Awareness course group, Tipwere orphanage, Malawi
Five years ago, I never would have thought it possible to experience a journey and transformation in my life like this. My whole world-view and belief system changed. With it came a change in eating and sleeping habits, a reduction in consumption of all kinds of unnecessary products, a more positive state of mind manifested, through satisfying work outside the city or office environment in beautiful outdoor settings, and getting to meet and share time with interesting people from all around the world.
How did that come to be?
In 2009, leaving Austria and my comfort zone, I took my first small steps in organic farming and community living in the Caribbean and after went to South America. We traveled by local buses through Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador, meeting local activists, farmers and change-makers to find out about local challenges, alternative initiatives and to build networks of support, sharing and understanding. This journey made me understand the global economic and environmental dark sides of our lifestyles, behavioral patterns and the exploitation of people and mother nature. I wanted to act, change something, and be part of the solution and not the problems. After some time of research I luckily discovered Permaculture.
Fruit tree root pruning, Natueco farm, India
I participated in my first PDC in 2010 with Alex Kruger from Berg en Dal Ecovillage at Nature’s Gift Permaculture Centre, Malawi — which was, just a few months before, the hosting site of the 9th International Permaculture Convergence. I stayed at the centre to volunteer for two months after my PDC course, and also participated in an Earth building workshop in which we build an outdoor kitchen with cob pizza oven.
Liquid fertilizer making, Farmer training, Surkhet district, Nepal
This experience changed my life, opened my eyes and inspired me to transform myself and the environments around me into more holistic, abundant and regenerative systems. A big awakening process started and with it came the motivation and opportunities to start spreading some seeds of change, which brought me to many different countries, cultures, climates and led me to participate in, co-organize and co-facilitate eight PDC courses and several introduction workshops and farmer trainings, mostly in India but also East Africa, Nepal and Portugal.
Mulch pit, Tipwere orphanage, Malawi
During my 1-year stay in East Africa, I was working with amazing and inspirational people and projects, being part of a permablitz in an orphanage near Blantyre with Walter Mugove and Chris Walker (ReScope Program), plus helping out at two 5-day Permaculture workshops in rural orphanages around Malawi. We established nurseries, kitchen gardens, compost systems and grey-water systems together, plus Chris Walker and his local team were sharing Permaculture theory and practical knowledge. I also got the chance to visit and volunteer in projects along the way through my travels in Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia. It gave me lots of great experiences and memories for a lifetime!
My Pattern session, PDC 2014, India
I wanted to continue on this path of gaining practical experiences in the different fields of Permaculture, living and learning in culturally and environmentally different places, so I saved some money after working in England and went off to magical India.
Arriving in India and ending up in Auroville, learning and working with experienced people like Krishna from Solitude Farm and Bernard and Deepika from Pebble Garden, pushed me to the next level. I got the chance to help with the design and implementation for Sapney Farm, a degraded half acre in a tropical arid climate on the edge of Auroville, owned by Snehal, the founder of Heal the Soil Project. With the help of Ellumalai, a local gardener with many years’ experience in growing medicinal plants and tree-planting, Martin from France, and hundreds of multinational volunteers, we managed to transform and get good response from the land in the short period of just 3 years. We started to receive more and more visitors, people started asking for advice and we started to organize more workshops. Heal the Soil hosted the first PDC at Sapney Farm, with Bernard Alonso from Canada in January 2012. We also successfully organized a PDC in Portugal in November that year, when Luis, one of our first PDC students, invited us to come to his land there. The network had started to grow! It brought me to Portugal, where I helped establish permaculture systems and gardens for 10 months, visited the Tamera project and meet Sepp Holzer — showing his inspirational Water Retention Landscapes during a day visit to a large group of people — to a brief consultation in Southern Italy, after which I returned to India.
Permablitz, Auroville area, India
After that period we also collaborated with the Himalayan Farm Project located in the magical foothills of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand. We organized the first PDC there together with Ben and Sam from the Panya Project, which brought 25 people from many different countries to this amazing place and we learned, shared and experienced for three weeks the beauty of living together in harmony with nature.
Also, I went to stay with Deepak Suchede for 1 month in central India, an experienced natural farmer and practitioner of Natueco Farming Science, mixing spirituality and science with traditional Indian farming practices. In Nepal I stayed with Govinda Sharma at the beautiful Hasera Farm and in Kathmandu at Sunrise Farm, from where I set out onto a journey into the wild west of Nepal, the Surket District, to visit the Himalayan Permaculture Centre, a project supported and founded by Chris Evans and local Permaculturists. I was lucky to be part of a 5-day Permaculture Farmers’ Training there, organized at the centre for local future permaculture farmers. I experienced an almost entirely self-sufficient and self reliant community (tea, sugar, salt and occasionally oil are the only products bought from outside) living in beneficial relationships with nature — a truly inspirational ecovillage model and traditional, low impact lifestyle!
After returning to India, more courses in Sapney Farm followed. Once again we collaborated with Bernard Alonso, plus held another PDC with Govinda Sharma from Nepal, who came to teach in the Auroville area for the first time. These courses attracted people from over 19 different countries and created a very rich, diverse and fertile learning environment for all the people involved. It also led me to participate in a practical Earthship building workshop at Karuna Farm, near Kodiakanal in South India, the first site in India to have an Earthship constructed.
Plant distribution at Intro-course, Chambe Rock, Malawi
In November 2013, I participated in and facilitated three sessions at a Permaculture Design Course in Darjeeling with inspirational and experienced teacher Rico Zook. This experience gave me deeper insights into professional group facilitation and confidence to continue sharing the knowledge I acquired in the period of my nomadic travels all over the world. Immediately good connections where established with Rico and we decided to do some more work together in the future. There will be a PDC with him in December 2014 in Sapney Farm, India, and we are organizing a PDC course with him in a beautifully located nature reserve near Barcelona in Spain this June 2014.
The latest stop on my journey was Thailand. I visited Khao Sok Nature Reserve, a very diverse and ancient rainforest in Southern Thailand — Zone 5 inspirations everywhere! Afterwards I visited my friends, Ben and Sam, at the wonderful Panya Project. I gained further inspiration in a brief visit to Pun Pun, plus a few days at Tacompai near Pai, and a short stay at the newly founded Gaia Ashram in Nothern Thailand. These four visits led me to meet amazing people and establish further connections plus get inspired by some functional models of Permaculture and natural building in Thailand, which in some parts has a very similar climate to the area where I was working in India.
Web of Life, Chambe Rock, Malawi
Over the past five years I was hosted, supported and inspired by amazing, kind and open-hearted people who gave me the chance to practice and get a deeper understanding of the theoretical knowledge I learned from books, videos and workshops. In return for my work I received food and accommodation plus a small income from workshops which helped me to sustain myself and to start to make permaculture almost my full-time profession.
I am extremely grateful for this journey and feel happy to share with you here my story and some impressions from past workshops. I feel my example could be a good inspiration and motivation for future students of PDC courses and Permaculture workshops all over the world, to make people understand and realize that a transformation and shift in our lives and ways of seeing the world is very much possible and supported by the Permaculture toolbox.
A good start is to just get out there! Follow your inner calling, join some Permaculture projects, communities and workshops, start to build networks and relationships. Start with small, manageable steps and more and more doors will open along your way!
With Deepak Suchede at Natueco farm, India
Although a journey like this may not be possible for everyone, and being aware of the significant resources it took in flights and transport, it’s possibly also not advisable, but there were huge returns for these investments — we regenerated degraded lands, designed and implemented regenerative systems, planted trees and grew our own food, harvested rainwater, re-used grey water, utilized alternative technologies and shared and inspired many people through workshops and volunteering. I believe the general environmental impact of the projects and life I lived these last years is comparably lower than in my old life in Austria, as often I was living in projects during the pioneer phase with no electricity, tap water or internet, etc.
Stay tuned, as in the future I plan to share more in-depth reports and articles about my experiences around the world.
We are hosting a Permaculture Design Course with Rico Zook and myself, together with a local project, Active Earth, in La Garrotxa, a beautiful nature reserve near Barcelona this June, and still have places available. For course info feel free to get in touch at: permaculturainfo (at) gmail.com
The time is now! and as Mahatma Ghandi very wisely said:
Be the change you wish to see in this world!
Links for further information about the projects mentioned in the article:
- PDC Spain, June, 2014
- Rico Zook, Itinerant permaculture
- Govinda Sharma at Hasera, Nepal
- Bernard Alonso
- Heal the Soil, Sapney Farm, India
- Solitude Farm, Auroville, India
- Panya, Thailand
- PunPun, Thailand
- Tacompai, Thailand
- Gaia Ashram, Thailand
- Rescope, Malawi
- Himalayan Permaculture Centre, Nepal
- Himalayam Farm Project, India
- Natueco Farming Science, India