Permaculture in Ukraine 

By Iryna Kazakova

Permaculture in Ukraine has been working since 2011. During all these years we have made dozens of events. There are annual PDCs, an annual Permaculture Convergence, international conferences, seminars, tours, and workshops. Every year we have tried to involve our nearest neighbors in different kinds of activities. Together with Visegrad region countries, we conducted Permaculture for Farms, Permaculture for Academy, Permaculture & Polyculture, and Permaculture & CSA events & conferences.

In 2017-2018 the PDC graduates initiated the The Permaculture Training and Demonstration Centers Network to promote permaculture, make it visible and create places where organizations can hold courses and seminars.

When the war in Ukraine started on the 24th of February 2022, permaculture centres in the country demonstrated how people who believe in the same strong ethics can be united in a crisis.

The European network of permaculture centres partook in the Green Road project, which was initiated by NGOs Permaculture in Ukraine and GEN Ukraine on February 25 2022. They hosted people that had left cities under attack or occupied territories and together – displaced people and permaculturalists – grew food, taught, learnt and helped each other and the surrounding communities.

What kind of principles and acts helped our centre not only to survive but to be useful, helpful, and effective?

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At the beginning of the war, all food supplies were destroyed. Markets were empty, and people from cities were fleeing to the rural areas. I remember how people in a small town were spending two-three hours in line to buy 1 kg of carrots and the same time in another line to buy 3 kg of onions for their family.

The first thing our centre started doing was sharing. Everyone had something different to donate: cheeses, teas, canned food, spices. The winter stocks made it possible to survive the spring months when all the usual traditional food supply chains were gone and the summer-autumn harvests made it possible to raise money for various needs and help build up stocks for the next winter, both for owners of permaculture centres and for people they are hosting.

Jane Molchanova from Zeleny Gai farm called me and said: “Iryna, I have cheese. Do you know locations where people need it? Just send me addresses. Our post office is working”. She fed more than 15 locations with cheese.

Jane Molchanova making cheese for IDPs
Kateryna Demydiuk opening the community garden in June 2022

Ivanka Bilous from the Homestead of the Bilous Family offered her seeds to everyone who was ready to grow food. She said that if missiles hit her house all the seeds would burn. But if she shared seeds with everyone, the heritage of three generations would live. She also decided to grow seedlings. When the Northern regions were depopulated Ivanka sent 120.000 seedlings of tomatoes, 130.000 seedlings of cabbage, 100.000 seedlings of cucumbers with volunteers to that region. So those people who stayed and decided to live there could grow food.

Offer shelter for others:

Anastasiya Volkova from Ecovillage and permaculture centre Zeleny Kruchi immediately started to invite people from cities to the centre which hosted more than 30 displaced people and then found houses for them. After 10 months of this war, the community has grown: now the people who found refuge at the ecovillage not only want to stay to live, they want to be an integral part of the community.
The dream of the owners of these permaculture centres – Zhyvyi Dim, Anastasiya and Denis Baranovy – to grow as a community has come true. They gave shelter to people who fled the heavily bombed city of Kharkiv and now are happy to have new neighbours who share their ideas and way of life.

Zeleny Krunchi centre offering a “Soft Skills” course for ecovillages and IDPs

Use what you have and be creative:

Maria Pacholok from “Beregynia” centre and Maria Gazniuk from eco-centre “Sad Dushi” are herbal specialists. They use their knowledge to support the army and IDPs. Wild and aromatic plants were used for creation of herb mixes for health and tapestry weaving.

Inna from “Sumy” centre is a talented coordinator. She organised community centres for the processing products and seed banks. Inna’s team dried vegetables for borsch, make energy bars, process meat and dairy products and make trench candles and send them for the needs of the Armed Forces. They sew bags for AID kits (project by Pavlo Ardanov, deputy head of ‘Permaculture in Ukraine’) and send individual first-aid kits to all defenders who contact us. Through various foundations and humanitarian hubs Inna and her team help our defenders with drones, cars, small boats, generators, thermal imagers, lamps, water filters, chainsaws, shovels, axes, gas camping equipment, clothes, shoes, etc.

Jane Molchanova from Zeleny Gai farm offered her farm as a shelter to abandoned animals (lots of them were left by the owners who were fleeing from the occupied territories). And as animals need love and attention from people, people also need contact with animals. Jane combined people and animals and set up rehabilitation tours on the farm. As a result, more than 2,000 IDPs had the opportunity to communicate with a wide variety of animals on the farm, more than 1,000 heads received care and love from people.

Stay ecological, discover sustainability, think about the future:

When NGO ‘Permaculture in Ukraine’ got financial support, we immediately researched what kind of help was needed in permaculture centres around the country. The most popular needs were hand cultivators, branch cutters, water tanks, and dehydrators for fruits and vegetables.
We were able to organize the rainwater harvesting tanks in 2 centres and irrigation systems in 3 centres.
We bought 5 branch cutters for our centres so that people could extend the mulch beds and take care of soil fertility.
We supported 5 centres with dehydrators, 3 centres with freezers, and 5 centres with different kinds of kitchen equipment so that they could preserve food more efficiently.

We were able to support one centre with solar panels.

Furthermore 6 centres got hand cultivators, 3 centres got two-wheel tractors, and 5 centres got greenhouses. All this equipment allowed permaculture properties to extend their areas, plant and grow more food and prepare and design more areas for the future.

Do not wait for support. If you act it will come:

Our centres didn’t wait for any support from us to start acting and did what they could.

Krin-Krin permaculture centre is located in the Dnipro region where the biggest number of IDPs are. Lilia Moruga and her colleague organized garden therapy sessions for IDPs: they opened their garden to more than 700 people.

Before the war Inna Paschenko had been planning to create a permaculture centre in a regional agriculture school. The war didn’t change this intention. With her own resources and some help from different donors Inna did a lot last year: a composter, a compost toilet, a chicken tractor, and fruit trees were planted.

Recover when needed and keep going:

Two permaculture centres were damaged by Russian troops.

Vira Rodionova is the owner and carer of Rodaria centre, which was under occupation. Broken trees, a destroyed house, burned territory with remains of missiles around. There had been a young forest garden. Vira saved her family and ran away from the property the day before Russians came. She spent a few months in Europe but came back in Autumn to rebuild the centre.

Part of Zeleny Gai farm – Jane Molchanovа property – was completely burned by a fallen missile. Jane had just finished building new fences and animal shelters for winter when it happened. The estimated loss is more than 25.000 EUR. Luckily nobody was injured. People and animals watched the fire and couldn’t do anything. After two weeks of a fundraising campaign and the rebuilding, Jane opened the doors to her rehabilitation centre for IDPs once again.

The future:

Inna already has her plans for next year. One of them is to build a greenhouse using only alternative energy sources. She needs a chipper and a small multipurpose tractor. Inna also dreams about a green hedge along the perimeter of the demonstration farm.

Jane dreams about a biogas plant and/or a composting station, because all the animals currently on her farm produce a huge amount of manure.

Lilia dreams about equipping the greenhouse with an alternative source of energy and about a branch shredder for mulch.

Anastasiya dreams to make a garden irrigation system on the common land, lay vegetable beds on an industrial scale, and start craft production of canned vegetables and fruit.

Mira dreams to finish the greenhouse, to plant more trees, herbs and flowers, and to make stands throughout the garden about permaculture, biodynamics, slow food and other movements and finally to start a school of sustainable farming to share how you can live in the village and earn money without harming nature, but on the contrary restoring and improving it.

The Permaculture community of Ukraine asks for international support to do permaculture in the context of war. You can help with donations and it will be spent on covering the above mentioned needs.

The main dream of all of us is obviously Victory. We want to grow food on a peaceful land, we want to invite people to our centres without thinking about the frontline, we want to do research and experiments and share our experience.

Let’s do permaculture together.

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