By Kayla Hatcher
I began my journey with permaculture in 2017 working with Urban Harvest, an organization focused on building community around inclusive and resilient local food systems in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. The first seeds were planted as a kid in my grandparent’s garden, growing over years of learning from smallholder farmers across the globe. I now work as the permaculturalist for a Not-for-profit organization in Kurdistan, Iraq at Baylisan Educational Farm alongside farmers with expertise in the field from their years farming in Syria.
According to the World Bank, Iraq is the fifth on the list of countries most impacted by climate change with “limited resources for adaptation”. With low rainfall, droughts, wars and thousands of displaced people, permaculture courses are run with the aim of uniting local communities and equipping them with appropriate tools for creating a resilient future in the face of climate change.
As land suitable for farming shrinks and rural jobs disappear, ordinary Iraqis are moving to cities in search of work. This increases pressure on services, pushes up food prices, and exacerbates social tensions, leading to protests and even violence. – ECFR (European Council on Foreign Relations)
Gran, a local agricultural graduate said, “Iraq will never see peace. When one enemy leaves another will come because of our land and the resources it holds.”
Baylisan Educational Farm cannot feed an entire nation, but the farmers can. That is why Baylisan Educational Farm is coming ahead of the next crisis and standing in the current with an emphasis on resourcing farmers with the knowledge to heal their land, re-fill their aquifers, and feed their communities.
I help design for resilience and uniting the communities most heavily impacted by climate change and the subsequent conflicts by organizing a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course alongside Nick Burtner, founder of the School of Permaculture, Galawezh Bayiz, founder of Eco-Vital, and Hushyar Salih who has taught multiple PDCs for Permaculture for Refugees (P4R). The team creates a space for sharing knowledge and designing locally appropriate solutions to food security, water access, and further climate-related challenges that our refugee friends face in the countries they come from, the country that currently hosts them and the countries they may call home in the future.
The aim is that the majority of the course’s attendees will be our Syrian Kurdish friends currently seeking refuge in Kurdistan, Iraq. We have also opened up the course to other Non-government organisations (NGOs) supporting refugee communities and combating climate change throughout the region.
In my opinion, permaculture functions as an open-source toolbox where every participant comes into a course with pre-existing tools to be shared and leaves with added tools. These tools can be skills, experience, and perspective. I recognize permaculture is not the only method that provides solutions and I believe that it gives a great foundation to know that solutions are accessible to the individual. The design course is particularly useful to refugees because of its participatory learning style. By honoring participants’ knowledge while teaching a design perspective that is broadly adaptable to a transient lifestyle, we acknowledge the environmental shift of moving from rural farming communities to the urban environment of a refugee camp. Certification courses are also helpful to furthering future opportunities as many refugees have missed out on traditional education due to climate change and conflict. P4R’s curriculum gives space for addressing how climate-exacerbated conflict contributed to many of their current circumstances and the course creates a healthy environment to have these conversations across different perspectives and experiences in search of common ground.
As a permaculture educator and learner in the Middle East, I consider myself lucky, getting to observe and learn from farmers, mothers, and shepherds with countless generations of knowledge on the gift that is this land.