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Permaculture design for refugee camps in Greece

 

Camps built for refugees are often more permanent than initially planned. Built in just a few weeks, they end up becoming permanent settlements, without having such specifications, in terms of both visible and invisible structures. These places rely completely on external inputs and interventions while the policies applied are perpetuating dependence and isolation. What is happening here now is not something new or temporary. Forced mass migrations have been happening throughout human history and will keep on happening due to climate change or human induced catastrophes. As these phenomena intensify, it becomes more urgent and relevant than ever to come up with integrated humane responses and take advantage of the opportunity that comes together with the crisis and promote transformative and regenerative processes for the benefit of all.

Permaculture design offers a wide set of tools and techniques for supporting the transformation of physical and social spaces, facilitating the transition of these temporary settlements into productive educational communities that in some cases can potentially develop into ecovillages. Working on both internal and external landscapes we can shape supportive and restorative processes that will enhance personal as well as collective resilience and self-reliance. Moreover, following regenerative design patterns we can facilitate the establishment of new meaningful connections within people (camp residents and also locals) as well as positive interactions with the surrounding landscape and convert bare destroyed lands into productive human ecosystems.

Time spent in camps may range from months to years and, in some cases, a lifetime. This time has value only when camps are purposeful places. Permaculture design can support people in reclaiming access and control over the basics for their survival and well being and at the same time engage actively in the production process and projects’ development. It offers multiple opportunities for people to realize their creative potential while utilizing and sharing existing skills or learning new ones. Through collaborative processes that combine responsibility and freedom people slowly recover their self-respect and self-determination and acquire transferable skills and positive experiences of community living that they will take away with them when they depart.

In this context, we are developing educational initiatives and land based projects in refugee camps and day centres in Greece, aiming to introduce Permaculture design into refugees’ everyday life and thus facilitate positive changes. We are organising and co-facilitating Permaculture Certificate Courses as well as specialised short courses and trainings for both refugees and development workers.

Our activities aim to:

– Deliver information that would deepen the participants’ understanding on current socio – environmental issues.

– Provide a thorough understanding of the principles and applications of permaculture design in a camp context as well as practical experience of different land and cultural regeneration practises.

– Specialise in areas of need and deliver more in depth trainings that will enable people to get actively involved in constructing, producing or organising in order to tackle everyday challenges.

– Develop training programmes, where the participants gain occupational skills for which there is local demand and can be used for creating an income.

– Acknowledge and make good use of the experience that people already bring in and built up on it by transferring new skills to them, which people can apply wherever they go after leaving the camp.

– Empower people to share the knowledge that they have acquired with other camp members and to develop initiatives in order to induce positive changes in the camp’s everyday life.

– Enhance community building and cultural mingling, cooperation and solidarity.

– Develop positive interactions and feedback loops within the group.

– Facilitate interaction with the local community and development of connections.

– Develop ecological consciousness and regenerate the land used, while establishing connections with the surrounding landscape.

We are focusing on adapting Permaculture teaching to the needs of the people living in camps and develop practises and techniques that are relevant for the specific conditions. We are collaborating with Permaculture for Refugees (P4R), as well as other initiatives around the country and we aim to develop a local network for Permaculture for Refugees.