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the long journey to a livelihood  RSS feed

 
helen perks
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forest garden greening the desert trees
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Hi, I wasn't sure where exactly to post this. I have posted similar things looking more specifically for opportunities, in the tropics forums, that also ended up in wwoofs or volunteering, I think..but this is more general. I used to work in the world of international conservation and "development" (much of it in Papua New Guinea) and quit it all for the ethical minefield that it was, for how it was still dominated by unjust power dynamics, and also the damage I often saw it doing...many things and a longer story. I got into permaculture and tried to learn and train, took a lot of courses, most of them in Mexico and Central America, volunteered a fair bit, decided I really wanted to focus more specifically on regeneration of degraded landscapes/permaculture approaches to ecological regeneration and find ways to teach and exchange skills/hands-on tools with those that have access to fewer resources, generally in the Global South. I have been trying to find openings in this for several years now and keep coming up against a big wall. I want to be able to teach and design, to be able to put together regeneration projects, and it is so hard to find places where I can gain the experience, where I can gradually build up a few designs I have done more independently myself, with some guidance from others, or to be part of a team doing this work. All opportunities seem to start and end with the PDC and volunteering that doesn't go very deep really and doesn't offer the experience to work in this field  in the training/consulting/international context. Where are the mentors out there? Apprenticeships? How do we get beyond the PDC, PDC, PDC,....? How do people bulid up their own portfolios of design work they have done? How do permaculturists break into the world of international "development" projects and expand the current agroforestry paradigms? Why is it so hard to find openings? I have searched and searched, travelled and travelled, written and written to people and it feels like such a roadblock. Do people have insights, advice, offerings, experiences to share? I often feel quite alone in all this and wonder why it should feel so hard! Very happy to share with you all here. Does anyone even want to start up a team doing this kind of work?
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Have you looked into John Liu's land restoration cooperative?  They are looking for people to join it.   https://permies.com/t/61247/Ecosystem-restoration-camps-John-Liu
 
Travis Johnson
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I think one of the reasons is that today there is an expectation that everything must be a science. Granted I am just a dumb sheep farmer and lack education on every front, but in my world of talking with agronomists and dealing with governmental regulators, I often have to speak their talk. Take yesterday for example, I was engaged in an alternative energy grant and thus used terms like efficiency equation and geothermal. While the latter is hardly that scientific sounding, it was far more then what I was really talking; a stupid culvert buried underground to bring 57 degree air temps to the surface. It was a simple, low tech solution to a costly problem I am having. Even the technical advisor (also known as a grant writer), admitted we had to change the wording up to make it sound more official and technical. But that is a governmental resource and they love to waste money on technical things when a simple solution is often best...when there is a government program for it that is.

I think as permiculturists we do the same thing.

I was farming back in the 1990's when farmers were shunned and looked down upon, but not everything had to be a science. I don't even have a barn here, according to the Natural Resouese Conservation Service I have a covered heavy use area with end walls. A BARN! Now even the simple growing of grass is so super-technical. and I think it prohibits new farmers from thinking permicultural farming is something they can do.

I think all this relates to your unfortunate situation because technical terminology sounds expensive.  When I read, "How do permaculturists break into the world of international "development" projects and expand the current agroforestry paradigms?" it sounds what you are proposing to do in a given area is expensive. Unless that area has adequate funding...it is not going to get addressed or even a reply back. I realize you are not proposing to remediate any of my farm here in the Northeast, but to anyone that was, I would read that statement, see dollar signs, and move on with my life. Now I know permiculture is all about observation, making small incremental changes to do a lot of good, but simple often means inexpensive, and that I can do.

I wish I had an answer for you, I guess if it is anything it is to learn how to speak to those that can hire consultants. When I worked for the railroad as a safety coordinator, my morality was driven by my desire to see less workers injured and killed, but for my superiors...I answered directly to the chief financial officer after all...was in learning to speak in dollars. I could not merely say, "doing this will reduce 15 hand injuries per month"...that got me nowhere, no I had to say, "doing this will save $50,000 in workers compensation costs." Sad, but it is how I got funding for what I wanted. For a consulting permiculturist, while I know your heart is in performing remediation of degraded lands, it comes down to money and the better you can speak that language, I think you will get better results.

As for my own farm, yes it comes down to money as well. I have a house that is unoccupied on 30 acres of unused land, and I live in the capital of the permicultural world. My wife and I both know that a thumb tacked advertisement at the local gas station and their bulletin board would get us a permiculturist renter in a days time, but due to liability, we just don't dare try. It is sad, willing people to try permiculture on unused land, but with laws against the landowner, it is sadly best to let the house and land sit idle. And I am not alone in that here, so I know I am not a special situation. Liability today is hurting what you propose as well.
 
helen perks
Posts: 16
forest garden greening the desert trees
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Hi Travis, I really appreciate your thoughtful reply. I guess we are all facing our challenges in a world where we are trying to build new systems...and cultures. It was perhaps a bit inadvertent, my use of words that sounded "technical" indicating expensive. I am actually interested in quite the opposite...low-tech, simple, hands-on stuff in places where there are few resources (except the considerable ones offered by the people themselves, "human capital", of course). I am not looking for much money as "income" personally, although it would be nice to have some in a world where volunteering and paid internships has come to dominate as it seems to be one of the few income streams that people who have permaculture projects see as viable. There is volunteering everywhere you go, and it has both its positives and negatives. There is actually also a huge amount of money being thrown around out there in the development world, although that often has detrimental effects. I am faced with still feeling, even though I am 48 years old and have kicked around the world a lot, that I do not know enough about design work..reading the landscape and saying...I know what to do with it....this this and this...admittedly with continual observation, experimentation and tweaking...it's been so hard to find those opportunities and also teams of people working in this field to truly exchange with and learn from. I really appreciated reading your response and your wisdom. Thank you.
 
Travis Johnson
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Dearest Helen,

I do not come across well at times, and this was one of those times. I actually could sense that you are like me, "let's fix this problem the least expensive, least technical way we can", but I was TRYING to convey how it sounds. I love the United States, but we have a problem here and that is, we feel whether it is education or Permiculture, EVERYTHING can be fixed if we just throw enough money at it. I don't believe that, and from reading your original post, I knew that. Please accept my apologies for sounding as if it was the opposite. You sound like such a sweet person with such an open heart for helping the unfortunate.

As for your age, I completely understand, I am 42 and have tripped around the world myself and sadly do not have all my body parts that originally started as me! That means I am broken and worn out. Someday I see Permiculturists on my farm, but not in volunteer capacities. I don't have that type of personality. I love people, don't get me wrong, but sometimes I feel volunteering is taking advantage of peoples eagerness, and I DO NOT take advantage of people. But its not taking advantage of someone if they are learning, but sadly...and this is the personality part...I am not a good teacher. I am kind of a loner and do my work by myself, work I really shouldn't like logging. So I envision letting some permiculturist rent my my spare house and soon a Wofati and letting them have run of the land that I am not using. I am not the kind of person that says, "Oh that would never work", but rather let people see what I am doing successfully and letting them make their own mind up, on land they can experiment with.

But what you speak of in terms of money actually damaging foreign communities; I see that myself in some mission work in Moldova. "Hand me a check", they say, when what they really need is to learn how to farm. That is the mission there, but I digress I know. I am just saying, I probably understand more then you realize.
 
David Livingston
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Location: Anjou ,France
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Maybe the joy or the lesson is in travelling not the arrival .
I have with a bit of luck managed to get myself a little bit of land to look after . It's not mine but then who does really own land . But bit by bit I am increasing the out put of  the fruit and nut trees putting more and more areas under veggies until in about 5 years I should have built up enough to open a little market stall and we shall see where that takes us all at next to zero cost.
I thought of saving the world but all I got was a headache I would rather save just a bit . Do I have a PDC nope do I need one ? nope . Maybe you don't need one either
 
helen perks
Posts: 16
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Hi again Travis,
Thank you again for your reply! I am actually a bit "holed up" right now in a city in the Peruvian Amazon with a broken ankle, so...plenty of time to write! I think with people working on your land, it is a process of experimentation...trial and error. There are of course good people out there, and some that would not be such good matches, and of course some of us are less social and "people people" than others. I've met a real mix during all my volunteering, but I would say that the majority have been really hard working, smart and with a lot of initiative, but it also takes a lot of communication and input, at least near the beginning. It's one of those things...deciding it's a priority, the time when it feels it's good to make it happen, and taking the leap! Sounds like you have a ton of knowledge and experiences to share, it's just figuring out what would work best for you

I guess I've grown tired of the whole volunteering thing. I will still do it when it seems to make sense to me, and I see its value, but it seems to have come to dominate and this has meant that opportunities outside of volunteering and to go deeper are limited. Off course there are many ways to compensate people for their work and input, and food, accommodation and a context to learn in are some of them, but I have seen often people work very hard and receive little for it. People often put less effort into volunteers because they are volunteers. I just saw the post above about the Ecosystem Restoration Camps, and have been following them for a while, but...they are entirely based on people volunteering (and contributing a small monthly donation) and we are in the real world where money is needed to live from day to day. In days gone by with apprenticeships, people were still paid a small income while they apprenticed. People think it's great that everyone volunteers and contributes to the common good, but it's not practical, although I know that there are many people who do find themselves n a financial position to be able to do it, and often a lot of "young people" who are setting out on their permaculture learning paths. But in the end we need to make a livelihood and volunteering is not a livelihood. But I digress! We do need more people out there who are not only homesteading (which is also super-valuable!) who are models, mentors, trainers for people who want to have permaculture be their lives and their livelihoods and to greatly expand the options.

Good luck to you, my friend, in all of your endeavours and dreams!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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helen perks wrote:We do need more people out there who are not only homesteading (which is also super-valuable!) who are models, mentors, trainers for people who want to have permaculture be their lives and their livelihoods and to greatly expand the options.


What you seem to be saying is that there need to be more jobs available to people who are interested in permaculture and other land restoration concepts.  But who will provide these jobs?  These jobs won't exist unless someone develops businesses based on regenerative techniques, and who better to start a business than a person who needs a business?  (I say this as someone who started their own business which has operated for over 20 years.  My household's primary income is from two home businesses.)
 
Travis Johnson
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Interesting...and sad...I joined this forum last year when I was getting my knee operated on. It was supposed to be 6 weeks of recovery, but ended up being 6 months. I could have actually gone back to work if the physical therapists had realized what was truly happening. I had incredible knee pain which they felt came from lack of strengthening. So they kept having me strength it, but in the end it was an issue with my heel that was causing the pain in my knee. I had favored my bad knee for so many years that I was not walking in correct form and only when they got to doing massage therapy on my foot and ankle did the knee begin to heal. But I digress.

I am fortunate in that I live in the Permicultural capital of the world. One of the top 3 Permiculture colleges in the US is located literally in my back yard and next to that is the Maine Organic Farmers and Garners Association fairgrounds. I actually built the fair grounds in 1998, which was sad because I spent my childhood busting sod and farming those fields. But times change. In any case I am working with their forestry professors at that college to interact with the students and be an example of what can work on a farm. I am a 9th generation sheep farmer so I guess a few hundred years of continuous farming qualifies as successful. But as you say, it is a lot of communication between new permiculturists, and I am not sure I always fit that mold perfectly. Still it was VERY heartening to hear that many are invigorated to work.

It is a shame you want to stay down in the Southern Hemisphere. I fully understand, Maine is a tough place to farm with our short growing season and rocky soil, but what you are proposing is pretty abundant here. There are a lot of organic farms and they are always looking for help, but other remediation areas to work at as well, if you looked hard enough I would think. A lot of that has to do with the close proximity to the coast. What happens inland affects the shellfish market and that is what Maine is known for. They cannot throw enough money at that! Myself, I don't have employment opportunities...I can barely pay what bills I do have, but I got a house and 30 acres I am not using. It is across the road, so getting my sheep over there to graze would be problematic. And right now I have enough land I am trying to clear on this side of the road. I would never sell, it has been in the family for generations, but even at only 30 acres someone could do something with it. I had something set up with my sheep shearer; she wanted to start her on micro-farm and was working on the house with time and materials instead of paying rent, but she got a chance to take over her own family farm, so it never worked out. I think it could have, but I knew her, and trusted her, and of course that is HUGE. As for a stranger...aye, aye, aye...its scary when you are a landowner. The laws here are so much against you.
 
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