SIRIUS COMMUNITY, MASSACHUSETTS USA
Permaculture and the Global Ecovillage Network
Ecovillages, in their myriad forms, are places we can all learn practical skills for regenerative culture, and many thousands of people visit ecovillages each year to learn permaculture and related skills. The Global Ecovillage Network (www.ecovillages.org) has networked thousands of ecovillages and eco-projects around the world and has a growing solutions bank online. You can read about many communities in Ecovillage: 1001 Ways to Heal the Planet (Triarchy Press Ltd 2015), edited by Kosha Joubert.
One of the more established communities profiled is Sirius in Massachusetts. Started in 1978 by former residents of Findhorn, it has ninety acres, fourteen eco-buildings, three acres of permaculture gardens and thirty residents set within a broader eco-neighbourhood of over 150 people. Sirius regularly opens its doors to visitors with workshops, tours, internships, meals, retreats and events.
Sirius youth are leaders in the NextGEN movement (www.ecovillage.org/our-work/nextgen/), linking nationally and internationally with other eco-active youth. Seek out the permaculture and regenerative culture expertise in ecovillages; most accept visitors and volunteers.
PERMACULTURE IN A REFUGEE CAMP, KAKUMA, KENYA
Permaculture is making a difference to the everyday lives of people living in a refugee camp in the far northwestern part of Kenya. Started in 1992, the camp has now swollen to around 200,000 refugees and asylum-seekers from 20 countries who live in temporary homes in this desert region. In December 2018, permaculture charity Ethos Foundation sponsored a local community leader to attend a permaculture education program in Uganda. Sakina is now a leader in areas of food growing and runs permaculture programs for children and youth, as well as sharing the skills of soil building, water harvesting and food growing with as many people as she can.
Permaculture for Sustainable Communities supports people on the ground to ripple out permaculture. In the context of refugee camps, permaculture offers help to meet basic needs, to build nutrition and to build skills people can take with them when they leave. Donations to these efforts are gratefully received: every cent goes directly to the people. Donations can be made via the Ethos Foundation website (www.ethosfoundation.org.au). You can also support the work of Rosemary Morrow and the Permaculture for Refugees team at www. permacultureforrefugees.org. To learn more about Permaculture for Refugees, listen to our podcast with Rosemary at www.pipmagazine.com.au
LAMPETER SEED LIBRARY, WALES
Lampeter Permaculture Group
Seed libraries, a much-needed movement, are beginning to sprout up everywhere. Sharing seeds was commonplace before industrial farming, but over the past 100 years there has been a massive loss of seed diversity, while growers have become dependent on hybrid seeds produced by large corporations. Seed activism is alive in so many local communities, such as the Welsh town of Lampeter.
Here, a group of women have established a seed library as part of the thriving Lampeter Permaculture Group (www. lampeterpermaculture.org/) Every month seeds are traded at the People’s Market in Lampeter. Seeds come in and are loaned out – no money changes hands. People are encouraged to become caretakers and stewards of locally adapted non-hybrid seeds, and to build up a diverse collection of quality seed that everyone can access locally. The group is as much concerned with encouraging more people to grow healthy, nutrient-dense food as it is about decoupling from industrial agriculture and reclaiming control from multinational seed companies. Every community needs its own local seed bank. To find out how to join an existing local seed network, or form your own, visit the Seed Savers Foundation website (www.seedsavers.net) or download their ebook, Local Seed Network Manual.
GAIA ASHRAM, THAILAND
Gaia Ashram, a living, learning and retreat centre based in the northeast of Thailand, explores ways to live in and create regenerative community. At its core, Gaia Ashram is an alternative education centre, hosting an international ecovillage, as well as permaculture design and nature living programs.
There are around ten people living long-term at Gaia Ashram, alongside many visitors. Together, they are developing six hectares using deep ecology, permaculture and ecovillage design principles. The community is also exploring natural building and alternative energy. Over 800 volunteers have come to work and learn here to date, helping to grow a lot of their own food and live as sustainably as possible.
Gaia Ashram is also a hub for young Asian and international youth to learn how to look after the earth in a fun way. This is the hub of NextGENOA, the next generation of the Global Ecovillage Network in Oceania and Asia, which seeks to spread seeds of hope and positive action.
Gaia Ashram welcomes visitors, offers courses, and is a place for young people to volunteer or seek long-term internships.