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From a Friend: Considering Permaculture for Haiti

January 19, 2010


Permaculture design stands for “permanent culture” and “permanent agriculture” and is the science of designing systems to prevent disaster as well as recover from it.

I worked as a volunteer in the Northridge earthquake in Los Angeles and though in no way comparable to the magnitude of disaster in Haiti, there were a number of lessons learned.  One of these is that people are very receptive to creating new lives when given a strong hope factor that they can sustain themselves.   They are overwhelmed with loss and if they can be shown how they can recover quickly and do even better than before, it energizes them to not only help themselves, but others as well.  I’ve since assisted from afar with disaster relief in SE Asia and New Orleans and lessons learned from those places is that it doesn’t have to take years or decades to rebuild, if you have an affordable, realistic, strategical design strategy early in the game.   This is where permaculture comes in, because that is what we do best.

As well,  there will be issues of water supply, food supply and shelter which permaculture can solve in the most sustainable way possible.  There is much confusion after a disaster, and permaculture design can help bring order in a way that will assist more rapid recovery, because it will put the elements of long-term sustainability there from the beginning.   Permaculture offers simple, low tech solutions to create a safe, sustainable water supply, to grow food rapidly from existing resources (cultivating local edible “pioneer” plants which do well in harsh environments, and gradiently incorporating a stable, sustainable, mature food system while those plants sustain people), creating sustainable shelter rapidly from existing resources (earth, fiber, rock, etc), and producing energy from available resources.

Some of the projects which permaculturists can design and implement are:

Short Term: Building sewage systems, composting toilets, compost and recyclying centers, rocket and solar stoves, temporary shelters (perma-yurts), water catchment and filtering, and plant nurseries.

Rocket and solar stoves are key because the major ecological problem in Haiti which causes huge hardships from many angles is deforestation for fuel. Solar stoves use no wood and rocket stoves, which can be made out of old cans and pipes laying around, use almost no fuel and can cook with twigs.

Correct diversion of sewage, human waste, and water can substantially contribute to rebuilding farm land in the area – the idea is to create the conditions for long term self-sufficiency and abundance with even our short term handlings.

Long Term: Permanent, low cost, earthquake resistant natural buildings, water storage, earth works, renewable energy, permaculture food forests, broad-scale reforestation, farms, aquaculture systems, and community buildings such as schools and health centers.

To an always better future,

Cory Brennan

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