Impact of the First PDCs in Refugee Camps

P4R is on the brink of releasing a full report of the outcomes of the first Permaculture Design Certificates (PDC) courses run for refugees in refugee camps.

The project of trialing PDCs in refugee settlements in a wide range of situations began in 2018 and was halted by Covid-19 in March 2020. Ongoing regular communication with local NGOs in each country has allowed us to record outcomes and impacts that followed the training.

The idea was to achieve results for the community rather than for individuals, and to create communities that can demonstrate, increase and spread their learning through their own networks and effectively embed permaculture in their communities.

The project aimed to meet needs for improved food, water, air and promote agency and co-operation among residents. We also hoped to reduce waste, dust and dirty water, to create functional and personal spaces, and to impart meaningful work skills for immediate and future use wherever the learners might  find themselves. 

We now have solid evidence  that teaching the full PDC in these settings is an educational strategy with multiple on-going  benefits through outreach and projects. Though results were tempered by the pandemic, the work has nevertheless continued. By modeling and building a learning culture that emphasizes sharing and collaboration rather than competition among individuals or groups, permaculture’s practical solutions proliferated with our refugee students. This co-operative culture persisted from the classroom  to implementation of projects.

Ongoing take-up and application of permaculture post-training was greatest when the classes comprised NGOs, local citizens and refugees  who shared knowledge and collaborated in working relationships and carried it into field work heightened by the satisfaction of achievements.

We saw immediate results in camps such as waste awareness, recycling, multi-functional design and community cohesion. The long-term and far-reaching benefits were so much greater than that. Information and techniques were carried  to other camps. 

We saw new local permaculture NGOs established – community gardens started, posters and learning materials developed in other refugee languages. We saw young refugees start teaching permaculture in their primary schools; and we saw one university back the project with their students and refugees. We saw new PDCs being designed for disasters of various types, and we saw NGOs teaching other NGOs. We saw people leave the camps and teach in other camps. We saw our individual camp reports scrutinised and then applied.

It is exciting to report that teaching permaculture in camps can substantially improve the lives and camp environments for refugees and by refugees, albeit small-scale and slowed by Covid-19, and most importantly that the model of teaching those in need to teach others is the kind of work that carries on well after the initial teaching. Permaculture has so much value for those living on the edge.

Our full documentation will be instrumental in focussing support and interest from funding bodies for further projects and expansion of the idea of seeding permaculture into disadvantaged communities such as refugee settlements.

By Rosemary Morrow and Ruth Harvey