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Please Get Behind Our Efforts to Demonstrate Sustainable Development and Relief for Chile Quake/Tsunami Victims

Editor’s Preamble: Permaculturists famously endeavour to ‘turn the problem into a solution’. At the moment we have a tremendous opportunity to apply this principle in wonderful, productive ways in disaster-hit Chile. The quake-tsunami combo that hit on February 27, 2010 has created a void just begging for sustainable relief and re-development. Grifen Hope, who writes below and who leads out at Ecoescuela El Manzano, a partner organisation to the Permaculture Research Institute, is well positioned to fill that void with all kinds of permaculture goodness – in the form of low-cost environmentally friendly buildings, improved sanitation and nutrient cycling through construction of composting toilets, water harvesting systems and in education in home garden design, etc. Grifen’s already established and successful project and his national contacts make this a particularly significant opportunity, to not only directly help people in great need at this time, but to also offer more holistic and community centred alternatives to local and national government – alternatives with far greater short and long term potential than those offered by the scores of contractors seeking to cash in on misery. PRI Australia feels so strongly about assisting Grifen with his noble ambitions, that we’re putting forward the first AU$1,000 donation. Both PRI Australia and PRI USA are taking donations for this cause (people in the U.S. will want to donate through PRI USA, to take advantage of their tax-exampt non-profit status). In the interests of transparency, PRI USA will take 5 percent of donations to cover administration and the work that had to be done to facilitate the legal aspects of sponsoring this project – but that 5% will help PRI USA develop its own projects). PRI Australia will pass 100% of donations to the project in Chile. Additionally, as we feel this work deserves significant exposure, and as we seek to ensure that valuable permaculture relief work gets noticed at the highest levels, to attract further governmental support for future disasters worldwide, PRI Australia and myself (Craig Mackintosh) will share the costs for myself to go to Chile to cover and report on Grifen’s work via photographs, writing and video. I would like to take this opportunity to ask people to get behind this in whatever way they can. Donations, large or small, will all assist in what is the very best form of aid work. Perhaps ask your employer to match your donation – many will. Additionally, people with contacts in government, aid agencies and other NGOs are invited to share this page with them. Thanks in advance to the worldwide permaculture community for getting behind this work. You never know – in the future you may be the recipient of such assistance.

Update: Letters from Chile‘ reports from Craig are coming in. Check them out!

Donate via PRI USA (USA residents)*
Other non-paypal methods of donating here

Donate via PRI Australia (rest of world)*
Other non-paypal methods of donating here

*Please be sure to click on the ‘Add special instructions to seller’ link, and then type ‘CHILE’ in the field provided, to ensure these fund are correctly diverted.

El Manzano in Transition – Towards Community Resilience, by Design

by Grifen Hope of Ecoescuela El Manzano



The primary objective of this project is to assist devastated communities of Chile to plan and design their own resilient settlements, to quickly recover from the devastating Earthquake of February 27 2010, and to build long-term resistance to the future effects of natural disaster, economic, climate, and energy disruption.

This project presents a call for regional, national and international investment in living examples of good practice in the planning and design of resilient human settlements. Evidence of the outcomes from this approach will be used to influence regional and national government officials and policy makers to replicate the model throughout the affected regions of BìoBìo and Maule.


On February 27th 2010 Chile was hit by a ´Mega-earthquake´ that shook the very foundations of Chilean society. In total 4.2 million people have been affected, many of whom are still without basic public services. Approximately 1.5 million homes have been destroyed or heavily damaged, with an estimated 1 million people left homeless. Initial estimates suggest the recovery will cost US$30 billion and take 3-4 years.

On reflection it could have been much worse. While the quake was 500 times stronger than that in Haiti and devastation is enormous, Chile has fared relatively well. Compared to Haiti the death toll and damage to buildings and infrastructure has been moderate. With a long history of devastating earthquakes the Chilean government and people are well prepared to withstand, respond and recover from a large earthquake.

At this point in time the priority is still on the relief response and providing basic needs to hundreds of thousands of affected people. However, attention is now turning to planning for the reconstruction phase. I think some concise reference to the vulnarabilities of modern industrial systems to multiple likely future impacts of peak oil, climate change, etc. is warranted to explain why this local resilience approach is so important to advance, rather than using existing local national and international capacity to rebuild communities on the old pattern.


The village of El Manzano, home to 28 families, is the first official Transition Town in Latin America and in a pre-earthquake process of redesigning itself for resilience to disaster. The village remains highly vulnerable to the systemic crises of natural disaster, economic, climate, and energy disruption. Many of the basic necessities such as water, food and medical care are dependent on external resources, and existing housing is not fit for human habitation. These poverty related issues have been compounded by the recent earthquake. As El Manzano is out of the main disaster area it is very low on the priority list for recovery. In response the community has identified its own vulnerabilities;

  1. Dependence on electricity for water for drinking, irrigation of crops and animals.
  2. Lack of access to land for subsistence crops, low fertility and low moisture holding capacity of existing soils, with dependence on unhealthy external food sources.
  3. Earthquake damage to two houses making them uninhabitable, and a general state of substandard housing for the majority of village residents.
  4. Reliance on septic tanks for household and human waste disposal, subsequent excessive use of water and contamination of shallow groundwater used for drinking.
  5. Low participation in community activities and the design of a community plan for the development of local resilience.


The community of El Manzano has identified the following priorities for disaster response and recovery in coming months. These activities will provide practical training opportunities for local residents and permaculture trainees in construction of simple systems, and in regenerative design that can be replicated in other communities.

  1. To ensure water supply for 28 families independent of the electricity grid for drinking and irrigation.
    (a). Implement appropriate solutions for the supply of gravity fed household drinking water and irrigation systems to generate resilience in drought times or black out.
    (b). Manufacture of PVC hand pumps for extraction of clean shallow groundwater.
    (c). Recovery of existing deep wells which can extract water without electricity.
  2. To ensure local food security for 71 people by increasing natural fertility and water holding capacity of soil using locally available materials and recycling of organic wastes.
    (a). Establish 1.2 hectares of community garden to meet the vitamin and calorie needs of 71 residents.
    (b). Cultivate 1.9 hectares of community compost and grain crops for the food self-reliance of 71 people.
    (c). Implement a local food cooperative so residents can purchase bulk food in the village.
    (d). Development of soil improvement techniques and organic soil amendments.
  3. To rebuild two houses made uninhabitable in the earthquake (affecting 2 families: 3 children, 3 women, 4 men) as a model for other residents to improve substandard housing conditions.
    (a). Rebuild the 40 m2 house of Don Oscar and family using locally available natural materials to be earthquake resistant.
  4. To ensure appropriate sanitation for 28 families, reduce need for water and reduce groundwater contamination.
    (a). Reduce water consumption and contamination of ground water with construction of dry composting toilets.
    (b). Implementation of simple bio-filters for the safe re-use of grey water in gardens.
  5. To support the community design process in EL Manzano and develop a Community Resilience Action Plan.
    (a). Provide a model of community-led planning and design for community that can be replicated widely in the affected regions of BíoBío and Maule, and around the world.
    (b). Disseminate the results widely to local and regional authorities to attract attention and replication in other affected communities of BíoBío and Maule.


Ecoescuela El Manzano (EEM) is uniquely positioned to make a big difference in the reconstruction process. EEM has developed strong relationships with the El Manzano Neighbourhood Association and Youth Group, and assisted a core team to begin the Transition planning processes here. Relationships have been formed with the mayor and local council of Cabrero and their PRODESAL programme supporting rural women in small enterprise. A partnership has been formed with the regional demonstration centre Centre of Education and Technology (CET) Yumbel to share resources and expertise. EEM is working with the foundation Work for a Brother to duplicate the El Manzano project in some of the worst disaster affected communities on the coast of BíoBío. An existing contract with the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) through the Environmental Protection Fund exists to install appropriate technology during 2009 in a community demonstration centre, and in 2010 in all houses in the village. In 2009 El Manzano was recognised as an example of best practice in community development by national organisation Territorio Chile. At a national level Ecoescuela has been instrumental in forming the Instituto Chileno de Permacultura and training a network of 140 permaculture designers and teachers. At an international level Ecoescuela is a regional training centre for sustainability in partnership with the Permaculture Research Institute, Holmgren Design Services, Gaia University and the Transition Towns Network.


Ecoescuela El Manzano has committed to raise US$50,000 to augment an existing US$17,500 for this ambitious and important project in 2010.

A donation from you will help turn disaster into opportunity. Through redesign of damaged settlements we can alleviate emergency need, and invest in long term resilience.

Gracias from Chile!

advance to the worldwide permaculture community for getting behind this work. You never know – in the future you may be the recipient of such assistance.

Donate via PRI USA (USA residents)*
Other non-paypal methods of donating here

Donate via PRI Australia (rest of world)*
Other non-paypal methods of donating here

*Please be sure to click on the ‘Add special instructions to seller’ link, and then type ‘CHILE’ in the field provided, to ensure these fund are correctly diverted.


  1. I were at a seminar last autumn and I learned that Chile is a leading country in environmentally friendly building technics! There were two lectures, I’ve found them both at Internet and post them here for inspiration. The first lecture were by Julio E. Perez and can be found here:

    The second lecture were by Pedro Serrano-Rodríguez and can be found here:

    This seminar were very inspirating to me, and the houses shown in these documents are so beautifull! I hope watching all these nice and enviremently friendly buildings can be an inspiration for you too.

  2. Hi to everyone!!

    I´m from and i had te chance to be in Constitución City as volunteer, on of the most damaged cities with the earthquake and tsunami. People there need to learn to reutilize for example rain water, i think that people in all this zone of the disaster need to learn about Permacultura. I would to contribute, to learn and teach in that zone.
    Best regards,


  3. Thanks to Permaculture Australia for alerting the global Permaculture communities and, hopefully, the wider population to the current plight of Chilean earthquake and Tsunami victims. My nephew – Grifen Hope – and his wife – Javiera Carrion – and their extended family have been quietly making a difference to the lives of people in the Biobio region of South Western Chile for the last two years.
    This is a region in a huge country of great, unspoilt natural beauty and vast resources that is little known in our super civilised, ultra modern world.
    Grifen, Javiera and family should be applauded for their efforts, endurance and resilience in their recent hard work. They are masterful in their Educational Programs and demonstration of transforming a poor and subsistence living, rural area into an eco friendly, self sufficient, sustainable town.
    Since the February earthquake, and the destruction of their newly created buildings, dam, farmland, crops and gardens they are financially challenged to the extreme. They remain steadfast, positive and busier than ever with remarkable attendances at their courses and seminars.
    As an inner Brisbane city, Australian resident with all the facilities and advantages of modern city life, I urge us all to take a few minutes out to read about and comprehend lives and lifestyles far removed from our own. Making a contribution to the El Manzano community project, is a small step towards creating a safer, happier, sustainable Mother Earth for US ALL.
    Donations for Chile can be made via the Permaculture Reserach Institute of Australia.
    Links at
    See more about Grifen & Javiera’s work at

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