses are, our biggest focus for this year was food sovereignty.  Pine Ridge is a “food desert”, with almost no grocery stores on the rez (many people travel 1 hour or more to Rapid City, paying huge sums in fuel costs as well as for groceries), and almost no local, fresh food available. There are small, positive changes being made, and we made connections with some other great organizations on the rez also working on this issue – Roots and Shoots has installed several community gardens in Kyle and other areas, and Thunder Valley is engaging the community in discussions about the subject, raising awareness and gathering information on needs and resources.  They have also helped create more access to the few farmer’s markets on the rez.  The Pine Ridge Fire Dept is growing a community garden and giving the food away to the public, and this will be a good outlet for our excess crops as well.

Our goal was to make what we did in our garden as relevant and useful for others as possible, and we’ve been gathering information about what people are struggling with in trying to grow food on the rez for a couple of years now.

We decided to completely redo the garden (as the original wasn’t designed for water catchment) and create an experimental site in order to find out exactly what people deal with in the harsh climate of the plains.

A common gardening method here is what could be described as  ”scorched earth.” In an effort to keep pests from finding the garden, people mow down the prairie grass for dozens of feet surrounding it, leaving the soil exposed to dry winds and baking sun in the summer, and erosion in the wet season. We decided to try to see what would happen if we let succession happen naturally and worked with nature instead of against her, letting the “weeds” grow near the garden.

We sheet mulched about 1/4 acre with composted manure (plenty of it on the ranch), and straw, cut a swale, measured out a pond, and cut paths to capture rainwater and send it into the garden.

We created two small greenhouses out of pallet boxes and old clear tarp lying around. They didn’t warm things up much, but they protected young seedlings from wind, hail and creatures.  We planted more than 80 species of heirloom veggie, herb and flower seeds, to see how each would do in this particular environment, and started a spreadsheet to keep track of results.

Because we didn’t do the scorched earth thing, our garden filled up quickly with pigweed, lambsquarter, the dreaded goathead and wild sunflowers.  Pigweed and lambsquarter are very edible and also dynamic accumulators, and the pig loves them. So we let them stay and added their nutrition to our salads and potherb dishes.

Goathead is another matter. It is a ground cover pioneer species that spawns a vicious burr that has two giant spikes on it like devils horns, or goat’s horns (thus the name), sharp enough to flatten a bicycle tire or leave a gaping, bleeding wound in your foot.  The manure we used for the sheet mulch was inundated with goathead seeds. So we weeded a lot more than we usually do.  Normally we would have just mulched it into non-existence, but we also wanted to try out numerous heirloom veggie and herb species this year, and we got a late start for a number of reasons,  so we left the beds uncovered to plant seeds and seedlings. Next year, our strategy will be to let the goathead come up while growing seedlings in the greenhouse and allowing the soils to warm up,  mulch it down, then plant in the mulch.  That way, we should avoid having to weed at all, while adding fertility and protection to the soil.

By pushing the system, opening it to pests and weather, we discovered which varieties did well and which didn’t. We also learned a tremendous amount about the challenges people face when trying to grow vegetables in this tough climate (hot, dry summers, very cold winters, hail the size of baseballs sometimes, strong, dry winds, only a three to four month frost-free window, heavy clay-silt soils, and tons of pests – every plant chomping and sucking insect you could think of seems to live here, and some I had hardly imagined! The abundance of insect life is quite impressive).  Though it took some courage because we knew we would probably lose crops, we wanted to deal with what we’ve seen the average gardener dealing with her, and see how hard it would be to get those factors under control, starting from an imbalanced system.

We had visits from just about every pest that must exist in these parts. That was interesting, as I have rarely had to deal with pests in the balanced systems we set up.  But, from our surveys done last year, we found that many people do deal with them on the rez and handling them organically seems difficult.  So, what works once they are in the system and active?

We wrote an article about our findings, here:

http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=269916073035044

We spent many hours researching suitable plant species for the area – which are invasive? Which are toxic to horses or cows? (many of our favorite nitro fixers and other permaculture staples are toxic to horses – we now have a pretty thorough list). Which are easy to grow, drought and cold tolerant, nutritious and healthy, similar to what people already eat and like, etc?  We came up with a list we were excited about (and still are – some of the things on the list did really well – for instance, we now have several hundred sunchoke plants on our swales and will be adding many more next year – a real survival native crop that grows well under a wide range of conditions found here.  Bonus – the inulin in them helps with diabetes, something that 60% of the people on the rez suffer from).

In the midst of planting and caring for the garden, mid-June, we got a hot tip about some bare root trees that could be bought for almost nothing. We were planning to do a food forest, and this seemed to be a perfect opportunity to get the wind break trees we needed to create a suitable microclimate for the more delicate fruit trees we’ve wanted to plant on the plains.  We ended up getting more than 600 trees – 400+ honey locusts alone.

Getting 600 trees planted fast when you weren’t planning on it can be a bit of a challenge!  Since they were bare root and it was late in the season, soon to become hot and dry, we couldn’t take our time about it – we had about three days before trees started dying.

We received some amazing assistance from Bryan Deans, head of OLCERI, who commandeered getting 600 holes dug with his bobcat in only a few hours, and from three volunteers, Dave Karp, Felicia Hobart and Dani Slabaugh, all of who worked extra long hours to make it happen.  We got some key natives into the food forest system such as buffalo berry, hackberry, and cottonwood, and other edibles like rugosa rose, caragena, elderberry, and hawthorn.  And windbreaks up in many of the major areas (though we still need cedars, which will come next year).

Many of these trees can be easily propagated, so next year, we will create dozens of pots to give out to people who need windbreaks and/or fodder.  Already, we have a number of requests from others on the rez for honey locusts and some of the others for next spring.

The trees are beautiful – leaves swaying in the wind and new growth shooting up faster than usual (probably because of the mychrorrhizia we soaked the roots in and added to the soil).  We can’t wait until next spring when the sweet fragrence and flowers of 400 honey locusts will fill the area.  This tree has so many uses – it is great fodder for animals, much of it is edible for humans, but perhaps its strongest quality for the mostly treeless prairie is the wood, which grows rapidly and does not rot. It can be used for posts for fences, for firewood (which can be lifesaving in prairie winters), or for round beams in buildings. We visited a greenhouse earlier in the year in Wisconsin that is built from raw trunk wood of black locust, which has similar properties. The architecture is beautiful, and there is a lot less waste of wood. We can coppice honey locust trees for the wood without killing them, and continue to enjoy their beauty for many years.  Another possible bonus is that they may fix nitrogen. Though their roots do not collect the nodules usually associated with nitrogen fixers, and some people insist they do not fix nitrogen, there is scientific evidence that they do bring nitrogen to the soil. We’ll be watching how other plants do around them, next year.

We created a list for a seven layer food forest that focuses on native and traditional edibles and medicinals of the Lakota, as well as a wide variety of fruit and nut trees that grow in this climate zone. We are trying a few species that grow in warmer zones, to see how we do with our microclimates.  In an area with extremely harsh winters (wind chill of down to -50 F, wide temperature swings, early and late frosts, etc),  this is a special challenge.  We would love hearing from and exchanging knowledge with people who have food forest experience in this type of climate!

Some of our plants did splendidly well, growing with wild exuberance and abundance, while others struggled with the climate and soils. We’re documenting the heirloom varieties that do the best, so we can share that knowledge with the rest of the rez (and publicly, via our web site).  Again, we’re very interested in hearing from others who are gardening in W South Dakota or NW Nebraska climates, their successes, their favorite varieties, etc.  Please feel free to post on our page or share on our facebook page at
Grow Permaculture

Our other major project was documenting some of the wild edibles on the prairie. We explored our pasture and the larger range, documenting wild medicinals and edibles and where they are to be found. This has only begun, but we found many wonderful species and will be continuing that project next year. We’re sharing some of our findings on our partner Facebook site at facebook.com/olceri.  Check out the photo albums on our Facebook sites, of our gardens, food forests, horses, Pine Ridge life, and more.

Permaculture Disaster Relief in Haiti

November 24, 2010 by Koreen  
Filed under Sustainable solutions in Haiti

Camp at Delmas - this is only a small portion of it

Camp at Delmas - this is only a small portion of it

It’s been a while since we’ve updated about Haiti – below is a summary of what occurred from the time of the earthquake forward. We’re in planning stages now on the next phase and will post information about that as soon as plans are implemented. Our main focus currently is getting education out about how to prevent and treat cholera, using low tech methods and inexpensive or free resources. We’ll post that here too, in the next couple of days. We are deeply grateful to all of you who donated and made this journey possible – your donations did save many lives and they continue to do so. Here is the summary report:

***

When the earthquake hit Haiti last January, I was teaching a permaculture course in Little Haiti, Miami, and there seemed to be no choice but to get involved. After assessing what was most needed, I assisted six permaculturists and sustainability experts to get to Port Au Prince shortly after the earthquake and this is their story.

After receiving reports on the ground, we determined that the major life threatening situations were water and sanitation. There were no city wide water or sewage systems in place before the earthquake, and water borne disease had always been a situation but in the chaos after the quake, the risk became dire. We knew that resources would be almost non-existent in some areas and rescue organizations might not reach those areas for weeks. Permaculture had solutions, using local resources, that others didn’t have for handling human waste and unfiltered water.

Port Au Prince airport, the only international airport near the quake zone was closed to everything but military and rescue planes, and other ways into the quake zone, such as the road from Dominican Republic, were unpredictable – many roads had sustained damage in the quake. I arranged for the teams to fly into Port Au Prince via planes chartered by Church of Scientology Volunteer Ministers disaster relief organization to bring emergency medical teams there from the US. They would stay at the Volunteer Minister camp and have a relatively safe, established base camp to operate from (though conditions were very primitive and harsh, at first). They would also have ready access to other disaster organizations, military personnel, and government officials, which would allow them to be more effective. This worked out well with the teams rapidly creating connection with major hospitals, UNICEF, US Army, ACTED and other major organizations – all of them needed their specialized skills.

The goal was to save lives by getting low tech, sustainable solutions out there rapidly, while establishing relationships with both Haitians and NGOs that could be developed in the future for longer term design projects.

The first team that arrived was Mark Illian and Monika Cikhart, from Nature Healing Nature (naturehealingnature.org), a non profit organization that specializes in teaching villages around the world how to filter water via low tech methods, using locally available materials such as sand and plastic bottles. The second wave was made up of Rodrigo Silva, a permaculturist and sanitation specialist from Portugal who has built compost toilets for 30,000 people at a time at European festivals; Nicole-Klaesener Metzner, another compost toilet specialist from Austria, and Andrew Larsen, a systems engineer and sustainable sanitation expert from Salt Lake City. They were flown into Haiti within a few days of responding and were in high demand immediately. Hunter Heaivilin, a permaculturist and tropical plant expert, arrived a few weeks after the quake and stayed for several weeks.

Andrew, Rodrigo and Nicole bound for Haiti

Andrew, Rodrigo and Nicole bound for Haiti

The “water team” of Nature Healing Nature immediately set to work educating people on how to filter their own water. They worked with the sanitation team, but also on their own when it made sense to do so, traveling where the need was greatest, such as to Leogane which was getting little assistance or relief. Because water filtration has traditionally been poor in Haiti, their educational work had quite a lot of potential to save lives – the death rate from dysentery and other water borne diseases, especially of children, was high even before the earthquake. In addition to helping provide a clean water supply, they set up showers for rescue workers, such as medical personnel who hadn’t been able to shower for days, they helped Haitians link up to organizations that had funding and resources, they helped organize emergency food and water distribution, and did whatever was necessary to facilitate the process of Haitians getting back on their feet as sustainably as possible.

Many people who survived the quake but were injured were losing limbs or dying because of the horrible sanitation in the makeshift hospitals. All the hospitals in the area were damaged and operations were occurring in makeshift tents with improvised instruments. There were not enough doctors so rescue workers with no medical background or experience were instantly deputized to act as surgeon assistants. There was so much chaos that it is hard to comprehend. Piles of garbage were heaped near the operating theatres and recovery areas, and it was difficult to keep the areas clean or sterile because of lack of medical supplies or any other supplies.

The sanitation team’s first major project was the main general hospital in Port Au Prince, where sanitation was almost completely out of control. Huge piles of garbage surrounded the hospital with everything from human feces to body parts to needles to toxic substances in the mass. The toilets were backed up, filthy, and unusable. Our team worked out how to clean the area and arranged for trucks to haul the trash (it was a major feat at that time to get fuel, never mind a truck to put it in); they set up proper disposal systems, and got funding to pay local Haitians to clean the trash sites so that tents could be set up to treat patients in a clean environment. They were not able to set up compost toilets there, as the hospital was under great pressure and staff didn’t want to risk anything but known elements like portapotties, but they were able to educate a number of disaster and rescue personnel on the advantages of composting human waste.

Clean up at the General Hospital

Clean up at the General Hospital

Hospital tent is on clean ground with sanitary conditions established

Hospital tent is on clean ground with sanitary conditions established

As a result of their work, an inspection of the site found almost no garbage anywhere in the vicinity of the hospital. This most certainly contributed to saving lives and limbs.

Their next target was sanitation for a nearby camp. A huge handicap was lack of materials – there was almost no wood or organic material available anywhere. Andrew had brought in material to create a compost toilet system, but they ended up using different models because there simply wasn’t enough building material available. They improvised, using shipping pallets and whatever material they could find.

Their initial target was to isolate human waste so it wouldn’t contaminate water. In the process, they taught Haitians how to build compost toilets and explored how organic material could be created by growing fast growing plants like vetiver grass and bamboo (both of which grow readily in Haiti). In between, because of the extreme need, they helped distribute food and water, and did anything else that was needed. They inspected wells with the US Army, they taught rescue workers how to build safe latrines for their camps, they built showers, they worked with UNICEF to assess sanitation needs for orphanages. Feedback from rescue workers were that their skill sets were perceived as very, very valuable, they were quite grateful they had come, and they would welcome permaculturists and low tech, sustainable solutions at any disaster site.

1500 people line up for supplies, Jean Lucho assists the team

1500 people line up for supplies, Jean Lucho joins the team

The first few weeks were filled with chaos and triage situations. It took courage and dedication to deal with the conditions they operated under – these guys are tough! But even under the most extreme conditions, many seeds were planted and beneficial connections were made. And lives were saved! Most of the long term design work to create sustainable systems started many weeks after the disaster, however.

Cooking for 3000

Cooking for 3000

As systems become more established in Port Au Prince, Rodrigo started organizing and attending meetings to create recycling in Port Au Prince. The waste streams are impressive – millions of plastic water bottles shipped in during rescue efforts, cardboard, tent material, etc. He experimented with paper brickets, which replace charcoal in the ubiquitous open cook stoves that are destroying forests in Haiti.

Results of recycling class

Results of recycling class

Nicole started working for an NGO and got them to use arbor loos in one of the camps. Andrew connected with the Give Love project (givelove.org) in Cite Soleil, and helped build a compost toilet system for a camp of 2500 people , with a team made up of Joe Jenkins, Rodrigo, and other humanure experts. PDC student from Little Haiti in Miami, Paule Jacques, hooked the project up with her contact, Minister of the Environment of SE Haiti, Jean Ked Neptune, who connected Mark and Monika, Hunter and Rodrigo with Haitian non-profits, so they could “teach the teachers” sustainable methods of growing food and handling water and waste with workshops. Rodrigo, who is still in Haiti, has continued to build compost toilets, teach people about composting and set up recycling systems for various organizations.

Compost class with Hunter

Compost class with Hunter

Rodrigo teaches compost toilet class to Haitian non-profit group

Rodrigo teaches compost toilet class to Haitian non-profit group

At first, these were made of pallets and whatever could be scrounged. Rodrigo inspects

At first, these were made of pallets and whatever could be scrounged

Kids are first in line to use the compost toilet

Kids are first in line to use the compost toilet

I traveled to Haiti in May 2010 to assess the projects and the situation in Port Au Prince at that point, and to connect with Jean Ked. I felt that training Haitians in permaculture was key, and was able to fund a trip to Pine Ridge for the Minister of the Environment and his associate to do the Permaculture Design Course there. We felt Pine Ridge was a very appropriate venue because of similar conditions of watersheds, economics, and degraded landscapes. Ked has started a vermicomposting project that will link into creating a stable local economy as well as revitalizing degraded lands, and intends to do village sized permaculture projects. We continue to work with him and others in the area to help facilitate their projects.

Haitians assess the site at Pine Ridge PDC

Haitians assess the site at Pine Ridge PDC

Because of the connections we made through this project, we’ve been able to link up several permaculture resources across the country with each other so they can exchange energies, and we’re currently assisting in the organization of a database of all things permaculture in Haiti, so that more beneficial connection can be achieved.

All in all, the project was a success, with a number of things coming from it that will continue to propagate and fruit. It is likely, for instance, that the low tech methods of purifying water, and education on how to prevent water contamination from human waste may be saving lives as the cholera epidemic unfolds. We continue our efforts to educate people on these techniques.

Though the chaos of the immediate aftermath of a disaster of this magnitude is not conducive to design and planning work, the rescue team is glad that they could be there to help when it was so desperately needed. Many seeds have been planted that will continue to fruit into more sustainable systems.


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Impressions of Haiti

November 22, 2010 by Koreen  
Filed under Sustainable solutions in Haiti

(from a visit in May, 2010)

Four months after the earthquake, the streets of Port Au Prince are filled with people selling things, repairing things, walking somewhere, doing something. There is a semblance of normalcy in the city, a mixture of passion for life, purpose and perhaps resignation. But signs of the earthquake remain obvious.

Driving through Port Au Prince at night, the broken houses and rubble and garbage in the streets appear ghost like and ethereal. The people stay vibrant and real, colorful in the headlights, enjoying the respite from the hot sun.

We stop at a checkpoint in the middle of the street – there has been an increase in kidnappings and NGO employees are under curfew – some must be in their homes or hotels by 6 PM. The victims are always released unharmed – kidnappings in Haiti have their own rules and politics. Injustice, economic and otherwise, often drives such actions.

What strikes me more than anything else about Port Au Prince and surrounding areas is the calm purpose one finds in every neighborhood, every street, to bring order back into the chaos that prevailed after the earthquake.

Tent cities are ubiquitous – in parks, in empty lots, on the rubble of destroyed buildings, or in the streets themselves, blocking already narrow lanes, you cannot drive for five minutes without seeing one. Most people now have real tents, or at least rain proof tarps, but some are still using sheets. Port Au Prince is sheltered by mountains and a bay which mitigates the winds but a major effort was in progress to relocate tens of thousands of people whose tents were likely to be washed away or flooded out in major rainstorm, as the rainy season progresses. Only 100 tent cities are on the list. We visited one city of 2500 in a flood plain that isn’t on the list – there are no plans to move it.

Cite Soleil camp

Cite Soleil camp

A new addition to Port Au Prince is the rubble from thousands of houses which spills onto sidewalks and streets and empty lots as they are demolished to make room for new construction. One of the major agencies is supposed to arrange to pick it up, but there seems to be a never ending supply of it – virtual mountains of urbanite, which landslide in the heavy daily rains and block the roads. The people are cleaning up and rebuilding their city with hand tools and wheelbarrows, piece by piece.

Those that can afford it are building smarter – they have all seen which houses stayed standing in the earthquake and which ones didn’t (the old style gingerbread houses are almost all still standing). Those who can’t afford better grades of concrete and construction materials are rebuilding the same way they did it before, or building shacks made out of scraps or if they’re really lucky, they scored a shipping container.
When assessing needs and resources, the waste stream becomes an obvious abundance that could remedy a number of scarcities. Garbage is everywhere – there are literally mountains of plastic bottles, sawdust, cardboard and other garbage in every neighborhood. Per one person we spoke with, there is only one small recycling facility in Port Au Prince.

DSCN0610

As we landed in Port Au Prince, we flew over thousands of shipping containers that could be used for earthquake and hurricane resistant housing sitting at docks next to several large tent cities.

Driving through the city, we see people carrying logs only 2” in diameter, to rebuild houses (per my Haitian friend, the trees do not get any bigger before being chopped down). I saw hundreds of cookstoves lined up on sidewalks, burning biochar created from the remnants of the jungle, the lifeblood of the land burned to cook imported rice in a country that used to grow enough rice to be a significant exporter, before economic manipulation destroyed the rice industry. Farmers became loggers, and now the mountains are barren and the rivers full of silt, what is left of rich jungle soils.

“What can the people do?” one Haitian woman said to me. “They need shelter! They need to cook their food!”

Millions of cookstoves burn trees of Haiti

Millions of cookstoves burn trees of Haiti

The Director for the Ministry of the Environment in Jacmel, introduced to permaculture by one of our PDC graduates, Paule Jacque, discourages solutions that use wood at all, because of the concern that people will continue to cut trees. Thus sawdust and rocket stoves are perceived as not the best solutions possible though certainly an improvement over what is used now. We plan to experiment with sawdust stoves using rice husks and other material. One solution I found was the high efficiency Lucia stove created by World Stoves and produced in a local Haitian factory. Using a vortex technology, it burns almost anything efficiently (garbage, fruit rinds, rice husks, etc) and produces biochar, which can be used in a program to remediate depleted soils. Another solution being experimented with by some of our team are brickets made of waste paper and other flammables from the waste stream. While not an ideal or long term solution, it can be a transitional program. With few recycling facilities in Port Au Prince, it is better than putting it in a landfill. And it saves trees.

We are driving down a steep road coming from one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Port Au Prince. The road headed downward is empty except for us, but a long string of newer model jeeps and SUVs is parading up the hill headed for the estate compounds in the hills. “Those are the NGO’s” my friend informed me. “Some Haitians won’t rent to other Haitians because they get more money from the rescue agencies – in some cases $10,000 US per month. They pay US and European rates.” Her Haitian friend, in the car with us, was having trouble finding a place to rent, though she had money. Even Haitians that can afford to pay rent can’t find housing sometimes because they are displaced by foreign employees of foreign NGOs.

The barriers to getting things done in Port Au Prince can be complex and formidable. I’ve only been here a few days, but already I’ve been stranded by flooding, which caused me to miss a key meeting, stranded by a fuel shortage (the fuel was available offshore, but not allowed into PaP for some reason – political, per some Haitian friends), prevented from reaching another meeting by a strike, dehydrated, and bitten by plenty mosquitos.

But yet I am struck by a sense of order. In the camps, Comites (committees) have been elected to coordinate needs and resources, flood mitigation, medical care and other logistics. Neighborhoods spontaneously organized themselves shortly after the quake and neighbors took care of each other and their area. Children in impeccably neat school uniforms are seen in most neighborhoods, and I marvel at how impeccably clean everyone is, considering so many are living in camps with shortages of showers, the dust from the rubble can be intense, and the rains turn it into sticky mud. Most of the streets were kept clear enough of rubble, tents and other debris to be passable, which was quite a feat, with the rains especially. Garbage was being collected in some areas, markets were thriving, and the sense of purpose was palpable.

“Tap tap” buses are always evident even when there is little fuel, a symbol of optimism we see in so many places in spite of the grim circumstances.

DSCN0257

Jobs are almost non-existent but everybody is selling something, it seems. I wonder where they get both the goods and the money.

While Haitians are only paid $3-10 per day “cash for work” as part of the rescue effort, to clean up rubble and garbage , money is trickling into the economy via high prices for foreigners (on the street, there is one price given to foreigners, another one for rich Haitians, and another for poor Haitians). I took a 15 minute taxi ride to an NGO meeting which cost $40 US, more than twice what it would have cost in NYC. When I queried the price, the driver firmly said, “This is the going rate for NGO’s”. With $10 billion in aid slated to Haiti and very little of it actually entering the local economy even now, Haitians are tapping into it where they can, via the salaries and operating budgets of relief agencies.
The media states that the World Bank and other major funders of the relief effort will be largely running the country on a de facto basis, bypassing the government and the local business community. No surprise, but disappointing – Haiti is a country as yet relatively untouched by multinational corporate chains and heavy commercial development.

There is much opportunity for permaculture in Haiti – hillsides in Port Au Prince are dotted with the Haitian version of three sisters – corn, pigeon pea and squash or melon, plus various herbs and other vegetables. We found out later this was a result of a successful urban farming program from the early 90’s. We saw many mango and neem trees as well as mangosteen, noni, soursop, moringa and other potential value-added foods. Because it is so mountainous, microclimates abound in Haiti – almost anything tropical or semi-tropical could grow here if there is soil. Haitians are already accustomed to low tech solutions and if something works, its use can spread rapidly through grassroots.

Beans with overstory of banana, breadfruit and coconut and mulch of sawdust and coconut coir

Beans with overstory of banana, breadfruit and coconut and mulch of sawdust and coconut coir

In the countryside, housing is similar to traditional quincha mejorada houses in Central America – made of sticks and earth, the houses can withstand weather and even earthquakes. If bamboo is used instead of sticks, this type of housing becomes sustainable and easy to build. With the right earth plasters, it can be made to resemble the popularly accepted concrete housing in Port Au Prince.

Earthen house

Earthen house

Broadscale reforestation and erosion control is vital – at one time Haiti was the breadbasket of the Caribbean, supplying food for many other countries. Now it imports much of its food and continues to deplete its soils by cutting trees. Many reforestation projects have failed because they did not include human systems in the design process. By incorporating economic solutions, we can ensure that forests remain, once planted. There is opportunity in disaster because systems need to be rebuilt, and can be rebuilt sustainably.
DSCN0570

We are in planning stages on a Haitian reforestation project that incorporates sustainable human systems (financial and social permaculture, self-sufficient food, water, shelter and energy), and are interested in networking and cooperation with other projects. One of our projects is to assist in putting together a database of permaculture resources in or connected with Haiti. For more information on the database, write to: Olivia Jeanne, oj@veya.org

There is much work to be done but many hands to do it. Perhaps what touched me most of all was the optimism I encountered. In spite of the suffering Haitians have endured, when offered channels to improve their condition, interest and enthusiasm rise to the surface.

Country street

Country street

Jacmel

Jacmel


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What do we base our course pricing on?

June 8, 2010 by Koreen  
Filed under Grow Permaculture, Projects

Hillside in Haiti

Hillside in Haiti

A few people have asked what we base our fees on for our courses. Some believe that permaculture education should be very inexpensive or free so that it is accessible to as many people as possible.  There are many viewpoints about this, and we believe that multiple viewpoints on this topic, like any other, are healthy for the system and there is room for all of them.

This is how we view the subject for ourselves and why:

Our work is focused on assisting some of the highest poverty and most oppressed areas on the planet, which are also very culturally rich with much to offer.  We focus on projects that regenerate degraded lands and devastated economies so these communities can become self-sufficient and experience resilient abundance.  Our methods are focused on connecting resources and knowledge and putting them in the hands of the people at grass roots level so they can create their own destinies within their own cultural context.

Post earthquake camp, Cite Soliel, Haiti

Post earthquake camp, Cite Soliel, Haiti

We offer our courses and services for free to individuals from those impoverished areas and also bring resources into those environments to assist in the process of regeneration.

We invite students from outside those communities to participate, and charge them rates comparable to similar courses in order to help fund our work in those areas.  We feel this is a better way to do it than grant monies, where possible, as it gives us more freedom to remain maximally flexible and responsive to the needs and resources of the communities.  Please see our blogs in this section for descriptions of some of the work we are engaged in, particularly at Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota and Haiti, post earthquake.

Pine Ridge reservation public housing

Pine Ridge reservation public housing

Our instructors are some of the most knowledgeable and respected available and often charge top consultant rates for teaching. They are worth it because they can impart knowledge far more deeply, quickly and accurately than someone with less knowledge and experience could do.

We provide a number of extras with our courses that many organizations do not provide, such as rich cultural experiences, apprenticeship opportunities, community building, web promotion for graduates, etc.

Our courses are well worth the fees from a purely practical investment viewpoint, because the knowledge and experience gained should save you far more than the course fee within a few weeks or months if you apply it to your life.

Please know that your course fees are what allow us to continue with our work in devastated areas, and that we strive to make your investment well worth your while by trying to go above and beyond in delivering not just information, but rich life experience that you will always remember.

Teaching students to compost, Port Au Prince, Haiti

Teaching students to compost, Port Au Prince, Haiti

Building a root cellar for food security, Pine Ridge

Building a root cellar for food security, Pine Ridge

Miami students continue to expand

March 30, 2010 by Koreen  
Filed under Grads in Action, Miami PDC

Roots in the City Overtown project is now offering a Farmer’s Market from 1-4 every Wednesday.  Overtown is the Harlem of Miami, with a rich history of culture, that has been economically devastated by a freeway running through the middle of it and a number of other factors.  PDC student Maggy Pons is working on six gardens in Overtown which will provide fresh, organic food and economic stimulus to the neighborhood. Food stamp purchases are doubled at the market, encouraging consumption of healthy, organic food and the support of locally grown food.

Marcus Thomson will be holding an Intro to Permaculture lecture Tuesday, April 27, from 7-9 PM.

You will learn common sense easy application techniques on sustainability along with the joy and wonder of a vibrant future you can create for yourself and others! Contact Marcus (Deva) for early registration. Love, peace and light…
Location: The Sacred Space
Address: 100 NE 25th Street in Wynwood
Contact: 954-856-3775
Cost: $60 at door, $30 in Advance! (that’s 50% off!)

More info at:  http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=110372132314453

Permaculture as a career

March 21, 2010 by Koreen  
Filed under Florida Earthship PDC grads

IMG_0487

From Florida Earthship PDC grad Diann Dirks:  It was so sweet to be reminded of our Permaculture course in Fla. last March. Since then I have been using so much of what I learned and integrated there.

Right after completing the course I taught 3 series of classes in organic gardening – 13 classes all told at the local libraries and at a local forming sustainable farm. I became a the paid consultant on the creation of a community garden for a Jewish Temple, consulted at a CSA to increase yield, as well as a multitude of private gardens. And one of my students formed a CSA after taking my classes. I created my own school, Mother’s School of Self-Reliance, which has taken off, and I have been giving classes between one and three course days a week since January. Classes have included hand sewing, sprout bag making, sprout bag growing, sprout bread making, and seed propagation classes.

I have also incorporated so much of what I learned in putting in 1800 sq. feet more garden space. And I have been growing some food all winter, even in sub-freezing weather.

Soon after the course I set up a community garden in our own area and am the director. Since then we have acquired a 22′x60′ professional steel green house which is being built this spring on site of the garden for propagation and year-round growing of food.

I also founded a local farmers market that enjoyed a successful season last year, and participated and help found another one beginning this fall into winter, and participated in one all last summer selling instant raised bed gardens which helped over 100 new garden beds be set up in people’s yards where they had never gardened before or extended already growing gardens.

I have been interviewed twice on the radio, and have been writing articles for the local newspaper on sustainable issues all year and have my own column now called “Surviving the Times”.

I’m going to be on the panel of the film “Fresh” tomorrow after the film is shown, and have a booth where I will be promoting my school, community garden, and selling seeds.

I founded last year’s first City of Auburn Garden Expo and did a seminar on Permaculture Princliples to about 25 people.

Our teacher Wayne (Weisman) told me I should teach so I have been.

And I have grown enough food and herbs over the last year to provide a vast amount of food for myself and my husband, as well as sell at the farmers market. I have a .7 acre steep hillside yard which is 1/3 zone 5 (wild), with a house and large lawn which gradually I have been converting into garden by raised beds and terracing.

Anyone visiting the Atlanta area need only call for a tour. 678 261 8141

Best,

Diann Dirks, Certified Permaculture Designer

Taste of Freedom Farm

CIMG0046Andrew Wolfe wasted no time using the techniques he learned about in the permaculture course held at the Florida Earthship in March of 2009.  His goal is to get completely off the grid and make a living from what he produces in his yard. He named his urban Pinellas County homestead “Taste of Freedom Farm”, and in a few months has created a fish farming pond, planted citrus trees, grape vines, blueberries and a raised bed garden with rainwater catchment, composting bins, greenhouse, roof-top beehives, chicken coop and brooder box, duck house, a well, and wood source for his Franklin stove.

Here’s a note from Andrew about his project:

Thanks for the interest in my progress. I have not yet found it necessary to hire a board of directors to help manage my vast enterprise. But I have since the start of my little endeavor, seen almost nothing but advances and very few set-backs to acheive success.

My background has been in construction. I was a sheet-metal worker for 6 years and before that a renovater. My choice to change direction was fueled directly by my reading. I’m an avid reader of the classics and early American literature. I was reading some founder comments when I ran across one quote that struck a chord with me. It read “A person who wants to be ignorant and free, wants what never was and never will be”-Thomas Jefferson. It was at that point I reflected on whether my intrinsic right to be free made me free in actuality or just in theory. I rationalized it in this way; I may in fact be free to take a stroll down my street, but am I actually taking the stroll, or just sitting on my rear thinking about it. I was done wearing the vestiges of freedom without being so. All of it was hinged on me providing for myself. And all though it’s a very respectable thing to go to work and make a living wage, and as a result of your labors bring home bread for the table, you can never be certain that your job will be there forever. The stability of my lifestyle was rooted in the stability of my job, the stability of my job in the stability of the economy. There were far too many things in control of my destiny! So I set out to find what I could do to start to provide for myself and my family in a way the was tangible and concrete. The answer???—Overwhelmingly AGRICULTURE!!!! The wellspring of  functional freedom in society in my humble opinion is Agriculture. So I set about learning the “trade” so-to-speak. I have learned a basic working knowledge of: gardening, fish farming, beekeeping, and the raising and keeping of chickens and ducks. My hope is to try and be as self reliant as possible. The attainment of that final goal is yet to be had but the pursuit is a pleasure, and that is success.

CIMG0047

To answer the specific questions you had

1-I have been tending bees for about 8 months now.

2-I decided to sell the honey when I found out it had value:)

3-My plans for the future are to expand my honey production by finding more suitable bee yards within the county, increase the number of stores it’s available at, and lastly, which happens to be the most ambitious, try to show people the value of providing for themselves.

4- People can find my “Taste of Freedom Farm Honey” at Rollin’ Oats on 9th St, Natures Food Patch on Cleveland in Clearwater, and many of their local fresh fruit and vegetable stands. If your local stand doesnt carry it, that of course is a problem I would love to remedy!–Andrew Wolfe 727-439-4885.

A Solution for Haiti

January 19, 2010 by Koreen  
Filed under Sustainable solutions in Haiti

waterpump223Currently, Haiti needs water pumps desperately because the earthquake has broken many of them.  This is a life threatening situation.  A permaculture solution would be to use the existing energy (humans) to handle the situation with a bicycle or teeter totter (see saw) pump.  Gaviotas in Columbia has piloted these and they are now used in Africa and many other places.  A teeter totter pump could be created out of existing materials lying around…..

Update for Haiti Project

January 19, 2010 by Koreen  
Filed under Sustainable solutions in Haiti

haitian long shot

We have three sanitation experts who want to go to Haiti to set up safe sanitation systems, and we are gathering equipment to go there as well. They will teach Haitians how to set up sanitation systems from existing resources (even rubble from collapsed housing can be helpful) while they are setting up systems.  One of them has set up systems for thousands of people.

We plan to use a variety of systems including trench systems which separate liquid and solid human waste – the urine can be used as fertilizer for crops which can accelerate growth in badly degraded areas and the solid waste will compost safely much faster than if mixed with liquids.

We are working on putting together a team of water filtration, capture and reuse experts as water is the #1 issue there right now that is life threatening. The wells have been compromised by the quake and many of the pumps are down as well, so they need pumps.

We continue to work with groups in Little Haiti, Miami, to raise funds for sustainable relief efforts.

Your donations will pay for plane fares, equipment and food for the rescue workers.

We have created a database for volunteers for both now and future rebuilding efforts and are in planning stages for long term rebuilding, including education, building, planting sustainable food (food forestry, agroforestry, polycropping, etc.  We have gotten a number of offers to donate seed and equipment to help create food and water security. Haiti used to be a major rice exporter and had enough food to feed her people.  Politics and economic manipulation destroyed their food industry and we want to help bring it back.

An international web site has been set up to coordinate activities at permaculturehaiti.org.  If you’re interested in volunteering, donating equipment or other things, please see the blogs and email list at that site, as it is now the central hub for permaculture solutions for Haiti.

To a much brighter future for Haiti,

Cory