Hi, I actually posted something similar a few years ago, but am trying again now. I am a 48 year-old female, originally from the UK. Have kicked around the world a lot. Used to work in international environmental conservation/"development", over 6 years of that in Papua New Guinea, but quit from the ethical minefield. Have spent much of the rest of the time in Mexico and Central America, also more recently over 2 years living in Cuba. Would really really love to get more involved in ecological regeneration projects...restoring degraded lands, such as caused by cattle grazing/deforestation/increasing aridity...using earthworks (incl. keyline), food forest design, alley cropping, etc. etc. Have done lots of courses, but lack the practical and design skills, although much background in working in rural communities in many different places. Would love to work alongside knowledgeable people to learn and share more. Also would love to build up some kind of project that shares specific knowledge/skills for ecological regeneration in the "Global South". Looking for community and fellow like-minded thinkers and practitioners. Just trying to be part of promoting ecosystem regeneration and bringing skills and sharing to more people...including myself! I am very flexible and mobile for location, but Latin America/Mexico/Caribbean preferred and seeding projects that provide demonstration sites and trainings to those with limited resources really looking for it. Hope to hear from you! email@example.com
Thanks for the reply. I've actually done quite a lot of courses and want to move on from there....to get more involved in working alongside others who are implementing regenerative designs at different sites and combining these with teaching/skills sharing. I spent only a few days several years ago at Bona Fide. It did have some very good things going on, and a number of years of learning behind them, and some outreach to local communities, but was also heavily focused on North American throughflow of people and resources. I did look around Rancho Mastatal a few years ago also while volunteering briefly nearby, and that also has some excellent features very impressive, but again seemed less focused on local initiatives - the occasional scholarship, etc. Am I wrong - I must admit that I am not so familiar with the project? It seemed very site-based through, less outreach with design/regeneration/training activities. I took a food forest design course at Bosque de Niebla in Mexico. Very impressed with what they are doing, very much "local", but quite expensive to stay longer term and they don't go out and do design for other areas, and people need to come to them for teaching. Are there people out there actively engaged in skills sharing with groups requesting it in the tropics and regenerating areas away from their own site base?
Sorry, but I've taken quite a lot of courses and a fair amount of volunteering (done a lot weeding!) and really I just want to be moving on to applying and finding ways to go beyond and get involved in regeneration projects. Permies.com automatically put my message under the wwoof/volunteers/interns/jobs forum when I had put it under the tropics one. Frustrating! I'm looking for alternatives to volunteers and interns at centres for people wanting to spend time in a tropical place who fund themselves that way. I know a lot of very good learning takes place at these places, but I worked years in international development and want to work with others who are out there teaching the skills at various sites and implementing, and are focused on regenerating degraded lands.
Helen, I found your post in the tropics forum, not quite sure how the movement of posts works.
Are you looking for consultants that do design work on different sites in the tropics and the opportunity to work with them? The folks at http://www.mashumus.com/ are best known for this work. I'm unsure if they seek outside help. I also visit sites around CR to help set up large scale agroforestry projects, but am not at the stage where I bring additional help on board. You can see our website here, http://ranchomastataldesign.com/, the portfolio is missing a few large projects but none the less shows a bit of the work our team has done.
One project that is very focused on local initiatives in Costa Rica that I hear good things about is http://www.vidaautentica.org/. We do have a number of long term local projects/relationships at the Ranch with the local community but we don't involve students/apprentices in this work much, usually it requires a language capacity and cultural knowledge, not to mention multi-year time frame, that is beyond most folks coming through.
Thanks so much for your reply, I very much appreciate all the advice and suggestions. When you say: Are you looking for consultants that do design work on different sites in the tropics and the opportunity to work with them? - yes, this is exactly what I am looking for!!! I know that a lot of great learning goes on in longer-term interning at sites like yours there, but I have done quite a lot of courses and bits and pieces of volunteering in quite a number of places and I am looking for moving beyond that. I have good Spanish, a PhD in the past in global environmental change, and a number of years working in international environmental conservation and rural community "development", and I am...well, older. My experience through the years has brought me to the approach of ecosystem regeneration as the thing that makes most sense. But, it is very hard to get an "in"! I understand that many people don't have the long-term commitment, language and background to get involved in this way....but some of us do! I totally agree that it takes a (very) long-term approach and a lot of understanding and cultural sensitivity....it is definitely challenging, but I still believe there are ways to do it well.
So....I have taken a course with MasHumus, who are great, and picked the brains of Eugenio and Jairo, but it didn't lead to anything longer-term. They focus on teaching and their own consulting. I did spend a little time with the Analog Forestry people when their office was still based in Londres a few years ago (very impressive too) and I was going to be their very first intern to learn from Milo, but he changed plans so I just got to take a short course with them and see some of their work.
I've actually tried quite a lot of things! I will take a look at the projects on your site, haven't looked in a while - thanks! And I will keep looking around.I very much believe that we need more people "out there" doing the regeneration stuff, spreading more skills and facilitating locally-driven sites that serve as examples of what can be done, but I know that it is not easy and the funding is still not in it so people look more to the demonstration/experimentation site built around interns and courses mainly for people from outside the country, or ecovillages or homesteading by expats, or ecotourism projects. I know there is a bit more of a mix taking place in CR, but you totally nailed what I am looking for in your question!
I very much appreciate your input and wish you all the success in all of your projects!
One more question then (or several on the same theme)!
How did you get to the stage where you can do consultancy work on agro-forestry projects around CR? How did you acquire the knowledge to get to that stage and how did you come across the work? How did you translate from the Rancho Mastatal context to those sites?
What is your advice to people wanting to be involved in these kinds of projects?
It's such a good question. I should write a blog post on this.
And first to be clear I'm just a newbie at this in many regards. I take on a small number of projects each year (3) and I don't do the install work. I don't love this model but it works for me now.
I came into this by spending 7 years building the site at the Ranch, developing the ground expertise of working in one place and learning what works there, why, and what doesn't. So step one was building enough experience to know when I was over my head and when I could offer sound advice. A few years ago I began teaching our PDC and the one at Project Bonafide, eventually becoming the (co-)lead instructor at both sites. That really forced me to dial in my design process to be able to teach to others. I also participated in a USDA Agroforestry Academy that was designed to train the trainers in this field, that gave me more confidence in putting myself out there.
Most of our clients have been contacts of the Ranch, either guests/students/visitors/neighbors we have met over the years or my own students. A few random projects have been through the little landing page website. This was a fun one: https://www.kalonsurf.com/
I really try not to do any work that might push me outside of my knowledge/climate expertise. It is a fine line to walk though because you have to challenge yourself and be confident that you can translate your knowledge throughout the country. I always try to bring in experts in specific fields when I can.
Well that is a bit. Come visit at the Ranch and we can talk more ha!
Co-Director and Farm Manager
Rancho Mastatal, Costa Rica
Hello friend, can you kindly volunteer with us in Kenya? Kindly communicate!
RAYMOND BENSON ORENDA,
P.O.BOX118-40222, OYUGIS, KENYA.
Mobile No.+254705204424, +254713929232,
Thanks so much for the reply! You explain so well and I can totally relate to your approach. It sounds like you were willing to put in the work for a number of years and then gradually branch out and apply your knowledge to other areas. I totally agree that it is life-long learning and it's important to know what we feel confident doing. And I guess that's where I'm at...looking for the experience to ultimately go out and do this on my own, the design process and for me, it would ultimately be focused around aiding rural communities with fewer resources, but I understand that I might end up funding that with other well-paid projects as donor funding is its own can of worms. It sounds like you found a place you liked and were learning at well and kept plugging away and getting more involved and more opportunities. And Rancho Mastatal and the context of CR turned out to be good opportunities, and you have Bona Fide not so far away!
I'm happy to invest in myself and the goals I am striving for, but the types of internships offered by Rancho Mastatal are just beyond my reach right now and - I may be wrong - just don't seem tailored enough to specific skills I would like to focus on. I want to come out of this as a designer and focus on land regeneration. The PDC is just a taster, really. It seems a bit like getting your Open Water SCUBA qualification, with a handful of dives - there's still a long way to go to be a competent diver.
I actually took my PDC in Nicaragua with local "campesinos" as I wanted to see how it was being taught to them and how relevant it was to them. Unfortunately it was taught really poorly, for them and for us from other places and backgrounds, but I've kept my interest in finding ways to share skills with this audience, and they were definitely interested and had specific knowledge they were looking for and quite eager for opportunities.
It would be amazing to be able to "train" alongside people working in this..."consultants", trainers, designers. You can't go out and do this from a PDC or advanced PDC courses, or several months of interning on-site. Would it be the likes of Gaia University training or..I don't know! I have looked at standard agroforestry Masters courses in the past, but they haven't made it into the permaculture paradigm yet, really, and I have lots of "development" background.
Sorry....this is talking a lot about me and thinking out loud. I think you should write a blog post, though!!! Or something like this exchange should appear somewhere else where maybe others could chime in who are thinking about these things as it seems a bit lost in this forum and I couldn't find a good place to put it here, but I am very glad you found it and responded!
Yes, I wish I were closer right now, I would head over to Rancho Mastatal for a good chat!
I wanted to thank you for your reply to my post. I took a look at your website and it looks like you are doing very worthwhile work there. I have spent time in Kenya in the past, although it was quite a few years ago. I don't currently have the resources to fly to Kenya and come visit, but I think it would be useful if you could explain in a post on this site the kinds of assistance/support/exchange you are looking for so that people can respond. And perhaps you can continue to develop your website with more information so people can see more of what you are doing and your goals.
It looks like an excellent project and very much needed. I wish you all the very best of luck and will follow your work online.
Companion Planting Guide by World Permaculture Association