My Permaculture Journey
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I have been in love with nature from as far back as I can think. I remember spending my days in the woods as a child and building planters from discarded pallets or digging garden ponds as a youth. As a young adult I remember vividly aiding during the construction of a Japanese Zen garden. Soon thereafter followed work experience at a plant nursery and while working with landscape gardeners. The earnings and lessons of those jobs would eventually allow me to travel and they proved to be very useful during my trips around Europe, to Brazil and to Jamaica, where I ended up settling down, teaching capoeira.
After conducting social work for several years, teaching children and youths from volatile inner-city areas ‘Capoeira for Peace’, there was a moment when I was unable to sustain myself and the outreach projects economically. In search for a way out I pondered upon what else I could be doing that would not only help me to stabilize myself financially, but also aid people around me and ideally make the world a better place.
Recycling – specifically car tyre recycling – was the answer! It was quite a journey, from my first experiments cutting and turning tyres into flowerpots, to teaching children and youths how to transform their communities and life’s by crafting marketable products or setting up vegetable gardens from used tyres. The tyre-recycling workshops along with the donated tyre swings and planters were so well received, that eventually funding for a larger project became available.
Together with my friends and colleagues from Capoeira Alafia, students from Grupo Cativeiro Capoeira – Jamaica and volunteers from all over, I was able to recycle 13.000+ car/truck tyres during the ‘Diffusing the Trash Time Bomb’ – project.
While working on the project I successfully graduated from Geoff Lawton’s Permaculture Design course. My final exercise paper (DOC) at the end of the course featured some of the retaining walls, the road stabilizing belts, cross drains and also the beginnings of an earthship hut, all built with tyres.
The permaculture design course was incredibly empowering and solidified my vision of creating a holistic permaculture-designed center that would host local as well as international guests and especially serve as a safe, unique trainings space for the children from Kingston’s inner-cities. Organic farming, capoeira, dance, yoga, meditation and other peace-building activities were to be constituted at the core of the center’s programs.
The remote project site along with bushfires, landslides, car breakdowns, thieves, very little funding and the overall struggle of most team members and volunteers to make ends meet assured a fair share of continuous challenges. Several years into the project and after seemingly uncountable adventures, lessons and trials, the center was approaching an operational state and the first workshops and trainings sessions took place at the picturesque location on a mountain peak, overlooking Kingston.
The earthship hut had been collecting rainwater, grey-and blackwater treatment cells as well as a grey-water flush-toilet were functional. A small solar power system was in place, swales soaked rainwater and dropped it in our pond. A 30 x 40 feet roof provided space for training and group sessions. The plastic bottle-wall bucket shower was going up and the access road was accessible by 4-wheel driven vehicles. Bamboo and dab walls were under construction and were waiting to be plastered.
It was at this point that disaster stroke and the owner of the lot we had been building the center on was brutally murdered.
Following the shock of the incident a shift of relationships ensued. It became obvious that after spending 10+ years of arduous work as well as considerable amounts of funds on a rented lot a more favourable agreement would have to be found before continuing any further investments.
Aside of the tragedy and trials however, having co-created and crafted a self-sufficient, off-grid building with my own hands, against many odds and with very limited resources available truly has been a life-transforming and empowering experience for me.
I have gained valuable insights and, in some cases, considerable skill in several professional areas, among them: architecture, car mechanics, backhoe operating, off-road driving, heavy equipment mechanics, natural building, climbing, land surveying, farming, tour guiding, etc.
When I think of the more than 1000 children and youths from all over Jamaica that I have been training in car tyre recycling and of many others who benefited from trips and workshops to our project site I feel a sense of fulfilment and hope. They would have experienced and understood that there are innumerable ways out there of transforming problems into solutions and also of overcoming differences in a peaceful way while living in harmony with nature.
As a result of my accumulated experiences I was also able to design and develop peace gardens in inner-city schoolyards and utilize recycled/reclaimed materials and permaculture design to establish save areas and counselling sites for students.
Finally, I gained valuable experience as an entrepreneur, designing and producing and marketing products from tyres, pallets and plastic bottles.
Considering my permaculture journey and also having returned to the country of my birth recently, life is not quite the same as before.
While I am embracing the opportunity of leveraging my skills and experiences locally, I am maintaining a connection to family, friends and colleagues in Jamaica. Permaculture continues to be an integral part of my individual journey towards a self-reliant and harmonious way of life. As such I enjoy sharing my experiences and working with those who are also seeking to co-create natural abundance on earth.