By Greta Carroll
In early December 2022, P4R members headed from Australia to Bangladesh to support the trainers from Bangladesh Association for Sustainable Development (BASD) in building their confidence and capacity to offer future PDC trainings for NGO workers.
This visit was a stop on a timeline of ongoing collaboration between P4R and BASD which started in 2018 and will continue for at least the next two years (see timeline below).
Sarah Boulle and I started our series of courses at BASD’s Proshanti Training Centre in Banishanta, in the flat-land Sundarbans region of south western Bangladesh. We were joined by BASD trainers and members of their host-community network for a five-day design course refresher, followed by a Teacher Training Course. In our first course we were looking to build on trainers’ knowledge, and analysis and design skills, and take design focus from the household to the community level.
One major takeaway from the course was that needs in the country are acute, and community members want solutions that will support them immediately. This amounts to pressure on BASD trainers to offer techniques rather than starting with design principles and strategies (patterns) and then moving to details. The outcome of skipping straight to techniques is that the solutions offered aren’t necessarily site-specific or based on the resources available to learners.
Recognising the acute needs of learners, P4R is continuing to work with BASD trainers to efficiently weave design principles and pattern thinking into their teaching of techniques.
Overall, BASD trainers have very strong teaching methods and we identified trainers who, with ongoing mentoring, are capable of teaching the Permaculture Teacher Training course in the future. Combining BASD senior trainers with junior trainers and community leaders was a wonderful opportunity to build methods and knowledge throughout their network.
In January, I teamed up with BASD trainer Ajit Khan to run a series of courses in Cox’s Bazaar district, in the south-eastern corner of Bangladesh. We ran a PDC for NGO workers and Community Leaders, such as Imams and Priests, a one day soil building workshop for women in host-community, as well as a five-day course for Rohingya persons living in the Cox’s Bazaar camp.
While there were challenges – as in all courses – we worked well as a teaching team to find solutions and create effective learning environments, alongside Hamid Rahman who was supporting in translation. Given the takeaways from the training in December, P4R’s main focus for the final courses was to demonstrate and support BASD trainers in developing content that links design principles to techniques.
The political situation in the camp is slowly and unofficially changing for residents. Long-term trees are being planted and NGOs are now allowed to offer livelihoods training. These are big changes for camp residents, who have lived under incredibly restricted conditions since arriving in 2017. We focussed part of our training on skills development for future livelihoods opportunities – such as seed and plant propagation. Another major barrier to growing food is building soil fertility and we focussed our training on small scale, stackable composting methods, and using plants to build biomass.
We were able to distribute nitrogen fixing trees and lemon grasses during the course, and established a plant swap network for camp residents to distribute seeds, cuttings and offsets throughout the group as well as beyond. BASD’s relationship with Camp-19 Managers is strong, and they are very supportive of seeing more Permaculture training in the camps to support skills development and food security.
The overall purpose of P4R’s visit was to support BASD trainers in their teaching journey as they prepare to run courses for NGO staff and refugees in Cox’s Bazaar Camp over the next two years. BASD were successful in receiving funding from Jan de Voot which will allow them to continue this work, with P4R to continue remotely mentoring BASD trainers.
We are excited to see the outcomes of these courses as they filter through in the coming months and even years. We’re looking forward to supporting BASD to effectively train NGO workers who run programs in the camps and continue training camp residents.