International Permaculture Development Work: Sharing of experiences and insights

The NWPCC will feature workshops and round-table sessions on international development and permaculture. Permaculture has a very strong international aspect. A lot of permaculturists travel to other countries, teaching and studying. We particularly like to study traditional systems and work with indigenous people. Permaculture as an international movement moves a lot of information around the globe through its various channels. Thousands of permaculturists have worked in international development over the years. On the whole with good results but certainly also a share of failures. People who participate in this Track will learn from the successes and failures of each other and share their best resources. It would be valuable to hear from people who have done international work in the related fields of agriculture, restoration, renewable energy, and so forth and so they are invited to participate.
This Track started with a phone conversation with my friend Brent Naylor who is currently giving permaculture advice to Tibetan nomad communities. Brent’s Buddhist teacher in the US also has a monastery in Tibet.  The Tibetan nomads are losing access to land to practice their traditional ways and are looking for alternatives.  Brent would love to see a discussion at NWPCC by people who have worked internationally using permaculture, dealing with different cultures, officials, etc. Brent Naylor will give a short fifteen or twenty minute presentation on the situation in Tibet, both at the Kilung monastery and maybe a little about the larger picture too.  Perhaps someone will attend who has been to Dzachuka and could help answer specific questions. Here is a link to the project:
Two other permaculture friends, Will K and Sheila G. have been working with an Afghanistan NGO advising on food and fruit production and more.  Will and Sheila live in the semi-arid Columbia Basin, in an analog climate to the Afghan project.  This is an Afghani run project and in a war zone, so the NGO people have to be very careful of security. Sheila is hoping to make it to the NWPCC so she can be part of the discussion.
 Jim Gilbert of Northwoods Nursery (and former owner of One Green World nursery) will give a presentation on “Temperate zone fruit exploring and the useful fruit varieties we have found, both in Eurasia and North America.” Jim has done a lot of traveling in the former Soviet Union, and “Lorraine and I have traveled there and to other countries as well.  We also worked as USAID advisors in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.  The USAID was focused on helping farmers grow unusual fruiting crops and nursery stock.  The other travels were and continue to be focused on finding new varieties and learning about cultural techniques.”  Jim’s talk will be a crossover between the fruit track and the international track.
Mike Maki of Agroforestry Associates, who is presenting at the NWPCC wrote in a recent email that “I have a specific demo project in Peru’s San Martin state, involving biochar, organic cafe, cacao and sacha inchi (Plukenetia volubilis), and select harvest logging, and I am working on an Andean-American Agriculture Initiative Center.”
Jacqueline Cramer has been one of the leading people in Seattle’s Beacon Food Forest. Because of this she was invited to travel to Taiwan and advise the mayors of a number of large cities on how to put in public food forests.  Jackie will share some of her experience at one of the international round-tables.
Other NWPCC 2016 presenters who I know have worked internationally include Marisha Auerbach, David Boehnlein, Kateen Fitzgerald and myself (Michael Pilarski). We expect dozens of NWPCC participants will have worked overseas and many of them will contribute to the international discussion.

Rico Zook is giving a pre-convergence workshop on this topic on September 22 in Port Townsend. See information HERE. Stay tuned here for further developments on this Track at NWPCC 2016.

NAPC International Working Group:
A big part of the 2014 North American Permaculture Convergence (NAPC) was the dozen or so working groups.  One of them was the International Working Group, which met at least 3 times and involved about 30 people, almost all of whom had overseas experience. They made a listserve and continued to communicate afterwards. Here is part of their report.
The list of goals for the working group are as follows:
1. Compile and Create Best Practices for International PC Development work
2. Document International PC Longer term failures and successes to track trends and compile best practice info
3. Database International PC sites
4. Database PC practitioners who are doing International PC Development work
5. Create shared curriculum for International PC Development work, and compile locally appropriate resources. (pictoral)
6. Train PC workers with most effective, and culturally sensitive approaches to development and aid work
7. Create support structure and organization for Int'l PC workers
8. Create apprenticeship and mentorship opportunities for new Int'l PC'ers
9. Compile possible funders and sources of revenue for Int'l PC projects
10. Start by having mini workshops via skype or other forum about ideas (Gaia University was going to open a blackboard site)
If you’d like to be part of the NWPCC International Development and Permaculture Track please send an email to Michael Pilarski,

Here is an excerpt from a recent personal email that Sheila Grace sent to me on the topic of international development and our Western cultural biases. 
“So where do we go from here? International permaculture persons are most likely to run into PTSD, since much of the work is done in war torn settings. Couple that with 500 years of colonialism. I grew up in an around Six Nations Haudenosaunee country, so many of my classmates at Cornell had the time and patience to teach me about that subject in and out of class while studying Native American Philosophy.  For instance the concept that Liberal or Conservative (or any other mechanistic binary thinking) come from the same Fish Bowl of paradigms delivered up by the white European industrial revolutions, and if we are going to be of help to ourselves or anyone else we need to study our own Fish Bowl (culture) and come to terms with how many insidious belief systems we take for granted (unaware of) that are an antitheses to indigenous ways of perceiving the world. My Mohawk friend Anna, seeing my conflict around the word stewardship, helped me understand that their way was the way of reciprocity and in her words, these two; stewardship & reciprocity will never meet for a handshake on the bridge of language or concept. As Vine Deloria Jr. points out there are so many more opposing cultural nuances as to keep us learning for a lifetime. 
If we're going to go out in the World to engage in pc design, it is my understanding we need to be as aware as possible about these insidious taken-for-granted-beliefs, especially the liberal do-gooder crowd who may not know how deep their roots grow in the Time Based Consumerist Religion of Progress culture. 
Detox is as essential as the Recovery.” Sheila Grace.

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