The Permaculture Approach to Resettlement

By Eunice Neves

The crisis in Afghanistan continues with many people still fleeing across its borders into countries seeking refuge and to escape to third countries. Permaculture for Refugees (P4R) shared a positive story earlier this year about a small group of Afghans who were able to seek refugee in a host country with the help from permaculturalists worldwide.

This group was guided by permaculture designer Eunice Neves who was able to collaborate with P4R, the International Team for afghan support, the local council of Mértola, and a local association with an Agroecology scholarship program (Terra Sintrópica), to attain government permission for resettlement in Portugal. We are excited to share updates about how this group of Afghan permaculturalists are doing in Portugal.

The ethics of permaculture (people care, earth care, fair share) guided the process with the group of Afghans over the past several months and several strategies and techniques are used by Eunice and her colleague, Laura, at Terra Sintrópica to support their learning through ecological training and social and legal support, while at the same time, ensuring smooth transition and integration into the local community.

The group has been working at the farm daily, having practical and theoretical sessions about Agroecology, Permaculture and Syntropic agriculture. They are gaining new knowledge and skills and the farm regeneration work is evolving rapidly due to their dedicated help.

Laura and Eunice facilitate debriefing sessions every week, where they ask each person to review the week and reflect on what went well, what didn’t go so well, and what will be done differently next time. There is also space to speak about feelings and needs and to express gratitude. They also facilitate practical sessions including developing group agreements, non-violent communication and legal procedures.

The group has also been learning and studying Portuguese which is evolving rapidly, through regular classes and with the extra support from people in their close local circles. They can already use basic Portuguese to go to the supermarket, the pharmacy, the local market and other shops.

Another beautiful event the group participated in was the Mértola’s Islamic Festival which reunites and celebrates cultural diversity, bringing together various traditions and cultures. The festival particularly features linkage between the local culture and traditions with past Islamic influences, current Islamic cultures and traditions from the south of Spain and North Africa.

Members of the group presented a small exhibition about the history of Afghanistan, their activism before the fall of Kabul and their resettlement project – Terra de Abrigo, in Portugal.

Another important accomplishment was getting a local doctor in Mertola for the group as it means that now each one of them has the right to go to their own family doctor through the national health care system in Portugal.

And a huge milestone with the group’s asylum process is the group got their “temporary residency” card. This card gives them all the rights of Portuguese citizens except traveling out of the country. It is expected that in a period of six months to one year they will get refugee status and be able to live in Portugal as residents and ask for nationality after five years.

To see how this process all began, go to this article published earlier this year.

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