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Gratitude Diary

Today we wanted to give a big shout out to our amazing friend and supporter, Tali. Wombat and I met Tali and his lovely family at Woodford Folk Festival whilst we were working at the Sea Shepherd stall. Tali, a dedicated green warrior already at the age of 8, impressed us with his amazing passion for defending and conserving the whales, the history keepers of this planet. We were both very inspired by his thirst for knowledge and enthusiasm for ocean conservation at such as young age. It was a pleasure to hang out with him at our stall which was a highlight of our time there, especially for Wombat.

This entry is to personally thank Tali and his family for their generous donation to our project which helped fund Wombat’s presence in the field. It is people like yourselves that make this project possible and we are so grateful for your support. I hope you know that you have played an integral role in helping the Filipino people rebuild a more sustainable and resilient future.

We also wanted to especially thank Tali’s sister, Alaeila, who blew Britt away during discussions about climate change and forest care. We feel very blessed to have met you both and look forward to hearing about your future endeavors. Wombat and I firmly believe that children like yourselves will lead the paradigm shift that is required for people around the world to realign themselves with nature, the support system for all life. This is why it is such a pleasure to work with the children of Barbaza who have already demonstrated their potential as champions of sustainability.

A big thanks to Tali & Alaeila’s Mum and Dad too. You should be very proud of your budding eco-warriors.

All of you are such amazing people and we look forward to seeing you on another project in the future perhaps.

Lots of love and gratitude,

Britt and Wombat

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Looking for a way to help?  Mail us seeds!  Open-pollinated, non-hybrid, and organic seeds are a perfect way to help us grow this project!

We’ll plant your seeds and send you pics as they grow!

Mail your seeds to:

Green Warrior Permaculture Aid

c/o Rebecca Sweetman

9C Vista Court, Discovery Bay, Hong Kong

(Don’t forget to include your email address so we can send you pics!)

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In the mountain village of Cadiao we wind our way up the steep path to the Eupre mountain lodge site.  Keeping our promise to the villagers to help rebuild a new green economy for them, clearing the ecolodge site is on the work menu for today. The typhoon was 4 weeks ago.

I come armed with a new crowbar and claw hammer. There are some last wobbly remnants of buildings that have to be taken completely down. Wombat and I agree the structures must be totally dismantled lest somebody gets the idea to build a new structure using the remains. We have seen termites chewing their way through most of the timbers here and we need to start afresh with the new buildings. A whole village of people has shown up and soon there’s banging sounds and the squeal of nails coming out of timber as we demolish the last of the wreckage and hurl the useless organic material over the cliff. One building, we actually chop down the posts with machetes until it gives way and crashes to cheers of the workers.

The landslide on the river side of the slope is now getting a good mulching with all kinds of wood, sticks and fallen branches. I toss mung bean seeds over the edge to help stabilize the slope. I spy a thick creeper vine clinging to a wrecked pole. Chopping it into chunks with my machete, I throw the bits over the edge so they regrow a mat to stabilize the landslide area. I can only work with what’s on hand.

The kids have Brittany totally tamed now. I see a bunch of them mulching all the plants on the site with the piles of leaves left over from the storm.

Somebody drags out a full bunch of ripe, fat, yellow bananas from under a fallen tree. The villager smiles and offers me one. Hungrily I grab it and strip the skin back and munch into it. Yeech! WTF? It has large bluish seeds inside and the locals all chuckle as they watch my reaction. The old seedy banana trick, eh? I figure if it worked on me it should work on Britt, but she gets suspicious when she sees all the other dudes chuckling. No banana for Britt. Seeds in a banana are a new thing for me and I realize that bananas will also stabilize the slope. I get Britt to pass the bananas out to the kids and soon we see the kids lining up along the rim of the cliff chewing and spitting seeds in unison. I’ve used some novel ways to distribute seeds before but this is the first time using seed spitting children for me. Some of the local ladies are busting a gut laughing at the funny sight.

We arrive back in Iloilo to meet with the Mountaineering Club. Rebecca shows them the films she made of us clearing the site and another of the damage inflicted around Barbaza.
Around a large oval table the team and I present our proposal to entirely build a new lodge using the fallen timbers dropped by the typhoon a month before. I have some experience using rice husks, sand and cement to make a kind of light weight strong concrete, so we present our plan to rebuild the lodge in the most eco friendly and typhoon proof manor. To do this, we need their support to get back to Barbaza and write up a full plan for 5 separate projects linked together, including the ecolodge. The mountaineers like the concept so they agree to give us their answer the next day.  

We stay in a real hotel…with real beds and sheets and stuff! Yay! Hubert and I share a room looking down on to a pool. It seems surreal after a smashed world of chaos. The Internet works so we spend most of the day catching up on admin and making reports to our network. We eat emergency pizza.

I race around the city pricing equipment and vehicles we will need as does Wombat who will be in charge of the lodge construction. Hubert jumps on a plane to Manila to round up some more support options. I’m going to miss that guy.

We get an SMS from Roli, our local guide. The Mountaineers will fund us a van and support Roli to come. Yippee! Roli has become part of our team and the local people up in the mountains adore him. The second half of the recon is on so we pile in a local bus the next day heading for Barbaza. Four hours later we stretch our cramped bodies and retrieve our equipment from the bus’ luggage lockers before it tears off, air horn blaring, in a cloud of exhaust smoke. Barbaza has been waiting.

Juan, the municipality’s agriculture officer and man with many hats, picks us up in a very small Suzuki truck. Wombat cant fit into this vehicle so he stands on the back of a motorcycle side car following behind while Juan leads us to his house a kilometer from town.

On a concrete balcony facing west in the hot tropical sun, we set up our tents and drop our equipment. It’s bloody hot! Surrounding Juan’s family compound are miles of green rice paddies and the sacred mountains watching from the background. The sea is only 400 meters up the road. I sense this is a special mystical place, from the mountains to the sea. I feel welcome here.

Wombat and Britt have reconed a village called Mablad. Wombat recons this village will have the land we have been looking for to set up our training school and base for the projects. Our van arrives and soon we are on the track heading for the mountains. As we approach the road junction a group of locals stop our van and have an animated discussion with Roli. It seems the main bridge to the community has collapsed. A kilometer later we pull up at the bridge. A huge hole is gaping from the centre where a truck fell through the day before. Wombat and I climb down for a look…major rust problem. The main supports have given way due to rust and corrosion.  The bridge is hanging together by cobwebs as villagers still ride their motorcycles over the timbers laid flat over the wrecked beams. I watch a motorcycle and sidecar scoot over the mess and the back end of the bridge jumps out of the ground a few feet. Crikey!

Change of plans, we need trail bikes to get to the next 2 sites. Roli negotiates with a local village and hires Wombat a new Chinese trail bike. We head back into town in the van with Wombat making a heap of noise for a small engine bike behind.

The van driver recons he has a trail bike. After a few minutes parked outside his house on the main road he emerges pushing a very old Honda 125. The front tire is so worn the inner tube is poking out through holes in the rubber. No bloody way, I tell Roli. That tire will burst in the first kilometer. Oh wait! the driver says we can change it now if you want. Ok, change it. We wait in the sun.

A while later they push the bike out for me to test ride. The new tire is almost as bad as the last. They must have torn it off a wreck. I really need to get back up the mountain for Wombat and me to measure the lodge site to create the plans for the new ones and Wombat is leaving in 2 days.

I nickname the bike “Dead bike walking” as I ride back into the hills. The front brakes are shot and if I stand hard on the rear ones a horrible screech comes from the brake drum. Wombat hangs back because of chunks of rust flying out of my exhaust each time I gun the motor.

Riding the “dead bike walking” over the dead bridge, I think to myself, this is a high-risk job! The steering head bearing is missing so the front handlebars jar with each bump. Villagers wave as we pass and smile.  Please don’t run out in front of me dudes! No brakes!

Finally we get to Cadiao. Britt, Wombat and I spend a few hours measuring and scoping out the Lodge site. Yum Yum is waiting for us and cooks up some lunch in a makeshift kitchen. Nice!

We make it to Mablad after lunch. The dying bike is still operative but I’m suspicious it’s waiting to die while I’m here in the hills to get me stranded. The village chief and I chat about our project. He gets it immediately and says he knows of some land…we follow him. A few hundred meters later we pull up as a beautiful piece of land, a paradise with green rice terraces stretching down into a treed gully. Wow! I feel the hair on my neck tingle, which is a sure sign this is special land. We get off our bikes and scatter across the different parts of the landscape. We meet back in a few minutes excited and jabbering. This is the land! In my minds eye I see a permaculture field school training thousands of trainers over the next 5 years. I see all kinds of organic crops, poultry, animal systems and even aquaculture chinampas. Surveying a new piece of land is like meeting a beautiful woman. I am already totally enraptured. On a piece of land this fertile, paradise is totally possible!

The next stage for us is going to be meetings, negations, and MOU’s to lease the land and communicate our plan to the people in positions of power. Every link in the logistics and admin chain must be solid before we dig the first garden. I make a mental list of the next steps as I swing my leg over the old Honda. If I can just make it back to town…

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Some shots from journey this last week.

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Chariots of fire… Green warrior style.

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Last night in a market in Iloilo, with a mound of secondhand clothing as their stage, I found this precious joy on display. Aid work can sometimes be tough, but it’s the little things that are brilliant shining reminders of what we’re working for. x Rebecca

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Sussed out the market this morning, with only a handful of decent veggies for sale. Local farmers’ crops were by and large decimated by the typhoon, and everyone here has commented on the lack of fresh produce available now. Looking forward to seeing more and more organic and diverse options in the market in the months to come!!

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December 5, 2013

After the weekend, the whole community was raring to go to start the big clean-up of the ecolodge. We split everyone into teams which started working on different jobs all over the site. I was armed with the ‘Plastic Patrol’ who were my eagle eyes picking up every bit of rubbish in site. And these kids worked fast! Wombat also got a few kids helping him clear and rebuild the stairs running from the lower to the upper terrace which was smashed with fallen trees. He instructed a few young boys to gather small pebbles to fill the sandy gaps on the stairs so next time the rain came, the sand beneath the stairs wouldn’t wash away. Suddenly we had a whole 3-foot gang using everything from bags to billy cans to gather rocks for the path. What a team effort! As I knelt down with the young girls gathering pebbles, I also noticed something quite strange. Almost 80% of the kids had sniffly noses and coughed quite frequently. It was only until I got up close that I realized how many of them had the same symptoms. Perhaps all the burning of plastic waste in their community or another problem with their stoves? A little permie-detective work was required.

At the end of the day, Wombat and I decided pay a visit to the primary school kids at Cadiao to plant their first tree on the grounds. Steve had picked up a few jackfruits in town for 25 pesos the night before. Just 55 cents USD for a lifetime of organic fruit for these amazing school children. Roli was an incredible help as he interpreted the whole lesson for us, from picking a site to planting, mulching and watering. It was hilarious seeing the kids run laps with their plastic cups, all eager to water the tree once in the ground. We finished the job by creating a natural mulch circle around the tree using bamboo and sticks. The circle was to made to hold the mulch to retain moisture for the tree and prevent goats/chickens from munching on the leaves. We didn’t have any taller pieces of bamboo to make it cow proof but the cows didn’t seem to wander in the school grounds very often so we thought it would be ok. To finish our planting exercise, we gathered all the students in a circle to explain to them that the 2 trees we planted were their responsibility now and if anyone asked once the tree was big and beautiful, they could tell them “I planted that tree” and feel proud. This is an important part of building the relationship between children and nature, where children can feel proud of restoring their natural environment and creating a more sustainable place to live.

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The next morning, Wombat and I set off to survey the surrounding communities and identify ways in which we could best assist the people and their surrounding environment. Our guide took us to see the animals they raised which were kept behind the houses on a slope to the river below. They had 3 pigs squeezed into a tiny pen fit for a few guinea pigs with a small hole in the back for waste. I was eager to work with them to show how the community could raise much happier pigs by providing a larger space and how to utilize their waste to save them stacks on chemical fertilisers. The community also had a few cows, chickens and one duck, none of which were used for fertilising purposes. If only they knew the potential of these beautiful animals for pest control, plant raising and compost. First permie fix on the list! We wished the piggies well and told them we’d be back to help them soon.

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We were kindly guided into one of the houses to have a look at the cooking facilities inside. The cooking area consisted of a small hole in the wall which the mother and children used to burn fires in. The roof of the whole room was as black as the pots with no chimney to allow the smoke to escape. The homeowner explained that the smoke usually flooded the entire house whenever they would cook. Suddenly I remembered the children coughing and sniffling at the ecolodge and I had a little ‘ah ha’ moment. The husband further explained that they had to travel 2-3 hours everyday to gather enough firewood for one days worth of cooking. He gestured with his arms the shape of a large circle above his shoulder to show us how much wood was needed per day. I pictured a beautiful lorena or rocket stove in every house which could instantly quarter this amount. Another simple permie fix which has the ability to greatly improve the health of all the families in the community and the forest that surrounds them.

As we hiked over the hill to the next barangay, we could spot the remains of landslides either side of us caused by soil stripping to plant bananas. We scaled more fallen trees and rocky terrain to the top of hill, roughly a forty minute walk taken by the children everyday to school. Wombat and I were breath-taken by the incredible view at the peak and felt something stir inside us. The mountain rolled effortlessly down to the winding river which weaved all the way to the ocean. The area below almost looked like a golf course made bright green by the ride paddies. We both instantly knew we were looking at the future site for our Permaculture Training School. At the base of the mountain, we arrived at the primary school and was greeted by the vibrant Mrs. Espanola. She gave us a tour of the school which was lined with painted stones and flower beds. She explained that some of the classrooms were completely destroyed by Yolanda and they had to squeeze two grades in one small class. I peeked into a classroom and noticed the children’s artwork posted around the room. I spotted some of my friends from the big clean-up and they came rushing over to say hello. I got the feeling the teachers here encouraged open creativity a lot more than other schools which made me very happy to see. The teachers even introduced a livelihood subject where children from Grade 4 to 6 learned skills such as farming, sewing and cooking. However, their little wilted crop of okra and bananas was highly stressed under the beating hot sun. I imagined an octagonal greenhouse which raised thousands of trees for reforestation in the large green space that was left overgrown with grass. I imagined compost bays at the back of the school, herb spirals and fruit terraces between the classrooms and a new kitchen for teaching healthy cooking. I imagined the school as the birth place of sustainable development and environmental restoration lead by the children who would become the next heroes of the community.

Back at the campsite, I was drawing up my vision for the school whilst everyone was having a nap. I heard giggles and little feet again but this time the young girls waltzed straight in my room and sat next to me. I was about to make myself a raw chocolate energy snack and asked them to help. 1 part coconut oil, 1 part cocoa powder and 1 part raw honey. All ingredients which they can grow or obtain in the mountains. After they all took turns mixing the ingredients, I encouraged them to try it. It was literally like watching kids try real chocolate for the first time and they dove their fingers in the mix. I laughed so hard as they spooned it into their mouths as quick as possible, smearing the sweet syrup all over their face. Looks like I discovered my first cooking lesson in the school. Homemade chocolate could also make a great product to sell on the market. Once the dish was empty, I ripped out a few pages of my notepad and emptied my pencil case so they could draw with me. The girls began to draw beautiful pictures of their barangay, all featuring coconut palms, bamboo houses and mountains. Suddenly the village got word and I had about 30 kids pouring out their artistic skills as I scrounged up every bit of paper I had. They all drew they same image and I realised thats all these kids ever see. Guessing by the popularity of the session, I got the impression they don’t have much time to freely draw either due to strict school lesson plans and/or the lack of resources. Before I knew it, the walls of our room were decorated with the kid’s drawings who were so excited to see their art work on display. What an easy way to boost a child’s self-esteem.

The next day was the second clean up day for the ecolodge. I joined the kids in finishing the stone steps and clearing the fallen roofing. We heard a belly full of laughter come from the top terrace as the adults found a banana pod gone to seed. All the banana fruits had bluey-black seeds inside which I had never seen before. I told the kids to grab a banana each and squish it between their fingers which they thought was hilarious. All the kids eagerly began squishing the bananas and tossing the seeds over the edge to cultivate new bananas trees. Some even bit into the banana and spat the seeds over the cliff which caused the women to crack up with laughter. I love the ability of kid-fun to lift the whole energy of a project like this and I feel lucky I get to work with them everyday, especially when you’re dealing with communities that have lost almost everything. As the day came to an end, I looked to the neighboring mountain and saw the grey clouds rolling in. “Monster”, said a young boy named Arian as he pointed to the sky. I couldn’t imagine what it must have like felt for these children seeing Yolanda sweep through their village. However, by the next typhoon season, these kids will have nothing to fear with a community built on resilience and stability.

Till the next adventure,

Britt

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November 30, 2013

Hi, I’m Britt and I’m a climate change specialist and child welfare professional. However, in my mind I like to think of myself as a big kid who enjoys getting her hands dirty, making real changes in the world that matter. I am part of the Green Warrior Recon Team with my fiancé Mark (aka Wombat) having arrived in the Philippines just over a week ago. After the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan, communities throughout the country were flattened and much of the damage was simply unquantifiable. Not only had the brave Pinoy people lost their homes and possessions but the long term outlook for their livelihoods, often based on agriculture and fishing, was looking pretty grim. We decided to jump on board with Steve as we could both see how Permaculture Aid could make a tangible impact in their recovery and create a more resilient community for the future.

Arriving in Barbaza, the physical signs of the aftermath was quite shocking. The road up to the mountains was lined with remnants of bamboo houses and school buildings. It looked like the gods had played monopoly with the town as some houses were completed wiped out whilst other remained reasonably in tact, even if they were just a few houses apart. The van played limbo underneath the fallen power-lines which were propped up by a few thin pieces of bamboo. We passed many trees with serious battle scars including a coconut stump that looked like a twizzle stick. I imagined a spinning explosion of coconuts hurling from the tree during the storm like canon balls. I was shocked at the amount of people smiling and waving at us with bright faces and I remembered that these communities had received barely any aid besides food drops from local groups. There was no sign of any international assistance which explains why they might have been so happy to see us. Despite this, I felt a powerful admiration for the Pinoy spirit, especially within the children we passed along who were all smiling as they shoveled materials off the road.

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We arrived in Cadiao after dark and I could see little peering eyes in the darkness watching us while we ate dinner by candle light. The barangay (village) captain’s wife cooked up some rice for us and I whipped out some Veggie Stock to add some extra flavour. A great thing to always have on hand as a traveling vegan aid worker. The local children were very curious about the strange westerners coming to visit and watched intently like a reality tv show. Big Brother goes native! They are very shy and only spoke broken English so my greetings only received with bashful smiles in return. I look forward to getting to know them better over the coming days.

I awaken the next morning to the giggles and pit-patter of children running around the building. Wombat and I camped out in the empty room next to the main class in the elementary school. We can hear the sounds of little climbing feet scaling the massive tree that smashed through the roof during the typhoon to get a closer look at the sweaty visitors. I head to the shower/toilet which is behind a 1950’s looking curtain in the right hand corner of the main classroom. I am greeted by a green bucket with a plastic scooper next to the toilet in a small room perfectly sized for a 6 year old. I feel bad for Wombat who is 6 foot 3 and have a little laugh to myself picturing him squatting over the bucket to wash himself. Suddenly the compact bathrooms in Hong Kong don’t look so bad.

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Whilst everyone was eating breakfast, I followed the children up the hill to the local village of Cadiao. At the top of the stairs, I was greeted by the beautiful Nava who welcomed me to their community. She spoke very good English and spoke with such a bubbly energy in her voice as she showed me around. She explained that the community had rebuilt some of the damaged houses after the typhoon but there were still many problems such as severe damage to food crops and fruit trees. I was lucky to catch her because she usually stays in another town where she goes to college during the week. A privilege of a very lucky few since college fees are almost 2500 pesos per month plus 50 pesos a day on average. Many of these families in Barbaza live on less than 5000 pesos a month which is easily swallowed up in school fees especially considering the average family has 5 children. I got the impression that these communities had severe financial problems before the typhoon with all their funds being directed to education or food production. Like most third world countries, agricultural chemicals were very expensive too and kept the farmers just above debt. A backyard garden approximately 4x3m I was shown in the village cost roughly 500 pesos per month just for the pesticides. Not including the cost of hybrids seeds, fertilizers and other inputs. I saw a great opportunity for permaculture to propose a few easy fixes here which could potentially raise the livelihoods of the whole community.

The kids guided us to the site where the eco lodge used to stand along the dirt track. Along the way, trees were uprooted a fell across the path creating new climbing apparatus for the children. Fallen power lines lay across the trees and the kids are even using one as a flying fox before Roli tells them off. I chuckle thinking about the overprotective parents I know back in Australia having a heart attack. Laughter could be heard from river below as my wild playmates dove fully clothed into the creek. After a refreshing dip, they scaled the mountain to the eco lodge which looked like the end of a game of pick-up-sticks. Steve began to explain to potential for permaculture to rebuild the site which would start with a big clean up of all the plastic and unwanted materials. We grabbed a bag and started the plastic patrol with the children to show them how quick it can be done with the power of kid energy. The kids also took me out the back to an area where I could see the tree house perched like a bird’s nest amongst the chaos. The only thing that seemed to survive the storm was the old toilet with panoramic view of the fallen forest. I know what I’ll be hanging on to next typhoon.

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After another dip, the young ones kidnap Wombat and me, taking us on ‘kid only’ track via rice paddies and rock faces to the next barangay. ‘Lets go!’, is one of the few English phrases known to the children so the whole line of them skip along yelling it to us. We stop at a small clearing with a few houses and Wombat smiles at me as he notices a little boy picking up plastic rubbish around the area like we showed him at the ecolodge. Suddenly the other children began filling a bag of discarded potato chips with rubbish which encouraged an older women to join in. It filled me with such joy to see such an instant change in their attitude towards plastic waste. This is why I love working with children!

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At the end of the trail, I spot a monstrous old Banyan tree that looked like the Home Tree from Avatar. Beck and I called over the troops and headed down the rocky path. As the rest of the children marched down the road with enthusiasm, one young boy was walking the other direction carrying a huge bag of aid rice on his shoulder up to the mountain community. No play time for him, another downside of aid dependence. We climbed its strong limbs and the kids began to laugh with me as their shyness wore off. I could feel myself falling in love with this place and these kids who were already starting to connect with me. I felt excited about giving these kids a better future with abundant food, security and resilience within a thriving ecology. Better still, the whole world would look up to them as the next green leaders who saved the planet with their own hands.

Till our next adventure,

Britt

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Beck’s Update - Shifting Worldviews: The International Community & Grassroots Projects

These photos were taken by the kids of Cadiao on our community clean up day.  Their first time looking through a lens and capturing the faces of their friends is definitely a moment worth sharing.

As the founder of an organization that’s soul purpose [I think that spelling is more appropriate] is to document and share the wisdom of underrepresented communities around the world, it’s no wonder I was drawn to take part in these relief efforts.

Steve and I first worked together in 2005, just after the tsunami that took 220,000 lives in Indonesia alone.  The aid we both saw was horribly inefficient and ignored many of the needs that the community tried to voice.  This event very much led us down separate yet complimentary and often-overlapping paths.

Steve went on with permaculture projects and trainings, creating a new form of aid that creates resiliency instead of dependency; I founded a charity to inform and inspire social change by using documentary media and education outreach initiatives to share grassroots solutions to some of the world’s toughest problems.  I’ve since worked with almost 100 grassroots projects in India, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Peru, Brazil, and now the Philippines.

One of my roles after the tsunami was to coordinate grassroots aid efforts, working with local community-based projects to share information and resources between areas that often were accessible only by boat or a 2-day motorcycle ride through guerrilla-figher occupied mountains.  I’d send messages home to those who wanted to help, explaining how these grassroots projects were addressing the real needs of the community, as decided and managed BY the community.  Disappointingly, people had a hard time believing in the capacity of these projects because they were so small scale, and instead largely bought into the old patronizing post-colonial (and inaccurate) paradigm that a community in poverty isn’t capable of leading its own development.  Instead of supporting a grassroots project, people would rather support the big name brands of aid, even though they knew that the majority of their contribution would be wasted in bureaucratic red-tape.  This is, in large part, what led me to create The Paradigm Shift Project, as a way to introduce outstanding grassroots projects to the international community.

Thankfully, I can see shift happening.  Grassroots projects are getting better at communicating with the international community, and the international community is getting better at realizing how they can help most effectively.  People want to see the impact of their investment/donation, and we now have the technology to make that possible.

Which leads me to The Paradigm Shift Project’s role in this typhoon relief aid.  It’s our goal to share what’s really happening on the ground and how the international community can best help.  It’s also our goal to document the learnings from this experience in a series of training videos and make them available to all for free (like all our films), so that people all over the world can learn about these solutions for disaster resilience.

These training videos will cover:

  • sustainable reconstruction
  • home vegetable gardens
  • community gardens
  • eco-education and school tree nurseries
  • sustainable livelihoods and eco-entrepreneurship 
  • and more.

The Paradigm Shift Project would also like to train local groups here in Antique how to use digital media to share their stories.  This morning I was told that there isn’t a single filmmaker in the province.  I find it hard to believe, but even if that is the case, just look at what kids can do when you put a camera in their hands.  A few cameras, a few trainings, and this community can be shifting worldviews in no time.

Please help us make it possible.  If you have old cameras to donate, memory cards, old laptops, or if you’d like to offer your own filmmaking skills to help mentor the youth of Barbaza, please send me an email at info@theparadigmshiftproject.org.  

And to donate to support our work in the field, please click here!

Thanks for all that you do to help make shift happen!

- Rebecca

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Each morning in the village of Cadaio, I awake to some rooster crowing nearby. Its around 5 am and still dark. I exit my orange tent to stare into the universe of stars above the valley. The sacred mountain above begins to glow in the dawn’s first light. What a place this must have been before the colonization of the Philippines.

I make my way down the narrow path to the wild river below for my morning swim. This is one of the few rivers I know where it is safe to swim and drink simultaneously. I intend to help it stay that way…

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It’s 9 am and our team makes its way up the track to the destroyed mountaineering lodge. I can hear people working already clearing the debris. We have made a deal with the surrounding communities to help restore the lodge and create a new eco-education version of the lodge as an upgrade.

I see a heap of smoke pouring from the rear of the lodge area. The villagers are burning the leaves, fronds and branches lying everywhere. Wombat scrambles up next to me and says, “They burning everything, we got to stop them!” I hold him back. “Mate, you cant just stop this energy, you have to manage it.” He backs off to see what I’m going to do.

I grab Roli, our cultural guide and translator. I get him to call the people into the clearing. We pull most of the organic matter out of the fire. Roli translates as I explain that this organic matter is useful. I also explain there was a landslide on the riverside of the ravine and this organic matter would work to help hold the slope together instead of burning it. Wombat shows how to mulch the gardens in the clearing like a mime artist while I talk. We are like a theatre team. Soon I have various groups throwing the non-useful organic materials off the cliff in front of the lodge creating a kind of post destruction mulch. Many of the timbers are termite riddled, so over the cliff they go.

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Brittany rounds up the 20 or so children and shows them she wants all the plastic picked up and heaped in a pile. Off they go, smiles on their faces grabbing every skerrick of plastic in sight.

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The roofing iron is piled in one spot; the big timbers are stacked in another. Some old women are recovering clothing items and folding them neatly in another stack. Our teams pick apart the smashed tangled heaps that were once buildings. I look at the ground. An Australian health and safety inspector would have a heart attack! Huge nails stick up out of broken wood bits everywhere. The kids run past wearing only flip flops, dodging the rusty nails without batting an eye. The adults stagger past stepping around the hazards carrying armloads of waste to throw off the cliff face. I smile, thinking the best safety is awareness.

For several hours we wade through the mess and slowly order becomes visible out of the chaos. The pathways open up and clearings are uncovered. It’s actually a very nicely sited location. No time to gawk at the scenery, I work like a Trojan to show the villagers white men can work too. Many have never seen a white guy up close. Our languages maybe different but the language of good hard work is a common one. I get heaps of smiles as we pass each other on the way back from the cliff face.

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Yam Yam, the elder’s son who was sad and depressed looking when we arrived is amazed how fast the crew is making progress. I see him begin to smile. That’s a good thing. Yam Yam’s father started this loge many years ago and helped the villagers in many ways over the years. The father, Babe, is waiting in San Jose, a few hours away. He recently became ill but wants to return. Yam Yam’s had instructions to clean the damage up and prepare lodgings for the old man. It now looks feasible. Yam Yam’s stress level is abating rapidly.

We go nonstop for over 4 hours until I read the energy level is flagging. It’s hot and the work is difficult so many people are slowing down and keeping to the shade. I know its better to manage the finish of the days work than to let people slip away, so I get Roli to call everybody into the clearing which is much bigger than before.

“Form a circle, form a circle!” I call, and Roli yells the translation. Some speak English but most speak their own local dialect, which sounds a bit like Indonesian.

I do a rough count and see we have the same as what we started with, no runaways. That’s a good sign for me for future projects. These dudes can work!

I thank them for the day’s efforts and tell them I’m happy to work with such diligent people. Nothing is impossible with a group like this that can pull together to complete a job. I can see also they enjoyed the camaraderie of the group effort. We all feel something good just happened. It’s a new beginning.

—- 

I’m in the mayor’s office. It’s the only part of the municipality building that has air-conditioning. Nice and cool. Beck and I are chatting with the agricultural officer, Juan, and the organic farming extension officer, Mara. Both are so happy to meet us and warm to our project immediately. Juan tells us that the mayor is stressed because the municipality is paying for the aid packages downstairs and there is no other assistance coming in from outside the municipality. Funds earmarked for other projects are being diverted to the “calamity packs” and they are almost out of money. I’m also told the municipal staff are seeing behavioural changes in the people where they deliver the packs. She describes their behaviour as people acting like rats. They scramble and push each other to get the food and some of the staff are getting scared.

I casually tell them it’s going to get worse. I’ve seen it many times before, on other projects I’ve worked on. Eventually it will lead to total aid dependency. The alternative is permaculture aid and teaching the people to become self-reliant. Juan and Mara want to hear more. They tell me they will convince the mayor our ideas have merit.

Mara jumps into our vehicle and we move onto the highway on our way to see an organic farm. Many smashed houses and bent power poles show the force of nature when it’s having a temper tantrum.

The power lines are being repaired meter by meter. Its just over 3 weeks since the storm and some areas still look like it happened yesterday. As we pull up outside the organic farm I see ruined houses and bent outbuildings and a heap of felled coconut trees lying on top of each other. Once this small farm must have been a beautiful model of organic agriculture. Yolanda didn’t spare it though. It’s going to need a lot of work.

We meet the farmer who is an electrical engineer on his day job. He explains that organic farming is his passion. I see plastic mulch and straight raised beds. In my minds eye, I see a new productive permaculture version of this place. The farmer and I agree to work together when I return. I promise to bring non-hybrid seeds, which he has never heard of. This place is begging for permaculture!

Next stop, an organic seedling producer. He speaks English well. I see his large square trays with thumb sized pots made from a banana leaf.  Mara tells me he can produce 3,000 seedlings per day in the worm castings he uses as potting mix. Cool! I see a small pink coloured seed poking from the pots centre. It’s a sure sign he is using hybrid seed varieties dipped in a fungicide. Again, another organic worker that’s never heard of non-hybrid seed. This is going to change.

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Back at the mayors office I see an ugly park in front of the mayor’s office with a half destroyed building in one corner. The civic central meeting hall structure is a naked twisted mass where a high tin roof was once. In its place I see a vision in my head of a community garden and healthy food café. The dilapidated concrete children’s playground is totally devoid of children. There is an iron pipe climbing gym with red peeling paint. Empty. Who’d play on that crap?!? The busted bent steel building looks like more fun. The park has a statue of some guy pointing off into the distance…maybe he’s trying to tell the people something is wrong.

I suggest my idea to Mara. It’s a radical idea I say. A community gardening club right in front of the municipal office. A Perma Club! Let’s train the householders of Barbaza in home gardening and self-sufficiency there. She raises an eyebrow and then smiles a wicked grin. Perhaps she will suggest such a proposal to the mayor… I suggest the same thing to Juan later on. He grins too. Before the typhoon these people would have laughed at such a plan. After the wrath of Yolanda and dwindling food supplies, such an idea may just float.

Back at our peaceful camp in the mountains I arrive to see Brittany doing art with the kids. She has torn all the pages out of her notebook and each page has a beautiful drawing of a village scene from each of the 20 or so school kids attending the one room school. No longer shy, the little children chatter to Brittany in faltering English. I see a beautiful bond forming.

Wombat looks pale and drawn. He tells me his guts hurt and he has the runs. Dysentery has set in. Must be the water or maybe the food? I boil up some young guava leaves until I get a deep green tea. Sure-fire cure for most gut problems. Later Britt develops similar symptoms. More tea brewing…  I scrounge up the team’s toilet paper. It’s going to be a long night for them. This is the down side of frontline aid work. I see the positive side. Tomorrow, these guys will have whole new respect for the humble guava tree!

Video

We’re heading back to Barbaza today! Here’s a video of last week’s progress in the mountain village of Cadiao. Please share!

Link

Click here to donate to support our relief efforts!

Help us rebuild a municipality sustainably! Your donations will help us purchase reconstruction tools and organic seedlings to ensure food security in an area of Panay Island that has yet to receive any outside aid assistance. We appreciate any and all support!

Source: theparadigmshiftproject
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Barbaza Municipality, Antique, Panay Island, Philippines

Care for the Earth and Care for the People

In response to the damage caused in Barbaza by the super typhoon Yolanda in November 2013, the Green Warrior Permaculture team is devising a strategic plan to assist in the reconstruction of communities in the Barbaza Municipality to boost local food security, sustainable livelihoods and build resilience in the face of future disasters.

The community will receive hands-on training in specific aspects of sustainable development best practices. The programs will create the working models of resilience and self-sufficiency they themselves can reproduce in every home and community. These include:

• Home food garden construction and maintenance
• School demonstration gardens and environmental education programs
• School tree seedling nurseries
• Organic farmer field schools
• Community Livelihoods enterprises
• Reforestation and community plantation projects
• Eco Education Tourism Projects
• Resilient housing and infrastructure design
• A permanent training centre to support the entire project over the next 2 years and beyond.

In light of disasters increasing in frequency and severity, there is an urgent need to train people from across the Philippines, Asia and the rest of the world is disaster resilience and effective management. Part of the PREP project will include introducing permaculture aid internships into the field so we can train permaculture aid specialists on the job. With the earth changing rapidly and more calamities expected, we are aiming to increase the number of trained specialists to cope with future disasters using permaculture aid strategies.

The days of old school NGOs in the field are numbered, as money is wasted on needless administration and costly management systems that are slow to react to changes on the ground.

Permaculture Aid teams can operate with minimal admin support and money can be channelled directly from the donor to the field. To secure sustainable funding, the teams can have an admin hub, which takes a 10% fee from all money collected to be self-sustaining. The admin hub then pays the teams per result in the field. Each team must provide film and video evidence of its completed work. A set rate will be nominated, so the teams are paid a fair share to work in the field.

Webcams, photos, blogs and film from the field keep the donor in close contact with the real situation on the ground. Teams that do not perform will lose the interest of their donors, as will those who mismanage their projects. The best projects get the most financial support over time. This will set a new paradigm of rewarding demonstrated success in the field.

The Green Warrior Permaculture Aid team are currently in the field on the island of Panay preparing several aid projects. People will be invited to assist by either donation or coming to the field in the near future. You can continue to follow our progress at permacultureaid.tumblr.com. More details on specific ways to help will be posted here soon.

Steve Cran
Team Leader

Link

Click here to support Super Typhoon Haiyan Green Warrior Aid by Mark Wombat

Help support key team member Mark “Wombat” Clough via his GoFundMe campaign!

Mark says,

Every little bit helps!  Thanks for your support!