Introduction: Nurturing new relationships with people and places
Is every refugee camp inhumane and degraded? It is difficult to know but certainly the majority are reprehensible and undignified on every score. Camps exist in a spectrum of contexts, at worst they are closed and managed like concentration camps with razor wire and electronic surveillance; others lack every resource from water to food. Some have free entry and exit, while others exist as settlements with no formal management at all and are subject to brutality from raids from outside and factions within.
An alternative approach to managing transition camps can be found through permaculture, which offers theory and practice to support bottom up designs and solutions to complex problems in the process of building self sustainable social and built environments. It is especially important to provide an empowering response to mass migration which facilitates meaningful transitions for those who are forced to migrate, and further, because as territories become inhospitable population flows increase. And in the foreseeable future NGOs, UNHCR and governments may not be able to afford to accommodate refugees in a humane fashion.
In summary, most camps are lost opportunities with heavy environmental, human and economic costs. With our collective experience we decided to develop the project, Permaculture for Refugees to help alleviate suffering in refugee camps with attention to local communities receiving refugees. In the model set out by Permaculture for Refugees, even if refugees depart, the land can continue to be improved for everyone’s benefit. Similarly, departing refugees will gain learning and experience of community and land value in their new or old countries.