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Permaculture Relief Corps Forming For Haiti Earthquake Response?

The remarkable history (and possible future) of permaculture disaster relief, by Evan Schoepke of punk rock permaculture

Devastation in Port Au Prince. Photo: Carel Pedre, via twitter

Two days ago the island of Hispanola was hit with a devastating 7.3 magnitude earthquake near Port-Au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. Many multiple story buildings have completely collapsed, including the major hospital in the region. Thousands may be killed or trapped in the rubble and aid is being mobilized from around the world.  With little to no backup power, sewerage, water, housing, or food aid systems in place, Haiti, which is currently the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, is in a VERY DIRE SITUATION. Without a doubt, resources and expertise are moving en mass to Haiti, but beyond this temporary relief, what will sustain this nation of ten million people when it’s left in an even poorer position than ever before?  This is where permaculture design comes in, with an adaptable and ever-evolving tool kit that can be of vital assistance in disaster relief and the long recovery period to follow.

During the war in Kosovo back in 1999, when displaced refugees flooded into Macedonia, Geoff Lawton and a crack team of eager permaculturalists secured international aid to design and implement the master plan for the Cegrane Camp Permaculture Rehabilitation Project, a large refugee camp that provided relief for over 43,000 people.

Permaculture Disaster Relief

Permaculture Disaster Relief

Geoff created the design around water capture and storage.  The final design called for 7.2 km of swales, with an estimated water holding capacity of 30 million liters, greatly reducing the flood potential.  Many passive solar strawbale buildings were constructed by trained locals who quickly grasped the simplicity and efficiency of this natural building technique.  Large gardens, composting toliets and chicken tractors all came together in a very short time span.  The skills and systems thinking acquired during this process may help secure sustainable employment and economic development for the entire region for years to come.

Another successful implementation of permaculture relief took place in Cuba during the early 90s when Cuba was suffering from a crippling petroleum embargo.  Working with a grant from the Cuban government, Austrailian permaculturalists, including Robyn Francis, traveled to Cuba to work with hundreds of Cubans on sustainable food systems design.  Robyn, a well traveled expert in permaculture education in the 2/3rds (developing) world, helped local organizers use permaculture design prinicpals and techniques in their urban agriculture efforts.  During this time, worker cooperatives were set up and market gardens and public transportation flourished. Little to no pesticides or fertilizers were employed, and catastrophic famine was avoided.  This partnership has continued to be highly successful and now some of the most experienced urban permaculture experts in the world come from Cuba because of the courageous spirit of the Cuban citizenry. Currently, the Cuba-Australia Permaculture Exchange (CAPE) is working on sustainable housing developments using natural building to compliment the work they began together with urban agriculture.

Water Harvesting

There are numerous ways in which a full-time Permaculture Relief Corps could operate in Haiti in short and long-term time frames.

Short Term:

Building sewage systems, composting toilets, compost and recyclying centers, rocket and solar stoves, temporary shelters (perma-yurts), water catchment, and plant nurseries.

Long Term:

Permanent natural buildings, water storage, earth works, renewable energy, permaculture food forests, broad-scale reforestation, farms, aquaculture systems, health centers and schools.

In 2003 following a intense hurricane, a team including Eric Davenport, an American architect, and David Doherty, a Peace Corps Volunteer, worked for several months with the local community to rebuild a rural village after severe flooding. This team was then joined by Frederique Mangones, a renowned Haitian architect, and engineer Frantz Severe of ORE draw to the challenge of designing low-cost housing adapted to Haitian rural family activities. In the fall of 2003, a team of permiculturalists also offered their expertise to the village project.

Design for a new village

Today their team, in collaboration with the local community and the Organization for the Rehabilitation of the Environment (ORE),  is working on:

  • Low cost relief from floods
  • Waste management & recycling to protect the environment
  • Hygienic toilets to improve family health
  • A community center to bring people together
  • Privacy to reduce stress within families
  • Green spaces to enhance quality of life
  • Fruit trees to generate income
  • Utilizing daily wind patterns, heat and cooling cycles
  • Covenants to protect their community

Haiti is in desperate need of our assistance which can not come soon enough. Eight out of ten Haitians live in abject poverty and need the long term commitment of folks working for a sustainable and abundant future. Please check out the links below of organizations doing great work in this field.

If you are interested in the formation of a Permaculture Relief Corps like the one I’m proposing, please comment here.

My heart goes out to all those working and living in Haiti right now,


Evan Schoepke: thejulianeffect (at)
Principal of Gaia Punk Designs

Warning: Graphic images




    Last autumn I were to a seminar with Professor engeneer Pedro Serrano R. Universidad Tecnica Federico Santa Maria, Chile. He is a top expert in developing robust constructions for the poor based upon local and cheep raw materials from the ground. Chile is frequently hit by earthshakes, and they have the best knowledge about building earthshake secure buildings from nature materials, like clay and mud constructions and so on. Follow the link above, to the foundation in which he takes part. I’m sure he and his collegues can give permaculturists a lot of useful knowledge about how the best way rebuilding Haiti.


    Follow the links above! Luckily I found the two presantations from the seminar with Pedro Serrano R. Here you can see some of the construction tecniques Pedro uses when helping the poor people in Chile building cheep and earthshake secure buildings. As you can see thes buildings are much more beautiful than most of what we can find in our “modern”, western cities. Hope permaculture can help these poor people in Haiti building nice, cheep and secure houses like this, living in ecovillages and becoming self sufficient.

  3. Two of the main ngo’s working in Haiti are Grassroots International and the Lambi Fund. I went to Haiti in 2007 with Lambi and it is feared that many of the staff and their relatives in Port-au-Prince may have perished. I’m waiting to see if Lambi is sending an aid group, but from what I’ve been reading, it seems to be mainly medical personnel and structural experts that are needed in these days immediately following the quake.

    I would be interested in participating in a permaculture project there, though, if the opportunity arose. In the projects I visited, there were many ingenious uses of native plants for animal deterrence, seedling support/protection, etc.

    Kris Kaul
    Ann Arbor, MI

    p.s. both Lambi Fund and Grassroots International are soliciting emergency
    funds for earthquake relief, in case anyone has surplus to share.

  4. If ever there was a country in need of permaculture, Haiti is a fine example. With less than 1% of the natural forest remaining, every rainfall eroding topsoil and current systems unable to produce enough food to feed its people, there is dire need of a sustainable change. Rather than rebuilding a house of cards, I can see a great opportunity for a new Haiti to emerge from this disaster if the recovery is managed with permaculture principles.
    Great article, Evan – you put some concrete examples to the abstract thoughts already circulating in my head.

  5. I am teaching a PDC in Little Haiti, Miami and as you can imagine, this community is impacted by what has occurred and is reaching out. We are working on raising funds to send permaculturists to Haiti or fund permaculturists already on the ground who can implement the steps outlined above to help with the disaster. Water is definitely a severe situation in the capital and elsewhere.

    What we need to raise funds are names of people who are willing to go there, how much they would need in funds and what they will be doing, when they might go, etc.

    I have a friend who has developed “kenaf-crete” similar to hempcrete. Kenaf is a sort of pioneer plant in Haiti, growing very easily and naturally there and also provides fodder for animals, food for people, fiber and the other good things that hemp provides.

    Please contact me if you would like to go to Haiti to help the relief efforts with the above information and we will see what we can do.

    [email protected]

  6. Thanks for this Evan….small problem with the article: I have never been to Haiti! Been invited there a few times now (never come through) and have had an article ( written published in their main newspaper last year but never been there or been involved with any projects….So don’t know where this information came from….In any case there is quite a situation there that the recent earthquake only brings to the fore. The country has been in trouble for a long time and unfortunately hasn’t been able to come through it, despite the efforts of many. Obviously most of their issues abound as a result of a loss of soil and as such they are always teetering on the brink on societal and environmental collapse, with natural events such as this only exposing their vulnerability. If ever a country needed a whole makeover this would be one, such is the destruction…going about this would have to happen one mudbrick, garden, forest and farm at a time…

    All the best,

    Darren Doherty

  7. Thanks again Evan,
    I would be more than willing to go to Haiti if there was a group organized. As for funds, I know I could do some fundraising if indeed there was a project and a group to fund. I think I could raise around $6000. Not much but it would help. We will see what comes together.
    With all the best from now to our future world,

  8. *CORRECTION*: I had previously mixed up David Doherty (peace core volunteer) with Darren Doherty (broad scale permaculture designer), sorry about the confusion.

    The article is now corrected. please stay tuned for more alerts and updates about Permaculture Relief Corps mobilization.

  9. It seems like Permaculture could offer some immediate solutions too. I’m guessing the most urgent needs beyond medical attention are for for immediate fresh water, followed by a quick sanitation strategy and then food. What is an immediate way to get water and purify it? Clear plastic be used to distill salt water and collect rain water. Is there a better method that people could use right away? What is a reasonable sanitation strategy amidst the collapsed city? A clear expression of a recommendation for getting water, sanitation, and food would have an impact now, and lay the groundwork for latter long-term recommendations. I’d like to hear some clear short-term ways to help.

  10. I was watching the quake and felt this is the time when a completely new start must begin. This could be an opportunity to make sure something like this does not happen again, and permaculture looks promising. I don’t know if permaculture is similar to the designs of Michael Reynolds or what, I am just a browser, but I have sent some small donations already to Red Cross. If you are putting together a permaculture relief corps, I would be more interested in supporting that than the Red Cross and would of course post and send links to your site to all the people I know as well in an effort to raise funds. Please push forward with this idea as soon as possible if it is at all viable. Thank you.

  11. We now have a donation button for Haitian Permaculture Relief Fund efforts at

    We are in negotiations to establish partnerships with two non-profits already working in Haiti and will post those links on our site soon. As Darren said, Haiti has numerous problems which revolve around soil loss and it will take some thoughtful observation to rebuild in a truly sustainable manner. Several permaculturists have volunteered to travel to Haiti and we are currently strategizing the best approach, getting info from on the ground there, and working out when and where to send volunteers to the area. There are safety issues that must be addressed as well as logistics.

    Anyone have ideas about how the materials from destroyed buildings could be used to create new structures that are much more earthquake proof?

    On water, one of the organizations we’re working with plants trees there and we are exploring possible use of moringa, the seeds of which make good water filters. (That’s long term) Moringa also holds soil, survives drought, and is highly nutritious food. Anybody have experience with moringa in Haiti? Short term, we’re awaiting word of available resources and the situation.

    We’re interested in any and all feedback on possible solutions for the area, especially from people who have been there and observed the conditions first hand (not necessarily earthquake, but in general – we are focused on both short and long term handlings).

  12. I support permaculture relief for Haiti. I want to be assured that nothing I donate would be used to bring Monsanto or other ag giants in. I hope to hear more of this effort.

  13. Count me in, I’m just right up the road in the Cincinnati, Ohio and willing to jump onto any plane and head down there. Any current projects can go on hold here at home if we are able to crystalize something. Consider me a willing body & mind.
    We should check in with Scott Pittman since I believe he’s taught down there… he may have some leads/contacts down there as well.
    Keep us posted as to any plans…. hope we can help bring back Haiti… a place that’s needed it ever since Columbus landed there!
    Most dedicated
    Braden Trauth
    [email protected]
    [email protected]

  14. I’m in the same boat as Samwell. More than up for going, but funds and organization can make it happen. I’ll do whatever can be done from here in Hawaii in the meantime. I know of some folks who were interested in donating and wanted to know if there was a group/place I suggested,

    Moringa was mentioned, I haven’t used the seeds for clarifying water, but it is a common species in home gardens here thanks to the Philippino population. So if sending seeds en masse would make sense I can make that happen.

    Water clarification followed by the SODIS method ( would work quite well. I saw sodis used for disinfection around Peru, and the plastic bottles are usually relatively easy to come by.

    Is there a cohesive group in place yet? And if so who is the contact?

    Aloha nui loa to you all,
    [email protected]


    I just found this mooviesnut from youtube about adding hempcrete at a construction, I guess the same technic can be used for kenafcrete.

    I came to remember an article I read in a magazine about the bamboo building that the Norwegian engeneer Thorvald Pedersen plans to build in Denmark. This will become the largest bamboo building ever built, 14 storeyes tall. It will have colar cells, windmill and use collection of rainwater. I find it a paradox that the largest bamboo building in the world will be built in Scandinavia, while the Chineese build in concrete.

    Does anybody know how it is about bamboo in the Caribeans? I think it should be a splendid material for Haiti, fast growing, strong, little weight, CO2-negative, etc. Almost perfect for earthquake secure buildings.

  16. I am very interested in a permaculture relief corps. I am particularly interested in looking ahead to the long term. This level of destruction can be viewed as a tremendous opportunity that should not be squandered. I have been moaning to myself about how the IMF and other well intentioned organizations are probably going to go in there and spend 100 million on building the same dysfunctional city–only stronger–and implement a Monsanto feuled green revolution in the countryside.

    What I’ve been imagining is getting together a large group of permaculture oriented architects, city planners, permaculturists and organic farmers etc. to come up with a concrete set of recommendations and then get these recommendations to influential decision makers. Also, I noticed that the Clinton Foundation is getting itself involved, and I know the Clinton Global Initiative awards grants, rather than implement programs itself–so a grant proposal might be in order, once a project is crafted.

    I heard the Haiti Ambassador on NPR yesterday and he doesn’t even know who will be responsible for rebuilding yet. He said that it all depends on where the money comes from.

    I am a former attorney and active permaculturist. I am happy to take on a chunk of this logistical work and/or volunteer on site. Please contact me.

  17. Angela and others,

    It appears I am taking on the “central hub” hat being in Little Haiti, Miami right now and working with a number of organizations that are doing fund raising, etc. We’ve continued to gather information about what is happening on the ground. I could definitely use some help in organizing the effort as I’m teaching a course here right now and doing a number of other actions to bring permaculture to Miami and setting up courses in other areas.

    A number of people have written to me to volunteer – is there someone willing to take on the hat of staying in communicaiton and coordinating these guys? We’re getting feedback from Haiti on what things are like there and where efforts would be most useful. There is not much phone or internet access in quite a few places. We’ll have a much better idea of what would be most effective in a few days. The rebuild efforts will seriously start weeks from now, but there is triage that can be done, like the plastic bottle bacteria killer. The Red Cross and other organizations specialize in that type of triage. I’d be very interested in getting supplies of seeds of key plants down there as parts of the countryside are being farmed and relatively ok, per one report we’ve gotten. One point for me is that attention is on Haiti right now and lots of funding pouring in and we could fund some really viable longer term solutions if we tap into that now.

  18. Angela, Can you send your contact info to my email at nika.boyce at gmail dot com?

    I am working behind the scenes with Evan to get all interested parties contact info and get you integrated.

    Anyone else who reads this is welcome to do the same. Just be sure not forget to leave your contact info with one of us, dont want you all to get lost in the shuffle!

  19. I am an American MSc. student in sustainable water and sanitation at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. I am very interested in any sanitation efforts for Haiti revolving around permaculture design, especially composting for large groups of people using a “movable latrine” and an Indore or Bangalore Process type of approach for composting excreta from large numbers of people. In this way, there would be no secondary handling of urine and feces by the users, and materials for composting would be added by a team managing the ever-growing compost pile. I don’t think this has been done before but it would be a sort of combination of trench latrines (unsanitary on their own) and proper thermophilic composting. If anyone is interested, please let me know. I am in the US until May when I return to Norway. I would be willing to head down there if there is a team going.

    Andrew Larsen [email protected]

  20. Cory Brennan–Please send your contact information to me at angela.zehava (at) stanfordalumni (dot) com.

  21. Active Permaculturist ready to help onsite as soon as I can find a project to jump on. I have a bit a savings for transportation and donation to the cause. Please contact me if there is anything I can do to help right now. I will buy a ticket to Haiti as soon as you give the good word. 530-468-2239
    Thanks, Skylar Stone

  22. Hi All

    There are a few things that must be said about Disaster relief. The first it that the overall process is very long term and we must talk in years not days or months. This process is also broken up into many parts with the initial part, now in progress; to find the living and initially house, feed and water them. This phase is best done by the big disaster programs like that being provided the UN, Red Cross etc today. The next step is to handle the dead. This step is normally performed by those who find the living or by the living themselves but not always. Then comes the hard part, the clean up, which can take years no matter how powerful the nation or how much money is thrown at it. This is just hard, back breaking slog and until its complete any attempt to implement fundamental changes can, from my experience, be a total waste of time and money. After such a huge disaster what is needed is a clean slate and the “standard” disaster approach is to create such a clean slate and then leave it for those empowered by the local authorities to move forward from there. In most disaster situations this is when the disaster relief organisations move away from the area / country and leave it up to the local authorities to make the decisions of were to go to from here. This is also the time when we as permaculturists can get involved, for fundamental long term change, as the local authorities have to focus on the medium to long term.

    During this clean up phase the rebuilding phase starts and the large scale ideas for structures, sewage and water purification systems which have been covered in the above posts can start. Finally we have the ongoing phase where the fundamental changes are implemented and embedded for the future.

    If we are going to get involved early in the process (within the next couple of months) then the best facility we can provide is something to fill in the day for the locals. What occurs in most disasters is that the locals, who have lost everything have little to do and end up not only dependant on the disaster relief to provide all their needs but go through a process driven by boredom and focusing on their losses that they, in time, can no longer even perform the functions needed to keep themselves alive let alone to start again. During this time they are looking for things to do and to be kept interested and some of the most important resources at this time are those who can teach new skills or who can just talk intelligently to them or can play cards with them. These lessons do not have to be complex, in fact they normally have to be “dumbed down” as many have great difficulty in their post disaster mental state to even learn things that they would normally pick up. In some cases, experience has shown that even teaching them gardening can be great but only if the lessons start before the individuals become totally dependant on disaster relief. In one case we had a highly productive vegetable garden which was well tended but few of the vegetables were eaten as it was the “norm” for the individuals to eat the disaster relief supplies.

    Sorry this post has almost developed into a lecture and has grown so long however it is only just a brief touch on just a few of the areas that need to be covered and there is lots more that can / should be said. To conclude I would like to end by saying that I am very willing to assist however I may certainly have some financial issues as it is a very long way from Australia and I live at almost the subsistence level here.

  23. Peter:
    Very well said. Most compassionate humans want to respond to reduce continued loss of life along with pain and suffering. As Permaculture folks we know there is a better way and this is a golden opportunity to recreate a sustainable nation. As Peter has pointed out this natural disaster must run it course and will take time. I have been to Haiti a number of times and nothing is ever done easily in the country and after this I can’t imagine the challenges. I know the USAID and IDB along with other International banks had put a plan together for Haiti based on what the Haitian’s saw as their needs. According to Bill Clinton they are still going to do it. However, I spoke to USAID about including Permaculture as an approved approach. Not sure it went anywhere. With all that said the best thing is to build a public awareness campaign outlining the the potential of Permaculture for the nation of Haiti and to do what you all are doing and build a database of those that are willing to go when civilian folks are allowed to get back in there. Trust me it will be a while. The next phase will be to deal with outbreaks of disease from the disaster and the approaching rainy/hurricane season. These poor people have a long hoe. At this time, give cash to organizations you trust so that food, water, sanitation and temporary housing can be established. Thank you.

  24. I suggest all of us that are working on this move this discussion over to the web site that was so fortuitously and generously set up by John – what a great communications and coordination hub! My life just suddenly became much easier :-)


  25. Hi All,

    Some days ago i was just thinking about such a structure to be created as this disasters represent oportunities to Permaculture, to local People and most importantly to Local Communities to be rebuilt on other strategies rather then those around the mear consumerism and depredation as we can see in present Haiti.
    Unfortunatly the people did not choose themselves this way of life but rather international business and corporations that are exploiting the all situation pre and pos quake as we will see.
    I do not know how to envolve myself on this project but certainly i will, with my knowledge, expertise and force. Lets us think very carefully about such initiative.
    Good luck for those of you how are willing to fly right away to the location, but be aware of the fragilities and explosive social situation that years of complete degradation produced.
    I am with you and with the Haitians

    Jorge Crespo
    vale.joana at

  26. I am so glad this discussion has begun. This is an opportunity to bring permaculture into mainstream awareness and to put all that we have learned collectively to work to help people in such a dire situation.

    For sure Haiti would benefit from a collaborated effort of permaculturists worldwide focused on sustainable solutions to the mulitiple problems and challenges the country faces. Coordination of groups, individuals, supplies and money will be important, but so will getting the US administration on board with supporting Permaculture based solutions to probelms. For example, I’m sure something like sandbags for use in building “perma yurts” could be supplied by governments, as well as supplies for composting toilets, solar ovens, etc.

    It would be great if large organizations like Oxfam, Care, etc. were willing to work WITH permaculturists in terms of creative solutions to huge probelms. In particular I think Americore youth would be very willing to work with permaculturists and that is a US funded program.

    I visited a number of permaculture websites and there isn’t mention of Haiti on most of them, with the exception of PRI Aus. I am planning to connect with goups I know of and send them the link to your site. I think pooling our resources (and minds) will be most beneficial. I am not in a postiion of go to Haiti physically, but am willing and wanting to help in other ways, such as fundraising and liason work with groups I know of.

    My heart goes out to the people of Haiti and all of the families worldwide who lost loved ones.

  27. hi corey,
    i saw on the website, michael reynolds and co. are heading to haiti and are looking for help with land and logistics and all other things. earthships would have to be a great design for this enviroment and has proven itself popular at other disaster sites. plenty for the locals to do and easy to imitate.
    hope you could help.

  28. Hi all, I am an active campaigner for permaculture, using root principles of Law as a very potent empowerment for a Global Permaculture rEvolution…. while this may not be directly applicable in the situation in Haitii, I can offer the resources of my web site at for anyone concerned with getting governments to provide appropriate resources for the longer term.

    Very Best wishes to everyone involved in this project

  29. This is to respond to the concerns of Robyn Francis and others about going in to help in a disaster setting. I did Robyn’s Sustainable Aid course at Quail Springs last summer.

    I totally agree that it is a waste of time and possibly dangerous to go to Haiti right now unless you are working with a very established disaster handling team. I’m putting together the elements that will make a volunteer effort of permaculturists useful and successful both now and for the future, with that full understanding in mind.

    I am working with a group of volunteer ministers who are extremely experienced in handling disasters all over the world and work directly with Red Cross and other major agencies. They have dozens of people on the ground already and are sending a plane of 100 more in a few days. They are well grooved in, they are “first responders”, and have been in Pakistan, SE Asia (Tsunami), New Orleans (they were one of the first response teams in, when the unrest was happening and had full access), 9-11 (full access), etc, etc.

    The teams can go in as Permaculture Relief Corp in liaison with this group and get food, security, etc, from them. We are focusing on sending in experts with key skill sets and some who already have disaster experience. I have disaster experience and well understand the risks and what it is like on the ground. We are currently working to get 3 sanitation experts in via the ministers groups and they will have food, etc, via that group and can get to work right away. One expert may fly in on a cargo plane that will carry 100 volunteers so will be in the center of things with established lines. We also need water specialists and water filtration immediately. Water is the #1 issue right now. Sanitation is the second. Volunteers will have access to expert trauma counselors as well, and they will be linked to a very good network of connection with other church groups, NGO’s, Red Cross, gov’t agencies, UN security personnel, etc.

    Permaculturists can set up systems that will be a lot more sustainable, even in disaster settings. Seeds can be planted – there is planning happening behind the scenes now which will influence the future for months or years (refuge camps vs keeping people in the city, etc). Permaculturists can give basic training the volunteer ministers and other rescue workers in how to build these, and give them the principles of permaculture which will then be spread worldwide in disasters. This group has already requested help from permaculturists in other situations like SE Asia where they still are working to do long term rebuilding. I gave the organizer in Los Angeles a 10 minute briefing on permaculture and she instantly got it – she instantly saw how it would be beneficial to start implementing long term sustainable solutions now rather than later, and to hat the people of Haiti on compost toilets, reusing water, etc. These guys move fast and they stay for rebuilding.

    We are keeping a database of volunteers who want to come later, for long term rebuilding, and are already in discussion about doing PDCs there for real long term development. We are not encouraging people with little experience or skill sets that don’t directly relate to what is needed to go there right now, but to wait until their efforts will be more meaningful.

    In disaster you have an abundance of chaos which can be turned into an abundance of order – out of great chaos comes NEW order – it is one of the major leverage points in a system because you don’t have to unstick entrenched systems – people are more open to new solutions and there is massive funding aimed at Haiti right now. That is a massive influx of energy into the systems which we should be using to put permanent systems there. There are many opportunities in a disaster that don’t exist otherwise. The problem is the solution, right?


  30. Dear Permies,

    I happen to have (as many of us do) a foot in both the permie camp and in the Natural Building Network, where I serve on the board. I’m also member of Builders without Borders and Engineers Without Borders.
    I’d be very happy if we could coordinate our efforts in this matter; Please let us know if you’re en need of any expertise relating to construction, and I’ll be happy to pass it on: The next NBN news letter is about to get posted, and I’d welcome a call for a joint effort between Builders and Permies across/witout Borders.

    Best wishes to all,
    Max Vittrup Jensen
    Msc. Environmental Management

  31. Thanks to all for writing here. This is what it’s all about. I like to see this human face to our world. It’s humanity at its finest.

    If any of you have particular thoughts to share to keep this issue progressing, send it through to me on editor (at)

  32. Update on Haiti: There are two chartered planes going out of LA on Thurs and NYC on Saturday (exact times are not known yet). There is a medical tent going up on site and we are working on getting people who can build compost toilets on site so we can get sanitation in immediately when we set up the hospital. These guys are fast responders and are ahead of the curve of organizations that are still working out logistics to get equipment in, etc. The lines are worked out to get personnel in these planes through the security lines, etc and on site where it will count.

    They need medical personnel (RNs, emergency techs, MDs, etc) and water and sanitation experts. They have the lines greased to get through to Haiti – all you need is a passport and malaria pills, and personal items. This is the best way to go in – you will be with a strong, experienced disaster team who knows how to use the lines to get equipment and get things done in a chaotic situation, and are very careful of their safety, etc. If you have medical training and are a permaculturist, you will be very valuable from a number of angles down there right now. Write me at [email protected] if you are interested. People who can just do physical work at someone else’s instructions are needed too, but it is highly recommended you have disaster experience or 2/3 world experience or both because it is quite a culture shock if you haven’t. It is a very rough situation right now and will be for some time and you will need to be emotionally prepared to deal with it. But you will be going in with a strong group of veteran disaster handlers who know how to pace themselves, help each other, and relieve trauma, and who “get” the importance of permaculture solutions and are excited to have us help.

  33. Note from site editor:

    Hello all. I’ve had to sleep on an unexpected and unpleasant deliberation about the comment thread that follows, where discussions about the beliefs of one of the contributors to this comment thread ensue (i.e. Scientology). I wasn’t sure if to let the thread continue or not (purely because I don’t want productive efforts to help Haitians to get derailed over arguments of religion).

    Before I say anything else, let it be officially known that neither myself (editor of PRI), nor the author of the article above (Evan) nor anyone connected with PRI, to my knowledge, has anything to do with Scientology.

    Continuing: in the interests of transparency and to persevere with my desire to keep this site as an open forum (I detest centralised control), I will put comments back that I removed last night. Comments I delete are gone from the WordPress admin system, so I am having to replace them manually using the content that comes through on comment notifications. All comments will be replaced, except I see this morning that I no longer have the notification for the first commenter that raised this issue. If that person has any kind of a copy of it and wants to see it returned, then please feel free to resubmit it, and I’ll edit the time on it to put it back into its original sequence. In case this comment is not resubmitted, I’ll just summarise it now by stating it was full of links connecting the previous commenter (Cory Brennan) with Scientology.

    As mentioned, I wasn’t sure if to close this comment thread or not, and may do so yet, but as long as people are civil, I would like to keep this site transparent and maintain it as an open forum.

    I am personally sad that the excellent original intentions and desires in this post and comment thread is being tarnished with this.

  34. “Volunteer ministers”? I remember them at 9/11, using that tragedy to try to play on vulnerable people to get them to join Scientology. If Scientology’s involved I won’t fundraise or support this even though Haiti needs someone to do it. Haitians have enough problems without a predatory cult.

  35. Just for the record,
    I myself am not a scientologist or connected in any way with scientology. If you want to make sure your funds go to permaculture oriented relief I would suggest or the Organization for the Rehabilitation of the Environment which is a sustainable ag and industry organization based near Les Cayes Haiti. I will be continuing to mobilized efforts and discussion around the concept of a permaculture relief corps in ways not associated with scientology.

  36. “I suggest all of us that are working on this move this discussion over to the web site that was so fortuitously and generously set up by John – what a great communications and coordination hub! My life just suddenly became much easier Cory”

    The site generously set up by John Calvert?

    This secret sponsor business isn’t at all decent or honorable.

  37. Wow, that is pretty ugly stuff to accuse someone of who has been working 14 hour days to get key experts to Haiti to save lives and who you know nothing about. Why are you remaining anonymous anyway? Are you a permaculturist? Or are you that anonymous guy who sits on his computer and searches terms all day long so he can harrass anybody that you think has anything to do with Scientology?

    This is pretty serious public defamation. You know nothing about me as a permaculturist or what I do or why I do it. My permaculture friends do, however, and those who know me can be the judge of what I do and why. They know me, they know my heart and my record of production and my dedication.

    I did work for the Church years ago, but you have no idea what I practice or believe in present time, you have no clue. I have found the Church’s volunteer ministers to be one of the most effective disaster teams around and anybody who works with them will verify that. They are first responders, they go where others don’t want to go, they put their lives at risk to save others’ lives. I know them well enough to trust them to get permaculture into the right places and right hands which is why I went to them instead of the Red Cross (who I’ve also worked with) which has way more bureaucracy. They have filled two large planes with mainly non-Scientologist medical personnel from around the world and much needed supplies and are working on a third.

    I would like to invite anybody bashing the Volunteer Ministers to go to Haiti immediately and replace them and do the work they’re doing. I can get funding for plane tickets and even get you clearance from Homeland Security (though maybe you are on the terrorist list like your buddies in “Anonymous?”). I’m serious, I’ll do that for you. Ready to go? Let’s see how for real you are, “Tor” Anonymous. It’s easy to sit in an armchair and spread rumors behind your computer screen. It’s harder to get out there and do something to change conditions in a harsh environment like Haiti is right now. Your suggestion that church members are inconveniencing themselves so intensively in order to go to Haiti during a major disaster so they can “prey” is pretty ridiculous if one actually thinks about it. There are easier ways to do that if that is your motivation. Try going to Haiti and see for yourself.

    The Permaculture Guild was formed by two people, but what does that have to do with anything? We are very effective two people – one of us is working on creating local sustainable farming networks in the state of Alabama while the other is teaching a PDC in Miami, setting up rescue efforts in Haiti, getting sustainable projects going in the Miami area, and creating some major projects to occur at Pine Ridge reservation this summer. There are easier ways to be an “operative” (and what exactly am I operating?). Give me a break. Your imagination seriously needs a new video game to occupy it.

    You know, guys, it’s too bad that Scientology has this small group of teenage bigots that follow it around on the ‘net and post stuff like this. Because I worked for the church once, this comes up years later. It’s a very ugly little game – they are trying to harm and waste some positive energies in the system for no good reason – I doubt this person has ever had anything to do with Scientology or any Scientologists (most of these guys haven’t). Fortunately, permaculturists do tend to look and observe for themselves where the energy in the system is and what it is doing, exactly.

    We have seven experts lined up to go to Haiti, funds for them, we’re working to line up more experts to go in, we’re creating proposals to raise funding for permaculture projects in Haiti for months to come. This is a Permaculture Relief Corp effort, not a religious effort from any angle. The goal is to get food, water, shelter and energy to the people in Haiti in a way that they can continue to provide those things for themselves and achieve independence and abundance. We are all going to find our “niche” in this game, whatever works for us personally.

  38. We have 6-7 sanitation/water experts and support going to Haiti by Saturday from Austria, Portugal and the US. People may still be able to make the NYC flight on Sat but I believe there is another plane leaving next week.

    I’m working with two Haitians (one is a student in our PDC) who are briefing me on general conditions in the area, and this has brought up some questions.

    There is a lot of concrete rubble lying around now – anybody have any uses for it? How would you handle it?

    We’re compiling a “favorite foods” list (as many Haitians do not like to vary from their familiar foods much) and also a list of plants already growing commonly in Haiti (that are not invasive) and native edibles. Anybody know which nitrogen fixers and dynamic accumulators grow well there or are native? We’re researching info on that too. We found out that moringa does grow there already and is something they will use – they eat many kinds of greens. A major crop is guinea corn (piti mi). They used to grow enough food there to feed the Caribbean until political and economic manipulation sent so many to the city.

    Permaculturist Marisha Aurbach in Washington State has agreed to collect seed and plant donations for Haiti and we’ll post a “desired” list soon.


  39. As far as I know, I am the only person who is a Scientologist and engaged in permaculture in Haiti. John Calvert has no relation to Scientology to my knowledge. I also honor indigenous ceremony and practice, and draw from the deep wells of Buddhism and Taoism. So are we going to bash those religions too, if I work with Taoists, Buddhists or indigenous peoples in order to get something effective done to care for the earth, people and share the surplus? I appreciate the support of this community, permaculturists are real people.

  40. I”m just going to say one more thing and then move on, because it angers me that a bunch of teenagers who don’t ever get past video games to live real life might cut across life saving actions in Haiti, because someone here might be backed off from getting involved. The volunteer minister planes are mainly filled with medical personnel (non-Scientologists mostly) who are desperately needed in Haiti right now. One has to wonder at the motivations of people who would try to cut across or interfere with that in any way. As earthquakes continue to happen, people continue to experience life threatening injuries.

    People don’t have clean water or any water at all – if they weren’t killed by the earthquake, they could die from cholera or other diseases because of the human waste factor and other sanitation problems. There are some permaculturists who have the heart to confront this and go there and handle it, and the church has planes and lines strung to get them in fast. No one else has come forward to get permaculturists in there and in the heart of things, and in a position to do something effective, and SAFE (as one can be in that situation). Only someone living through a video game would believe that Scientologists or anybody else is going to have time to do ANYTHING else down there but help people survive. Even a good video game player would know better.

  41. I am just one of many people pitching into this effort. I have never had anything to do with scientology, I am 100% atheist. I am also a scientist. My efforts in permaculture are predicated on a secular world view as is the case for Permaculture on the global scale.

    I am not going to go into any sort of unproductive spiral supporting or not supporting scientology.

    I DO think its important to ask about the virulent passions of those who follow others around trashing as we see here – I am guessing they themselves have an evangelical pathology that leads them down this path.

    Religion has NOTHING to do with plants and healing the earth.

    People bring their particular emotional and psychological needs to bear because they need to protect their egos. That has nothing to do with the regenerative power of nature.

    Let us not allow this completely unrelated toxic bruhaha to degrade the conversation.

    Open your hearts and participate constructively. Do not let a pastor or some other religious leader or saboteur lead you down a conflicted path that essentially inactivates your important work exactly when we need you to step up (all of us).

    This is not just about Haiti and the changes ahead of us will require a whole world of permaculturist who have experience, skills, and systemic thinking to cope with climate change.

    Your permacultural beachhead can be Haiti but rest assured, there is a whole lot more work to do.

  42. On Scientology:

    Thank you Cory for your explanation.
    I personally don’t care about color or creed, religion, sexual preferences etc., as long as it’s maintained as a private issue, and not stuffed down someone’s throat, and actions not taken politically advantage of later: E.g. giving credit to Scientology for what the non-scientology volunteers are doing…

    But to be fair: Isn’t this exactly what Red Cross is doing? How many of their staff are Christians?

    Thank you also, Craig, for letting this issue re-submerge again, and please, Mr. Anonymous; If you feel compelled to state your claims again, then do so in a language which respects everyone rights to their independent beliefs, not in a sensational demeaning tone as the previous mail.

    On ‘Concrete-rubble’:
    I’m afraid you’re mistaken. What you have abundant is an excellent building material called ‘Urbanite’. Can be used to make raised gardens, pretty foot paths in garden paths, and more essentially: Foundations/first floors for Natural built houses in flood prone areas: Just remember to add plenty of re-bar and quality mortar between them: More re-bar than what was there before the quake! Could also be used to prevent future Tsunami’s by making an artificial reef…

    And for the record: I’m 100% Max-ist! [Firm follower of myself, for better or for worse!]

  43. Max, Thank you – I agree – Scientologists can be given credit for providing chartered planes and greased lines to get these guys in, and anything else they may actually do to forward the cause of permaculture (if they choose to do so).

    Any other group that participates and contributes should be likewise credited for what they do. I’d like to acknowledge – two of their staff are on a plane today for Haiti and they will be teaching Haitians low tech water purification solutions that can be implemented with existing resources. They have done work in Senegal, Peru, and elsewhere – they go from village to village teaching these methods and getting them implemented. This helps eliminate the need for lots of funding and equipment before anything can be done to clean the water.

    Nika, I agree – this is not a forum for discussion of religion but of permaculture.

    Concrete: Finding multiple uses for concrete rubble could turn into economic opportunity for Haitians – there is so very much of it right now! A huge potential resource… Does anybody have techniques for using bamboo instead of rebar for foundations? how can existing resources be capitalized upon? At Pine Ridge, they are using loose rocks for foundations – an old technique that was used in Europe and elsewhere and has supported buildings now 1000 years old, through fire, flood, and other disasters. I’ve been told this type of foundation will work in an Earthquake as well, because it allows “give.” In LA, some of the larger buildings are built on rollers instead of fixed foundations because they can give. I was in one during Northridge Earthquake and it just rocked back and forth – it was amazing, the only damage was at the seams, which were made to break apart to relieve stress. I am not an expert builder by any means, so I could be talking out of my hat, but maybe it would work?

  44. I attended the first permaculture convergence in peru this summer. there was a presenter who had done work utilizing a cane similar to bamboo for re-enforcement after earthquakes there. im not sure if the same species grows in haiti, but it would maybe a fruitful option.
    if i recall correctly the cane was used as a wire mesh would be to strengthen mud brick buildings.
    i’ve sent out email feelers to find this person. and will hopefully hear back soon.
    short of their contact, depending on its availability bamboo is a great option.

  45. I have read all the posts to date and we seem to be going around in circles. If we are going to get anywhere we now need to focus on the key issues – are we going to do something or not – and what are we going to do and when? Finally who is going to be responsible for what? If as a group we can not take this step then this stream / site may degenerate into a waste of time.

    To simplify what we should be doing I have listed below just a few of the options we have available as to what we can do and when. At this point I must state that this list is far from complete and I am sure you can think of other options (so please let us know about them) plus no options are exclusive and I would recommend that two or more can / should be combined:

    A. Short Term Assistance (from today to around 6 to 12 months)

    1) We can send useful material / resources overseas (note: most of it may not be pure Permaculture based) and our role would be to collect / finance and then pack such material for sending;
    2) We can send volunteers to assist with the early disaster recovery process, that is to assist the locals in the camps. The types of assistance would be in the area of psychological support, water, sewage, short term housing, food preparation, lighting, heating / cooling, training and of course boredom control etc. The volunteers would also be useful to distribute any material / resources that we (Permaculturists) ship overseas.

    B. Medium Term Assistance (from around 6 months time to 2 years)

    1) We can send Permaculture trainers and perform courses for the locals and then support them in the camp environment to implement what was taught. However from a long term point of view we must leave the responsibility for implementation and follow up to the locals when they are settled in their long term localities.
    2) We can send Volunteers to assist with the longer term infrastructure and lifestyle changes that will benefit them in the long term once they return to her home areas outside the camps (Permaculture would be just one of those changes and sustainable living may be another);
    3) We can train selected individuals in Australia in a concentrated manner on Permaculture techniques that are appropriate to his / her area and then support them when they return to train lots of other locals and to advance the cause.

    C. Longer Term Assistance (unknown)

    1) We can send volunteers to assist after the disaster camps have gone and the locals have returned to their home areas to provide a local Permaculture structure, plus Permaculture training and implementation assistance in their home areas.
    2) Its now your turn to provide another option.

    As I said earlier each of these options can have many sub or super options within them however I deliberately drafted them in as simple a form as possible so we can decide the path we want to take and over what time frame. When a time frame is provided this doesn’t mean that the volunteers (if any) need to be overseas for the whole time. It would be the best option for the locals however it would be very difficult for the average volunteer. This raises one other question and that is what assistance (if any) we should provide the volunteer(s). Just remember even the best volunteer will need some assistance if they stay any longer then a few months!

    What I have done here is just the first step! Now we must take the next step and tie down exactly what we are going to do and more importantly when. Then and only then do we need to do the next step of selecting who is responsible for what.

    Just remember that even if we want to start in one months time and send volunteers overseas then, from my experience its just not possible to do it that quickly with volunteers. To get the permissions needed to enter a disaster area and to fix up all the volunteer’s medical / dental /insurance /security / accommodation and placement issues will take at least that long let alone for the volunteers to organise their lives to go overseas for more then a month or so. It will take time so if we want to do something we have to make decisions quickly and the first step is to make a decision of exactly what we want to do.

    I now leave it up to you!

  46. Work is being done on short, medium and long term options at We’ve organized five permaculturists going down, and other groups are also sending people. We’re planning medium and long term strategies over there. Get on the listserv! We have an IT (John Calvert) who has set up a great web site with many features just to handle this one subject. Please, let’s use it! There is way too much traffic happening on this subject to put it on here.

  47. I would glady donate to a permaculture relief project in Haiti. I now contribute to Trees for the Future who have projects in Haiti. I heard on the news today they are greatful that the people are again going back to the more rural communities where they left due to poverty. The poverty continues in the city. A good new start there in the rural communities with permaculture would be very helpful. Anna

  48. For the sake of transparency, I asked John Calvert of if he is the Scientologist ‘John Calvert’ that Gerald Forby mentioned in his comment above. He has confirmed to me that he is not that John Calvert, and not a Scientologist.

  49. Thanks Craig.
    If it’s any help I’d add that on the board on NBN we have a former and present Mormon, one person very interested in Rudolf Steiner, a single unemployed mother, a businessman, a grey haired lady who percieve of her dog as a child, a woman who don’t celebrate x-mas, and me who’ll pick a written fight with anyone…. unfortunately we’re all white folks, and I’m unaware about anyone having atypical sexual preferences…
    Point is that we’re all united due to our interest in Natural Building Network, and doing the best we can to do so…
    I trust this is the similar to what unites everyone interested in ‘Permaculture Relief Corps’.
    In other words: Lets stay on the topic: Help Haiti.

    Cheers, Max Vittrup Jensen

  50. Thank you Craig, a small amount of amateur research would have confirmed that for Gerald, but he neglected to bother.


    Another plane is leaving from Miami to Haiti Friday AM (tomorrow) – anyone interested in being on that plane must contact me today (Thurs). There should be another plane next week from LA or NY, hopefully. And a boat leaving from Florida in about one week that has some room for people.

    We’ve heard from the two teams on the ground and are getting reports from the Haitian government now. The water filter team is trying to go to Leogane (probably there by now) – that city was totally destroyed and all water is being brought in currently. The sanitation team is working with the major rescue efforts near Port Au Prince and they are SO needed – we need 20 more people like them! Please, if you’re interested, go there.

    Per Haitian government officials who are touring the hardest hit areas of Jacmel, Port Au Prince and Leogane, the water and sanitation systems have been almost completely compromised. Many people had concrete catchment tanks on their roofs that were ruined in the quake. They caught some rainwater, but people paid to have water delivered too. They usually do not use roofs to catch extra rainwater. There are also many private wells and some spring fed water supply, especially in Port Au Prince. Many wells have been compromised and the supply from springs outside the city has been as well. They need water filters for the wells that still operate and also spring water that people may go to access. And for now, plastic water catchment, caught from roofs of temp shelters, may be a very good thing.

    There are many people still in the city in Port Au Prince (where more buildings survived) and also camps set up outside the city. The crime is not nearly as extreme as the media makes out – many communities are closely cooperating and helping each other to survive.

    Sanitation is almost non existent – there is a real risk of major disease vectors coming in if this is not addressed.

    We are looking for proposals for water catchment, filtering and human waste sanitation systems for neighborhoods and the camps (for instance, plastic tanks could catch water from temporary shade structures or tents), and are portable and could be moved to permanent shelter once this is set up. We are looking for people who can back up the sanitation and water teams already on the ground (do not have to be skilled in the area but will be building, teaching, etc), or who have expertise in water catchment, filtering or sanitation.

    We continue to create relationships with other groups in country and out – a green builder in the Tampa area is creating a plan to use shipping containers (which he uses currently) and urbanite aggregate and metal roofs (which are common in Haiti and could possibly be salvaged) to create good sized structures quickly that will be both earthquake and hurricane resistant. We have begun working with him and others to create whole systems that can be quickly created (his homes can be constructed in one day) and are sustainable, long term solutions.

  51. Another point – many people from the cities are fleeing to the country. Though we’ve all heard how devasted the Haitian environment is, and this is very true, there are still many green areas of the country that have abundant food – it piles up on the ground going to waste from the jungle trees. I’ll try to upload some pictures from all over the country taken by someone from that country who has been briefing me on the environmental conditions in the different areas. These green areas are a resource that could be stewarded to feed the country. The main reason the food goes to waste, according to my friend, is that there is insufficient access to the cities from those areas (which may be why they’re still green – horseback and boat are common modes of travel in those areas) and subsidized US corporations are underselling Haitian farmers in the cities so it is not worth it for them to travel there.

    Very interested in feedback from others who have worked there or are in country – we’d like to link up where it may be beneficial to do so.

    We are working on some major funding lines, and though there are no promises we will get anywhere, well thought out, succinct proposals for projects in Haiti are welcome and very well could be funded – a whole lot of energy is aimed at Haiti right now and I really hope that sustainable solutions are able to tap into some of that and keep it in the system.

  52. For the benefit of people subscribed to this comment thread I’ll bring your attention to this post, which is my attempt to address the concerns of people who have commented above and also those who have emailed me with their concerns about the perceived relationship between Scientologists and permaculturists working together in disaster relief.

  53. Going to area Leogane and Petit Goave for 6-8 months (mid March). Wish to get in touch with all other teachers and designers in area to make best we can in co-operation. Thanks for contacting, all information and useful know-how beforehand as well as identification of crucial areas to put effort without wasting time and resources.

  54. Marcel, We have some teachers in Haiti now in the main city areas setting up classes. There is also a project in Limbe with permaculture teachers and designers – more info at

    Here’s an update on what the permaculturists we got down there via the Scientology Volunteer Minister charter planes are doing. They were first responders and definitely saved lives by being in the thick of things early on. They put in very badly needed sanitation in the main hospital in Port Au Prince, have done sanitation in camps and have been teaching Haitians how to create their own sanitation and clean water. They are now hooked up with major points of the Haitian government and major NGO’s such as UNICEF and negotiating larger projects. They are also setting up to teach permaculture via several venues. They can definitely use funding to expand their efforts (donations accepted by I’ll submit a full article on it soon and we continue to update our blog at

    They have learned a lot about first responding – it can be very intense and chaotic – and one volunteer who has returned is writing up his recommendations which he will share once he is completed.

  55. Thank you, Evan, for your call for a Permaculture Relief Corps. I recently returned from a medical relief mission in Haiti, and I am convinced of the potential of permaculture providing systemic solutions and opportunities for Haitians to rebuild their country. My optimism may be far too abundant, but I believe with integrated permaculture strategies that touch all intersecting aspects of reconstruction, i.e. health, nutrition, sustainable agriculture, reforestation, sanitation, and education, Haiti has the potential to become a template for sustainable living for other degraded, post-disaster, and war-torn areas of the world. And who knows, Haitians, with their incredible strength and resilience, may one day show us in the “developed” world how to live a sustainable life in harmony with nature.

    I am definitely interested in the formation of a permaculture relief corps. I am a nurse, and I have completed a permaculture design certification course. Please keep me posted, as I am continuing my commitment to Haiti.

  56. Immediately after the Haiti earthquake, a project named Sadhana Forest, based in India, began looking into Haitian land to help local communities with permaculture based reforestation work. Within two months, they had the land secured and started work planting the indigenous but extinct from Haiti Maya Nut tree to create a food forest in Anse A Pitre, Haiti. I´m currently volunteering here and earning my Permaculture Design certificate at the same time. Sadhana Forest is hosting a free PDC in English for around 50 international volunteers, and one in Creole for around 20 Haitians. We would love to have your support as a volunteer! You can find out more at the website, Maybe I´ll see you soon! Tommasina

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