Information is the critical potential resource. It becomes a resource only when obtained and acted upon. – Bill Mollison
There is a moment, according at least to Geoff Lawton, when a permaculture student becomes ‘terminal’; forever destined, perhaps, to spout interesting (to some, anyway) facts/theories about ducks and lofty (but totally do-able) plans for future garden designs and/or the ‘edible meadow’, all the while flicking off light-switches everywhere and drying seaweed on the clothesline in between those telltale permaculture dreams….
Well, I can’t say for sure at this stage that we have any new terminals among the 18 students who just completed the first ever Permaculture course in Samoa, (and I dare say the Samoan incarnation of a permaculture addict might differ on specifics) but I definitely saw familiar sparks in a few eyes over the last 2 weeks, which means at least – they are infected!
From the 25th of January to the 12th of February, these 18 brave pioneers (who are also already certified Life Skills coaches) lodged with us in humble but comfortable headquarters in Fagalii, to test out for the first time METI’s Permaculture Demonstration and Training Centre. Personally, I was thoroughly impressed with the participants and their willingness to learn, interact with and use the information made available.
The course was not a certified PDC, but covered all basic design principles and concepts. More culturally specific than the universal PDC, the course focused more on theory than technique because most of the participants have extensive practical knowledge already. (We have found under the cobwebs of western misinformation that the skill and feeling for living naturally/ethically/harmoniously is still very well intact in Samoa.)
All participants received a fully-translated copy of a 50-page booklet which was written over the last 12 months specifically for the islands of Samoa. (Contact me at tamlyn.dae (at) gmail.com for a copy of this document in English or Samoan.)
So, what was learnt? What did the people actually get from this pilot course? Well, first of all, since Permaculture is a totally new term for almost all Samoans, I believe this course was effective in casting the first rays of light and understanding on so important a concept for the islands. I also believe that the information given was almost entirely received with appreciation and affirmation.
Aloema Fretton told me that when her husband, Alesana, who also successfully completed the course, gets back from NZ, they are going to get started on designing their dream permaculture home:
It is a huge relief for us to hear that we don’t have to use chemicals. Before we could only use land for a few years, but now we understand that we can actually increase the fertility of our land over time. It is cheaper and better for us. But I can see that permaculture is not just about us right now, but it is about doing the right thing for the future of our country and the world. My children will benefit from us using permaculture because the land will be fertile; instead of us making money now but destroying the soil and leaving nothing for the next generation.
And here are some photos to really drive the point home (and as evidence that YES, this really happened!):
The beautiful and theatrical ladies perform a highly educational role-play – a very
effective way of communicating information (and bringing some serious hilarity
into the classroom)
A few keen participants listen to a talk by local beekeeper extraordinaire,
Lester Dean, on small-scale beekeeping as a livelihoods project in Samoa
(and learn that keeping bees = double or triple mango and avocado yields!)
‘Designing in harmony with Natural Patterns’ day was a fun one. One student found
this leaf which in its natural context contained at least 4 of the generic pattern
models on the whiteboard.
Seed-saving, an all important aspect of any sustainable growing system.
Here are eggplant, green bean, mung bean and chilli seeds from
our very own demonstration garden
Three cheers for the first batch of compost tea in Samoa! The makeshift
brewer (with this cheap electromagnetic pump) functioned flawlessly.
Getting practical – Uunu returns an unwelcome esi (papaya) tree to the
hungry banana circle.
Leativa and I check out the compost in a practical lesson
Participants set loose in the veggie garden
Information is the critical potential resource. For me, 12 months of work were easily paid off in the split second of seeing those ‘sparks’ in response to information given – and I believe that the necessary action will follow. I would like to extend a huge THANK YOU to METI and all people involved in this event, and offer my most sincere blessings for the future of this project, and the work of all those dedicated to creating harmony.