Yemen: On the Permaculture Map

The view flying into Tarim

The country of Yemen has not been featured much on the PRI blog page. It has only been mentioned briefly in some articles discussing water shortages in the region and it has made the list of exotic destinations to apply knowledge gained in a PRI Aid Workers course. I think this is about to change.

The last days in Tarim, Yemen have uncovered a real treasure of permaculture potential. I anticipate that natural building techniques, still widely used in Yemen, will no longer be the only reason for Yemen to be on the permaculture map.

Three finishes on a mud brick home

Geoff and Nadia Lawton are here after having been invited to teach the country’s first PDC — to a hand-picked audience of 30 students. Five of these students have been sent by the government. Organized by Dar al-Mustafa for the Traditional Islamic Sciences, it would make this blog far too lengthy to accurately portray the ripple effect this course could have. Understanding that we live in a world where conservative estimates say one in five people adhere to the Islamic faith and that Tarim, Yemen is one of the academic hubs of the Islamic world, you might start to get the picture. This is quite an exciting trip for my wife and I to assist with.

Hi Tech classroom

On Monday morning we were welcomed to a classroom like no other. Banners, lights, two video cameras, two roaming photographers and translation equipment in addition to the usual projector and whiteboard. This PDC is taught in English, translated into Arabic and broadcast through the radio. The students in the class are all Arabic speakers. They listen to the translation over the radio as well as any one else who is tuned in to that station. The AV recording will go to post production and be rebroadcast through the existing, vast network of Dar al-Mustafa.

PDC student

This is my first experience in Permaculture aid work. It has been interesting to see that even in a very conservative and traditional setting, there is such eagerness to learn a different way of doing things. This impression is compounded by the aged faces of educated agriculturalists who continually nod in agreement with the content delivered. The same industrial agriculture problems exposed in any Permaculture Design Course are being confirmed here by academics and farmers alike, who have been experiencing a decline in soil quality and farm profitability. Not that I doubted these things, but it is strangely impelling to see the problems confirmed on the front lines and it is galvanizing to see such receptivity to the solutions permaculture offers. It seems as if the Hadramaut region of Yemen, which quite possibly has the oldest compost toilets in the world, is beginning to come full circle. Having strayed from traditional sustainable practices, there is visible excitement to apply all that is being learned.

I should also mention there is a growing wait list of 25 for the next course.

To be continued….

Oh, and here’s a video that gives you an idea of this amazing place: