Eco-Life: Regenerative paths, a E+ funded course | August 2020
On a beautiful little piece of land in Greece a two-week course focused on Permaculture Design and Agroforesty Systems took place. An intense experience with an overwhelming program that left everyone inspired and full of hope! These Erasmus+ projects are a wonderful gift that we european citizens have at the reach of our hands. One of the most interesting aspects of this course was being able to meet so many people from a wide array of countries, a true melting pot of cultures, yet sharing a common interest: Permaculture and Agroforesty. The other key component for the success of this program was the great facilitation of Giuseppe and the tireless support of the hosting organization, Aeiphoria. The whole program had a very dynamic flow, supported by a good balance between practice and theory. Reflorestar Portugal (Rpt) was the Portuguese partner for this event to happen. Through Rpt 6 portuguese citizens were able to join this adventure.
We were 35 participants in total from 6 different countries . It was extremely interesting to learn about each other’s cultures’ nuances, the different behaviors and approaches to common life problems. Almost every night after dinner we celebrated together, exchanging music, stories, delicious cakes and dances. Astonishingly, our group seemed to have infinite energy, when the intense 12h program ended we would still manage to find energy to celebrate for a few hours into the late hours, only to wake up early the next day to do it all again… It was during these celebrations that we had a chance to get to know the Greek culture. Many friends of the project would get together with traditional instruments and sing typical Greek songs. One of the most popular that was sung almost every night was this one:
Even though we didn’t get to explore much of Greece besides Athens, we experienced the best of Greek culture through all the folk songs, dances and meals that were shared in nightly gatherings.
Course content review
Although the course was not an official PDC (Permaculture Design Certificate), it included many of the same topics, lessons and activities. The difference of this course was mainly the focus of topics on permaculture designing methods and tools, agroforestry systems, ecobuilding and watershed management. The social component was mostly left out (i.e. Education & Culture, Health & Spiritual Well-being, Finances & Economics and Land Tenure & Community governance, according to David Holmgren’s Permaculture Flower). Essentially, this course was an immersion on everything that you need to physically create a project on a foundation that works in harmony with nature. Personally, this was exactly what I was looking for. I am looking for land with a group of friends to start a project (a very common theme nowadays). So land & nature stewardship and building are the most important components for starting a project. The social component is fundamental of course, but only later as the community is growing.
One particular theme that stood out for me was the “ecological succession” session. I had already learned about this concept several times, including in the PDC I did back in 2017, but never in so much detail. Finally this concept made sense to me:
The evolution of an ecosystem going through the different stages from colonization to climax forest in an accumulation system. Then a disturbance happens and this leads to the next system state of the system: abundance, and the cycle of the stages repeats (colonization -> placenta -> secondary forest ->climax). With this knowledge coupled with a database of plant species according to their succession and you can speed up the evolution of a system so that you can start seeing meaningful results within 10 years (in a mediterranean climate, tropical would take a mere 5 years). The practical component of this course was also very strong. 2 to 3 hours a day were dedicated to practical work: compost turning, grafting, agroforestry and market garden management, weeding, etc. This was much appreciated by all the participants as many did not have any farm experience.
All in all, it was an incredible experience. I am so happy that I was able to travel to Greece. I was genuinely worried that a travel ban would be imposed again, due to the current pandemic. It is great that Erasmus+ allows for the funding of these great and meaningful experiences. I really hope the program keeps Permaculture as a relevant category. I would like to thank Giuseppe for his amazing facilitation skills, the Aeiphoria crew that made the experience as comfortable as possible (as well as a special mention to Dora and her amazing cooking skills!) and of course all the beautiful souls that joined this adventure. I will deeply cherish all the memories of these two weeks we shared together and hope that our paths may cross again!
I will end this post with an awesome video that Isaac made during the course; it is incredible what you can do with a phone these days…
Post edited by João Amaral.