Permaculture projects creatively respond to crisis
by Celia Ashman
We're pleased to now be running monthly online calls with LAND centres and permaculture projects, on the last Wednesday of every month 3 - 4.30pm. In our first call in March, we were joined by members from across the UK and beyond - including Germany, Dumfries & Galloway, Berwickshire, Durham, Manchester, Leeds, Bradford, Shropshire, Gloucestershire, Devon, and London!
Sharing the challenges we’re facingLike many others, our network is experiencing a range of challenges as a result of Covid-19 suspending normal activities. Income loss, volunteer activities curtailed, and courses and events cancelled or postponed are just a few examples. Others face very different challenges due to an increase in activity, such as high demand for veg boxes.
On a personal level, our network is also coping with the difficulties of not being able to see family, loss of childcare support, and having vulnerable and key worker family members. We’re experiencing motivation dips, interpersonal tensions, feeling unskilled in certain areas, and concern about the wider political landscape.
How permaculture projects are responding
From scaling up growing activities to preparing new community agreements, enhancing our resilience is a key theme in how projects are responding. Home schooling members are sharing resources and advice, ‘allow yourself to not be pressured!’, and others are refocusing on stress management, ‘accelerating my learning’.
What is so heartening is how permaculture design in action is proving resilient! Whether in small urban spaces or large land-based projects, designing for multi-functional uses is proving how valuable a permaculture approach can be.
The economic crisis will demand more self-reliance and a need to live with less money, which are skills that permaculture can support. One member shared how “previous experience living on a low income is helpful - having very few outputs, low turnover system, getting good at fixing things”.
“People who come to our site are interested in permaculture and sustainability and they leave with skills. It feels great that there are 1000 people out there who are better prepared to cope with this situation!”
How to continue permaculture education while courses and visits cannot run is a key challenge. The Permaculture Association wants to support educators and projects with exploring online learning - while recognising that it is not a replacement for in-person - but asking what can it offer and how can it support your work?
Some group members now have more time to develop content, and we want to support you in this. Our next LAND network and project member call will explore this further, but if you'd like to have a look now, here's the content document proposal.
TIME TO REFLECT AND COMING BACK TO DESIGN
Many members described how they are using this time to reflect, to connect with nature, to think about what we want to do after this ends and how we adapt to a changing world.
“It’s made me go back to the roots of my systems - to go back to design . In times of crisis permaculture is what I come back to. I’m very grateful for knowing about and practicing permaculture.”
Using permaculture design now can reveal to us both what we want to learn and where we want to develop: “We are coming back to various designs (especially those that encompass stress and resilience) and questioning how resilient we really are.”
For many of us, stopping is a chance to step back, reflect, grow (food or otherwise). But this is not an option for everyone , particularly those without safety nets, access to land, or diverse income streams. We’re all experiencing this situation from a different perspective, and coming together to share perspectives helps us learn how to support each other better.
Members shared how they’re building local networks and instigating community action in different ways, from setting up mutual aid groups to simply “getting to know my neighbours better, giving them seeds”.
Without volunteers, one project has “switched focus to food-growing. We had surplus last year so hope to have extra surplus. We’re putting it out on pay-as-you-feel basis on the roadside, and potentially partnering with a local restaurant that may open as a soup kitchen.”
Another group, a veg box supplier, is considering, “instead of expanding our scheme, could we support someone else to set up a long-term veg scheme in the area? Who we could co-operate with?”
Members identified a possibility to change the conversation around resilience, climate change and food systems: “We’ve seen a lot more interest in our area in growing food and we can help with that. Our local Incredible Edible is having weekly zoom meetings to see how we can support people and keep everything going”.
As well as local communities, some in our network are keen to look at the bigger picture, and connect with other organisations and initiatives, eg. the permaculture CoLab (global networking) and Sustainable Food Cities.
Why does meeting online help?
By connecting and sharing, we can offer each other support with the things we’re grappling with, be it generating more of a social media presence, technical advice about insurance, or simply staying motivated. We can increase the benefit of our individual projects by working out what we can do together to make us more accessible.
Some other comments from the call: “I need excited and motivated people around me to keep me motivated, so this is helpful!”
“Really great to connect with LAND centres - good to hear about the growing interest in food growing and veg boxes - appreciate the call :)”
“Fairly tech savvy but not tech-arsed! So doing something together as a network makes sense.”
Join our next call
If you’re a LAND centre or learner member, project or group member, you can register for the next call on the last Wednesday of this month. Future calls will be on the last Wednesday of every month at 3 - 4.30pm. LAND network and Permaculture Association group members, please look out for your monthly invitation in your emails.
Don’t forget there are lots of excellent resources available in our Members Area of the website, including digital past editions of our members’ journal, Permaculture Works.
We’ll soon be contacting all member LAND centres to check that your details are up to date as we’re looking to involve you in a promotional boost for LAND as part of this year’s European Day of Sustainable Communities. Watch this space!