Over the last 17 years, I have been working all throughout Africa where I am based, as well as in the Middle East and South East Asia.
I came to East Africa in 2005, to bring my skills in Urban and Regional Planning to the context of post-war South Sudan where I focused on post-disaster recovery and post-war town planning and reconstruction. Over the years, I have worked in many capacities and been focused on various sectors including agriculture, natural resources management, infrastructure, market systems, governance, livelihoods and economic recovery, and gender transformation.
Over the last 5 years, I have honed in on systems based approaches to resilience building, with a very strong foundation in ecological principles and small to large-scale permaculture design, from household permagardens to road water harvesting, to landscape and watershed restoration. Over the last few years, I have been training our teams in 10 countries and implementing projects that support adaptive, absorptive and transformative capacities of people and households, communities, landscapes, markets, institutions and infrastructure to be more resilient to an array of shocks and stresses.
In my work, I bring perspectives of how we can design natural, built, social and economic environments to be regenerative, sustainable, and to contribute to the restoration of community agroecosystems as well as to circular economy and circular bioeconomy through local resource recovery.
Particularly in the COVID-19 era, I am committed to using Resilience Design to ensure that displacement affected populations and the field teams with whom we work apply principles of agroecology, agroforestry and permaculture design to restore localized food and seed systems, integrate design in refugees, camps, settlements and host communities, to market infrastructure, governance structures and regional bioeconomy.
Most of all, I am committed to changing the way that NGOs work in my industry, focusing on building real resilience and climate action through agroecology, ensuring that we protect local food security, water security and seed sovereignty and never promoting chemical farming and unethical seed products such as GMOs, hybrid and improved seeds.
By Natalie Topa
Restoring health to an ailing mountain – a story by Natalie Topa and the Danish Refugee Council
International NGOs like the Danish Refugee Council and permaculturalists like Natalie Topa are doing important work in restoration of degraded landscapes and improving food security, while at the same time training and working with returnees, internally displaced people (IDPs) and the local community in Burundi, ensuring a healthy future for generations to come.