by Warren Brush, Co-Founder of Quail Springs Learning Oasis
The first graduates of a Permaculture Design
Back in March we celebrated the first graduating class of a Permaculture Design Course in Liberia’s history. Liberia had been in the throws of a brutal civil war since the late 80’s when the Permaculture movement was making its way around the world and was unable to get into Liberia until now, four years after the cease fire and peace building ensued.
We had 19 official graduates of the course which took nearly a month to complete as we had to translate into the local Lorma language. There were six other attendees who completed 3/4 of the course and who will complete it at a later date which will bring the graduating class to a total of 25. Many of the graduates shared how this was a historical moment for Liberia as Permaculture is seeding new ways of agriculture and living into their part of the world and deeply into their world-views.
A student making a presentation at the end
As we were well into the course presentation and participation…the rain-forests surrounding us was being clear-cut and burned to ashes, choking the air and blocking the sun with a thick layer of smoke. All of this…for an agricultural practice that was introduced to them sometime ago by western influences. At one point in the course, an elder was talking about why they felt they had to “slash and burn” as he referred to this form of agriculture as traditional. I quickly reminded him that this was a conventional practice and not a traditional one. He quizzically looked to the sky and said, “You know, you are right. My ancestors did not do this to our forests. I stand corrected!”
We went on to weave the understandings of Permaculture and their own traditional values into the fabric of their applied understanding in a learning journey that crossed many western-adopted cultural boundaries. By the end of the course, the students had created beautiful designs for a demonstration farm, spoke eloquently and cohesively about sustainable agriculture and habitation to other farmers, local radio and an international film-making team (who is working on a film about Permaculture and Liberia as a form of peacemaking.) They all vowed to integrate PC into their farms and villages over the coming rainy season.
We have identified six individuals from the course who we hope to find funding for to come to the USA for our Permaculture Design Course with Geoff Lawton at Quail Springs this summer to gain further training. I will then return to Liberia later this year to offer an intensive Train the Trainer course for those six, in hopes that they will become the lead trainers for PC in their country. I will also offer several workshops for general audiences around the country about sustainable rice farming systems, which is the “national staple food” of Liberia. If you have pictures, research, anecdotes about on the ground systems of sustainable rice growing, I would appreciate you sharing with me for this developing presentation (send to my email address below). I will give all contributors and other interested PC teachers a copy of the presentation once I finish it.
The next layer of teaching will be done in co-partnership with these developing Liberian PC teachers and myself. With requests coming in from all over the country for PDC workshops to be integrated into other regions, we are working diligently to train locals to be the instructors who take it nationwide. I have been interviewed twice this trip and once last trip on UNMIL radio which is widely listened to through-out Liberia which has sparked this countrywide interest in Permaculture. I also did a 1/2 hour interview on a radio station that serves the local population of the state I was in (called Lofa County). We also made a visit yesterday with the Vice President of Liberia, the Honorable Joseph Boakai, at his offices in Monrovia to share our successes on this journey. Permaculture is being welcomed on all levels through-out the country.
Two children in the remote, Bazzie Village, smiling
During this visit to the northern most areas of Liberia, I had the wonderful fortune to be invited into several remote villages and farms to meet the people and to see their amazing day-to-day lives. I saw both beauty and pain yet in everyone’s eyes their was a resilience and appreciation for life that sparkled through. I had many special moments with the kids and the elders as we attempted to bridge our communication through body language, expression and sometimes varying degrees of english…. I was blessed with open arms, smiles and the ultimate sign of welcoming, adoption by the village and a promise I could return anytime and call their home my home…..
I must continue to offer my deepest and most sincere gratitudes for the people of Everyday Gandhis, for the groundwork they have laid over the past four years here in Liberia and for the immense vision of peace and for the integrity in which they move and learn in fulfilling their vision. Without them, Permaculture would have taken a lot longer to find its roots in this country.
I also send gratitude to the people of Liberia for their ability to embrace peace and exude it uniquely in their daily lives. I have learned so much from them and will carry their grace back to America.